New rules for Brits in Spain after Brexit.

New rules for Brits in Spain after Brexit. archive photo.

23-10-2013CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

British Expats who want to stay Spain are facing an arduous and complicated task.

When the UK left the European Union on December 31, British Expats lost most of their privileges as EU citizens, such as public health care and moving to Spain without a job or substantial financial resources to stay.

Overseas Experts and British Associations like "Brexpats in Spain" which has more than 20,000 members on Spanish soil, fought to prevent Brexit and many are extremely upset about the red tape they’re now forced to navigate.

They’ve begun to feel foreign in our country,” says Marbella Lawyer & Foreign Specialist Ricardo Bocanegra, who believes that it’s the people who want to move to Spain in the future, not the people who are already here that face real problems.

Alien Rules

From January 1, British citizens who are thinking of settling in Spain will have to comply with the provisions set out in the General Regime of Foreigners. “The conditions are very strict and British people will be treated the same as any other foreigner,” says Bocanegra.

It means that British citizens moving to Spain will have to prove they have somewhere to stay, sufficient financial resources to stay in the country if they don’t work and private medical insurance that provides health coverage equivalent to what's provided by Social Security.

Brexit also affects everyday issues such as driving, because the mutual recognition agreement between the two countries is now void, so Britons will now have to sit a driving test and a written exam to obtain a valid driver's licence for Spain.

“This issue generates great unrest, especially amongst those who already live here, because from the announcement of Brexit until the end of 2020 a British driver's licence could simply be exchanged for a Spanish one, but now those who move to Spain will have no choice but to sit the tests," adds Ricardo Bocanegra.

Sharon Hitchcock has lived in Malaga on the Costa del Sol for more than 30 years and when she moved to Spain she didn’t need to prove that she had a job or money in the bank.

Brexit is a change for the worse and a setback to the 1980s,” says Hitchcock, who finds it "very sad" that as things stand today, people can only move to Spain if they have significant financial support.

"A large number of British retirees also used to settle in Malaga, Alicante, Mallorca or the Canary Islands, but this new situation doesn’t do them any favours either,” says "Brexpats in Spain” Pesident Anne Hernández.

"The elderly have their pensions and many also have some savings which used to be enough to live on here, before the UK left the EU."

Now they have to adapt to these new conditions and meet the strict requirements of Spanish law," says Hernández. They'll have to take out health insurance which is very expensive because of their age and pathology and prove that they have an enormous amount of money in the bank, which most do not have.”


To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Zoe / Hace 10 months

@Ned, you are forgetting huge number of people who come and stay for 6 months of the year in Spain and rent or lease the property. Far more than those who buy (I know some but I am sure an accurate stats will show that). Also not everyone who inherit a property in Spain sells it, many keep it as holiday home which now with the new restriction they will be more inclined to sell than to keep! lose, lose situation for both sides!


Colin Allcars / Hace 10 months

From El Paris today:

“In the 1990s, the Czech Republic was emerging from communism and it was producing just two-thirds of the wealth that Spain was. But in three decades, it has managed to beat the Spanish economy in terms of GDP per capita at PPP (or gross domestic product per person at purchasing power parity, which makes it possible to compare countries). Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia are close to surpassing Spain on this metric as well.”

Burying heads in the sand and down-marking the truth won’t hide the reality of the handcart to hell journey that the Spanish economy is now on.


Steve / Hace 10 months

This article is inaccurate. Non Spanish citizens have always had to prove they have a job or sufficient funds to support themselves in order to settle here legally. It’s EU law. Only the UK decided not to follow EU law regarding free movement and therefore allowed abuse of its borders. The loss of EU citizenship affects us in many ways regarding our rights as settled foreigners but not those as described in this piece.


Ned / Hace 10 months

Unfortunately a vote for Brexit was a vote for “friction” just like this. Be mindful that this is all reciprocated the other way around where such hurdles, if not more, are faced by europeans who are wanting to go to Britain. This is exactly what “control of one’s borders” actually results in. Whether the British public realised it or not… this is exactly what they voted for. A European wanting to go to the UK to retire (or other) faces greater hurdles and far greater costs so while UK citizen may not like this, it’s way worse the other way.

As a side note, I came from a “3rd party nation” and even though I held a UK driving license, as it didn’t originate from the UK I was never able to change my license for a Spanish one and needed to do my license from Step 1 as is the rules for license holder of my country of origin. So welcome to my world.

Not being part of the EU is in practice a scenario where both sides treat the other side like a nobody. This is what this looks like.

@Zoe - While retirees that buy property that bring and spend their pension here may sound like a win for Mallorca/Spain I’m sure the Instituto Nacional de Estadística ran the numbers on that which is why we have the rules that we have. It doesn’t take much to realise the impact of the death of a single deceased retiree where the family sell the property at a 50% profit in order fund renovations to their London property to see how a short term gain can turn into a long term huge loss. INE looks at the same data very different to us with a very different time scale and I’m sure the lesser of two evils was chosen here.


Michael Heavey / Hace 10 months

What nonsense is spouted. The EU (and Spain) owe us nothing. We are resident on Tenerife and are welcome here because we pay out taxes and speak Spanish. Yet we live near an area which could be considered an English ghetto. Where the people talk English (not Spanish) need an interpreter to go to doctor or hospital - sound familiar - pretty much the nationalistic view of the Eastern Europeans in England. Where the pubs and restaurants only take cash (no card machine) presumably pay little tax - so what do we bring to Spain. If the residents sell up and move back to UKthen they will pay tax on sale and house prices will drop


Burgundy Blue / Hace 10 months

Those who voted for Brexit have NO right to complain now. You told us you knew what you were voting for.


David / Hace 10 months

Ironic that it was Britain that worked on these 3rd country rules whilst we were in the EU so it clearly is exactly what the people voted for, don't blame the Spanish or the EU for this, it's all our own doing. We have to work towards a way of regaining our rights as British Citizens: this affects a lot and as time goes on the momentum to change will build - it's not about rejoining the EU, but about restoring our rights and the rights of our children.


Nigel / Hace 10 months

My mother became a resident on the island in the 1960's, it was the same rules then as now so why all the fuss. The only losers will be the Spanish, and with the pandemic, the future looks pretty bleak. Do you get the feeling with present restrictions we Brits are not wanted?


Colin Allcars / Hace 10 months

With the combined effects of the damage to Spain’s economy caused by Covid-19, the resentment in Britain to the pettiness of the EU seizing lorry drivers sandwiches at the border, the British government’s apparent agenda to keep British people spending their money in Britain for the next few years, and now the repatriation of thousands of Brits who will be taking their spending money with them, I can see a very bleak future for millions of lower paid Spanish citizens.


Zoe / Hace 10 months

A really lose, lose situation specially for retirees. Those moved to Spain helped the local economy by buying property, spending money, . So both side have lost Brits have to look for easier places with less restrictions to retire (North Africa for example), and Spain who will lose the monetary contributions of the retirees.