Spanish residence permit

10% more Brits legally residing in Spain

In today’s post I discuss the recently-published news that the number of Britons in possession of a Spanish residence permit has risen by 10%, to 365,967 registrations1, in the last nine months.

I talk about why this is undoubtedly the case in the context of that buzzword (the one that rhymes with “vex it”) and why it is very advisable to get official residence status as an expat if you haven’t already done so.

To explain why this 10% surge has come about – the most significant acceleration in residence permit expedition for any nine-month period since the referendum in 2016 – I urge you to cast your memory back to a dark time in British politics in the not-too-distant past and ask yourself the question…

Why "since December"?

If, as I did, you type in the words “Brexit timeline” into your search engine, you’ll see a list of key dates appear as long as your arm. While some dates were more significant than others, some of the events leading up to – and including – December 2018 were telling signs of the ensuing instability regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union and prefaced the demise of the then Prime Minister, Theresa May.

On 25th November 2018, the EU 27 approved Mrs May’s Brexit plan, only for Parliament, by mid-December, to turn its collective nose up at the deal she’d garnered and for ministers to make it clear that they wouldn’t back it in a parliamentary vote… which was rescheduled for the new year, thus dragging it out yet further.

As if that wasn’t a show of Brexit coming apart at the seams, in the same month (December 2018) PM May survived a vote of no confidence from within the Conservative Party by a whisker and the European Court of Justice ruled that Brexit could be unilaterally revoked. In other words, the ECJ declared that the UK could legally make a U-turn by not pursuing Brexit and staying in Europe and thus pretending nothing ever happened.

In so doing, the metaphorical door of opportunity opened for Jeremy Corbyn - and the “remainers” that, ironically, remained in the Labour Party - to start muddying the political water and pushing for a second referendum: thus opening up a whole new can of worms and stalling the Brexit train. Or at least until Boris Johnson bounded in, stage left, to “save the day” and “make Britain great again”. Hmm.

Why is this relevant?

Well, good question. Far from just a painful trip down memory lane, the toing and froing of British politics has led to growing uncertainty about Brits’ residency requirements outside of the UK.

There has been a lot of scaremongering about British expats losing all their rights to reside in Spain, for example, along with fears that pensions will be invalidated, there will no longer be free access to healthcare (Spain has one of the most efficient systems in the world) and they will be deported in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Sorry, but this a load of old cobblers. With regards to the details that are still yet to be ironed out, it is very much in the best interests of both countries to come to a favourable bilateral agreement in respect of UK expats living in the EU.

However, and this is something that Brits living abroad have perhaps only just cottoned on to, securing your residence permit automatically gives you the right to vote in local elections, take part in the census, get assigned a GP (retirees may need to give evidence of private health insurance) and have a valid form of ID for all bureaucratic and public administration matters, including opening bank accounts and buying property in Spain.

The Spanish Government and British Embassy in Spain have been trying to drill this message into expats for the last three years to the point of going blue in the face. Only now that the UK’s departure date looms larger on the horizon (31st October 2019) are we starting to see the fruit of their labour.

Brits With Spanish Residency Permit Up 10% Since December: foreigners out at dinner

Unsurprising residence permit statistic

It is no surprise, then, that Brits living in Spain have been more proactive about firstly getting a NIE number and then permanent residency (and changing their driving licence over to a Spanish one, if they have a car).

As well as the good smattering of new arrivals to popular coastal areas like Valencia and the Costa del Sol, this year’s residency spike has a lot to do with existing full-time residents and homeowners coming out of the woodwork and formalising their right to reside in the country.

If you have lived in Spain for more than three consecutive months – or spend more than 180 days a year here – you definitely should crack on and get your residence permit. The good news is it’s a piece of cake for EU nationals and you will have until December 2020 to do it if a no-deal Brexit becomes reality.

Take a look at VIVA’s guide to the whole procedure:

As you will see, getting your residence permit is not all that labour-intensive. And, if you own a property in Spain, being a fiscal resident works out to be financially advantageous for you; contrary to popular opinion.

I will go into more details about taxes for residents vs non-residents and the UK’s double taxation treaty with Spain in another blog, as there is a lot to cover. But, in the meantime, you can take a look at our Legal Advice section which touches upon bureaucratic matters and the law applicable for homebuyers.

If you have any questions about getting a Spanish residence permit, or any other aspect of living in Spain, leave me a message in the comments below!