U.K. nationals: how to apply for permanent residency in Spain after Brexit

What does Brexit mean for U.K. citizens residing in Spain ?

As an EU member state, British nationals had the right to live and work in other EU states, including Spain, without the need for a visa or residency permit. This status came to an end after the U.K. ended its transitional arrangements with the EU on 31 December 2020. However, under the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement, British citizens who were previously residents of Spain can remain residents of the country, even though new arrivals from the U.K. no longer have the automatic right to live and work in EU states.


As a result, U.K. nationals in Spain without EU citizenship must register for a permanent residency permit or apply for residency permits and work visas from member states. Applications for permanent residency are dealt with at a national rather than EU level, so those living or planning to live in Spain will need to register or apply via the Spanish authorities.


I have been living in Spain - how do I apply for permanent residency?

As per the provisions of the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, all U.K. nationals residing in Spain before 1 January 2021 should get a new biometric residence document. If you are registering for the first time, you will be issued with a biometric residence card called a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). This card will prove your residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.


If you registered as a resident before 6 July 2020, you will have a green A4 certificate or credit card-sized piece of paper from Extranjeria or the police. This is still a valid document and proves your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement - but you are advised to obtain the TIE card as this is more durable and will make it easier to travel.


To apply for your TIE you must first submit your residency application, which can be done in person at your local immigration office, via an appointment, or online with a digital signature certificate for the government’s online portal. You can find out more and apply online via the website, here: Spanish public administration website residency portal.


The documents you will need to provide are the application form EX-20, your passport, documentation proving you were resident in Spain before 1 January 2021, and documentation proving you meet EU criteria on residence and healthcare.


After your application is accepted by the immigration office you will need to obtain the TIE itself from the national police. You must apply for an appointment online. You should bring your passport, form EX-23, proof you have paid an application fee, and a photograph to your appointment.


U.K. citizens regularizing their residency after Brexit will be entitled to work and live in Spain as before.


I am not currently living in Spain but wish to apply for residency

U.K. nationals not currently living in Spain must apply for a residency permit. These can be granted for study, work, business (for those looking to start a company in Spain), as a non-lucrative (non-working) visa, as a family member of an EU national, or a golden visa for those investing €500,000 in Spain. Documents you must provide when applying for residency include your foreigner's tax number, proof of income or proof you are a pensioner, proof of Spanish health insurance, proof you have paid an application fee, a residency form, your passport, and two passport-sized photographs. You must first apply for temporary residency, and then can apply for permanent residency after five years.


Once you live in Spain you must also register on the padrón municipal. This is a list kept by the town hall of all the people who live in a particular town.


Residents of Spain also need to register to access healthcare. Basic services are free, but there are some things that patients need to pay for, such as prescriptions or certain specialist treatments. You should register at your local health center with your social security number, which you can find via your local National Social Security Institute (TGSS) office in Spain. Dependents will need to register separately. You may also be entitled to a Spanish European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitling you to free or discounted treatment when traveling in the EU and U.K.


When will I have to renew my residency documents?

If you apply for the TIE and have been resident in Spain for fewer than five years, you will be issued with a temporary TIE, valid for five years. If you apply for the TIE and have been resident in Spain for more than five years, you will be issued with a permanent TIE, valid for 10 years - these are automatically renewable upon expiry.


Those who can only apply for the five-year temporary TIE can apply for a permanent TIE as soon as they reach five years total of legal residence in Spain. You do not have to wait until your original card has expired - so, if you moved to Spain in January 2018, you could apply for a permanent TIE in January 2023. If you are a new resident in Spain you can apply for permanent residency after five years of temporary residency.


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Frequently asked questions about applying for residency in Spain

Is additional support available to U.K. citizens residing in Spain?

Those needing help to complete their residence application or registration - such as the elderly or disabled - can get support from organizations funded by the UK Nationals Support Fund.

As a Spanish resident can I travel to other EU countries?

Family members will maintain their residency status post-Brexit - meaning they can stay as are covered by the withdrawal agreement.