Hi. I’m Jonathan Eshkeri, an English solicitor and Spanish abogado. I practise law in England and in Spain, with offices in London and in Tarragona, just south of Barcelona.
So, here I am on the 9th of November 2016 speaking about how things may change for UK citizens when the UK leaves the EU. Clearly I can only make a series of educated guesses, as at this stage the government is keeping its cards very close to its chest as to what it intends to attempt to negotiate, the UK parliament may have an important say in any event, and we certainly have no idea of how the EU will respond or what the final position will be. That said, what I can do is to look at what is likely to be the most extreme change in each aspect of life for those who either live in Spain currently, or who are hoping to live here.
Whether you’re looking at selling property, buying property in spain after brexit, or your continued ownership of property here, inheriting property located in Spain, or moving to Spain to live, whether to work or to retire, it’s likely that whatever “Brexit” finally looks like there’ll be consequences to grapple with. In this series of videos I’ll be taking you through the current position, as well as what I consider to be the worst-case scenario in respect of each of these areas.
This video will focus on the legal basis on which you spend time in Spain, whether with a right to work here (on a self-employed basis) or without a right to work here (as a retiree for example). It is also relevant to anyone wanting to live and work in Spain who’s currently not a national of an EU member state at all. The Brexit vote has left the possibility of moving to Spain up in the air for many. As well as all the other issues to be considered, UK citizens now need to think carefully about whether and to what extent their right to spend time in Spain will be affected, whether for holidays, or for living here without working, such as in retirement for example, or as a base from which to run a business, either an existing business that can be run from wherever there’s a broadband connection, or perhaps they intend to start a business in Spain.
Of course, currently as UK citizens we have a right to live and work in Spain on the basis of our nationality. We are effectively EU citizens. We can work for ourselves here, work for someone else, retire here, or just spend as much time here as we like, provided we can pay our way. To think about how that might change once the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU have been agreed, we can look at the current status of non-EU citizens, such as United States citizens for example, to see what might be on the horizon for Brits in the not too distant future. What we must bear in mind though, is that whatever the terms of the Brexit, UK citizens will be able to continue to spend short or extended periods of time in Spain provided we comply with the rules. I must also say that I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’m not seeking to foresee what’ll happen. It’s just what in my view is the worst case scenario.
Brexit and permission to reside in Spain
According the BBC’s Brits Abroad project there are currently 761,000 UK nationals living here in Spain. If you’re one of them and when we finally leave the EU you’ve been living in Spain lawfully for at least five years, you’ll be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside here. In Spanish it’s called “permiso de residencia de larga duración”. You’ll only be able to apply for that indefinite permission to reside in Spain once you’re no longer a citizen of an EU Member State, so it won’t be possible to make the application until the UK has finally left the EU. As you can imagine, the Spanish government wants to be certain about whom it’s allowing to stay in Spain indefinitely, so you’ll need to show that you’ve not been convicted of a criminal offence, whether in Spain or in the UK. You’ll also have to show that there aren’t any other relevant countries that consider you to be undesirable. You’ll need to contract private health insurance, for you and all of your family members who are living with you in Spain. Finally and perhaps most importantly you’ll need to show that you can support yourself financially.
That’s not as difficult as you might imagine. The current requirement is that a family of two can show a net monthly income of not less than €799, and a further €266 per month for each additional family member. Of course, you may already be living in Spain and, although you may have been here for some time, you may not have been here for five years when the UK finally exits the EU. In that case you’ll be able to rely on the time you have spent here by that time in order to continue to remain in Spain lawfully. Once you’ve resided in Spain lawfully for a total of five years, taking into consideration the time you spent in Spain before the UK finally exits the EU, you will be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside.
The basis on which you extend your permission to stay in Spain will depend upon what you’re intending to do, which in turn will depend upon what you’re doing in Spain when the UK finally leaves the EU, as well of course as whatever agreement is finally reached between the UK and the EU, or between Spain and the UK bilaterally. So, whereas currently UK nationals don’t need a visa to visit Spain, whatever activity they intend to carry on here, or continue to carry on here, they may well need a visa to do so in the future. If what you want to do is to holiday in Spain for no longer than three months at a time and with a minimum six month gap between visits, it’s very probable that this will be possible either without any visa at all, or on a basis similar to that which the USA currently operates for UK citizens and others, whereby an online visa waiver is obtained prior to travel.
If post Brexit you’re already an employee of a Spanish company, then the company employing you is likely to take care of your application to remain in Spain, so I shan’t deal with that situation now. What I will discuss is how you can either on the one hand extend your stay to five years, whether with or without permission to work for yourself here, so as to be able to apply for indefinite permission to reside in Spain, or on the other hand make an application from scratch for permission to live in Spain, again either with or without permission to work for yourself here.
Brexit and permission to live in Spain without permission to work
Turning first to permission to live in Spain without permission to work, you will be applying for what is called in Spanish, “permiso de residencia no lucrativa”, literally permission for non-lucrative residency. Naturally you can continue to earn money if your income is earned from investments you hold either in Spain or abroad, but you would not be able to do work in Spain. As with an application for indefinite permission to reside in Spain, you’ll need to show that you’ve not been convicted of a criminal offence, whether in Spain or in the UK, that there aren’t any other relevant countries that consider you to be undesirable, and that you’ve contracted private health insurance for you and for all of your family members if they’re living with you in Spain. Additionally you’ll need to demonstrate that you don’t suffer from any illness that may be a serious public risk, such as smallpox, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, that’s a serious form of pneumonia, to name but two.
Of course, you’ll need to show that you can support yourself financially. Curiously you’ll need to show a significantly higher disposable income than that required for indefinite permission to reside, in that the head of the family will need to show monthly income of at least €2,130.04 and a further €532.51 for each dependent family member. You’ll have to show that you have sufficient funds to live in Spain at that level of income for one year, whether in a lump sum, or by way of regular pension payments, for example. Bear in mind that this level of income will only be necessary until you have resided in Spain for five years lawfully, when the lower income requirements that I mentioned earlier in this video will apply. It’s important to remember that you only need to show the higher-level income requirement for the period up to your successful application for indefinite permission to reside in Spain. You can show a lump sum in your account to cover the period for which you’re being granted permission to remain, but there’s no obligation on you to spend it all. So, the amount that you need to show in your account to cover a five-year period of residence, may in fact last you for a good deal more. Once you have been in Spain for five years the income you’ll need to show to remain here is a good deal lower, as I mentioned earlier in this video. Clearly, the rate at which you spend your money is up to you.
Brexit and permission to live in Spain with permission to work
Now let’s turn to applying for permission to work for yourself in Spain. As well as complying with the same requirements as those for someone who does not need permission to work, you’ll have to show that you’re able to comply with the Spanish rules relating to the commercial activity you’re going to carry on. So, if you intend to open a restaurant you’ll need to have all the necessary licences in place to do so. If you want to practise dentistry, for example then you’ll have to show that you’re professionally qualified to do so and that your qualifications meet the Spanish requirements. That would apply to all of the professions, lawyers included.
You’ll also have to show evidence of sufficient funds to invest in the activity to make it viable, and an indication of the number of people you may employ, if any. In addition, you’ll need to show that as well as the funds available for investment in your commercial activity you have sufficient funds to support yourself, which will be the same as those required for people applying for indefinite permission to reside, so the lower income requirement that I mentioned just a little earlier on.
Finally, you’ll need to prove that your business proposition is viable and to show the employment that you expect your activity to create. This you can do by presenting something similar to a business plan, showing how you’ll develop your commercial activity, both in practical terms and in financial terms. In essence, your business needs to make sense to you and to the Spanish authorities in order for you to be granted permission to work for yourself in Spain.
As to the mechanics of an application to reside in Spain, I won’t go into detail in this video, but it’s worthy of note that an application will have to be made to the Spanish Consulate with responsibility for the place in the world in which you live, whether in the UK or elsewhere. Any decision as to your right to live in Spain will be taken by the relevant government department in the area of Spain in which you expect to live. Any permission that you obtain will be granted for one year, extendable for a further two years on each occasion, until you’ve lived lawfully in Spain for five years, by which time you’ll be able to make an application for indefinite permission to reside. Whenever your visa is extended, until you are granted permission to reside indefinitely, you’ll need to show that you continue to comply with the rules that you complied with when your initial visa was granted.
I hope that it’s plain from what I’ve said that even in the worst case scenario, making a successful application to live and/or work in Spain is far from impossible, although perhaps a great deal more demanding than just driving through France with all of your worldly possessions and setting up shop here. Once you’ve lived lawfully in Spain for at least 10 years, and provided you can show you’ve integrated into Spanish society, including speaking the language and understanding the culture, you’ll be able to make a successful application for Spanish citizenship. There are huge numbers of Brits who already qualify for Spanish citizenship, but until now haven’t needed to contemplate making the application.
Find out more about Spanish property law.
Of course, it’s essential to stay up to date and to know what impact Brexit does have finally. We’ll be publishing articles and releasing further videos on this subject as the UK’s departure from the EU develops. You’ll be able to access the information on our website, that is www.solicitorsinspain.com. You can also watch one of the other videos in this series, which focus on the potential implications of Brexit in relation to buying, owning and selling Spanish property, and the potential impact that Brexit may have on the inheritance of assets in Spain. Please see our website for links to those videos.
If you have any queries that have not been covered in this video, or if you need any advice at all regarding Spanish matters, please contact me directly. My contact details are to be found on our website. Thanks for watching.