UP to 700,000 British expats in Spain could become illegal aliens after Britain leaves the EU on March 29, a legal expert has warned.

Myra Azzopardi, founder of Citizens Advice Bureau Spain, told the Olive Press last night that under EU law Brits are allowed a 90-day period to remain in Spain, after which they must register with local authorities or become a so-called irregular migrant.

The withdrawal deal rejected by UK parliament last month includes special provisions for British holders of green registration certificates to exchange this document for a Spanish Resident Card (TIE) after Brexit—but for those who have not registered there are no provisions whatsoever.  

“Spain cannot expel irregular migrants under EU law, but after Brexit you will be expelled as an illegal alien—you could even be deported,” said Azzopardi.

According to the government figures, there are 300,000 British expats registered in Spain, but Azzopardi estimates there are between 500,000 and 700,000 others either living unregistered or with an interest in Spain who could soon become illegal.

Azzopardi added that some Brits neglect to register with the authorities to avoid paying tax, but said that many did not register simply out of ‘ignorance’.

Azzopardi was speaking to the Olive Press after the fourth Brexit Seminar held in San Luis de Sabinillas on Wednesday.

During the seminar, British Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley urged the 200 attendees to get registered right away to avoid immigration issues after Brexit.

He said: “The one thing that is constant in both deal and no deal scenarios is legal residency.

“Please apply now—there´s nothing more important you can do.”

URGENT: Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley advised British expats to register immediately

Under the rejected withdrawal agreement, Manley said that British expats in possession of a registration certificate would be able to swap this document for a TIE.

He added: “Your registration card will remain a valid document and will at some point need to be changed for a new card—but we do not know when and how that will work.”

The withdrawal agreement would establish a transition period up to 31 December 2020 during which time any Brits wishing to register for the first time would be immediately issued with a TIE.

However, Azzopardi said it was not clear whether Brits who have already been in Spain for over 90 days will be given another 90-day grace period within which to register.

Manley said that the Embassy would let expats know when the details are made clear.

During a Q & A session following the seminar Manley cautioned that under a no deal scenario Brits would not not protected by any special provisions at all—the Spanish website La Moncloa currently states that even registered British expats will subject to the ‘general immigration regime’.

The BBC reported that in such a situation ‘third country’ nationals living in Spain, i.e. non-EU nationals, could have to prove an annual income of at least €26,000 to remain legally resident.

A royal decree is expected this month to outline what will happen to presently registered British expats in the event on a no deal Brexit.

Manley said we may only only ‘assume’ the royal decree grants similar provisions to the withdrawal agreement.

In the meantime he urged British expats to “stay as best informed as you can” and to register “as soon as you can”.

More to follow…

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