AS Brexit looms, the British Consulate has gone into overdrive holding meetings throughout Spain and its islands to try and make sure expats know exactly what they could be facing in the months to come – despite still not knowing if we are leaving or if there is a deal or no deal.
From formal events requiring a ticket, like last week’s event at the Barcelona Princess Hotel to informal pop ups in shopping centres and bars, reaching out to local community groups where consulate staff are appearing as guest speakers, and hosting Facebook live Q&As, consulate staff are being inundated by questions from worried Brits.
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Unsurprisingly healthcare – as reported in last week’s the Olive Press – remains the biggest worry for the majority of expats.
Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain – the biggest forum for British migrants living in Spain – told the Olive Press that above all people need to ‘get the essentials in order’.
“Most important for Brits living in Spain,” she said, “are the standard things like getting the residencia and driving license.”
With a general election on the cards as EU leaders continue to rebuff Boris Johnson’s negotiations, being able to vote in the UK is crucial if you want to have your say.
“Get your UK proxy vote,” Sue urges, “we know what the Spanish postal service is like.”
Upcoming consulate events around Spain are available to view on the Government website, while La Linea is holding a Brexit protest on October 19 at 12:30pm.
If you haven’t yet got to a consulate meeting, here is everything you need to know to make it through Brexit.
The Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE) is essential for living and working in Spain, whether there is Brexit or no Brexit.
It is a national insurance number for foreign nationals in Spain and is essential for studying, buying a vehicle, setting up a bank account, paying taxes and other things.
It is useful to get this sooner rather than later, because as Brexit rumbles on, appointments may fill up fast.
How to prepare – You will need to fill in the EX15 form, which is available to download online from numerous places, including the Spanish Government’s website.
You will then need to book an appointment at your local office – usually the police station – and take along your completed EX15, passport and copy, proof of address, proof of health insurance, tax form Modelo 790, a document stating why you need an NIE and about €12 to pay for the NIE.
Residencia may go by several different names, including the ‘green card’, ‘residency card’, etc. etc.
This must be applied for if you intend to stay in Spain for more than three months and is a must-have before Brexit.
Although even if a deal is not reached over the UK’s withdrawal, Brits will still be ‘considered legally resident’ in Spain for 21 months, regardless of whether they have residency, according to the UK Government.
How to prepare – To get this important document you will need a completed EX18 form, which you can get from the same place as the EX15.
The process is similar but not the same as getting your NIE and you will still need to make an appointment at your local office.
You will also need to bring along your passport and copy, proof of address, proof of health insurance, tax form Modelo 790, proof of income and a certificate of empadronamiento.
A key worry for many British people residing in Spain, healthcare has been used as a bargaining chip by the British and Spanish governments.
Most recently UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock scared everyone by saying that Brits access to healthcare in Spain could end within six months under a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
And the fear for expats is real.
“Some of our members are already looking at private healthcare,” Wilson said, “I even know people who are buying it so they are protected in the future, despite already being covered by Spanish healthcare.”
How to prepare – The most important thing is to register as a resident. If there isn’t a Brexit deal then Brits in Spain can continue to access healthcare in the same way they do now until at least 31 December 2020.
This is due to a reciprocal agreement between Spain and the UK, which has not yet been ratified by the British Government.
But even if the agreement is not approved, the Spanish Government has said that British nationals will still get the same access to healthcare they do now thanks to Royal Decree-Law 5/2019, of March 1.
EHICs (European Health Insurance Cards) and S1 forms will be both be valid during this period.
One of the hot Brexit topics since the 2016 referendum. Remember the crazy scramble for Irish passports?
Elena Remigi, founder and director of the In Limbo Project, which looks at the human cost of Brexit, described it as a ‘huge issue for Brits abroad’.
“Lack of freedom of movement is going to create serious problems for Brits abroad and at home,” she told the Olive Press.
How to prepare – Check you have enough time on your passport if you are planning on travelling in the near future.
Adults and children will need six months on their passport in order to travel to most European countries – not including Ireland.
If you don’t have enough time left on your passport you will need to renew it, and bear in mind that the process can take at least three weeks.
If the UK secures a deal with the EU nothing will change until the end of 2020.
However without a deal any remaining months on your passport will not be carried over to a new one.
So make sure that on your day of travel, your passport has at least six months remaining on it, otherwise you may not be able to enter some Schengen Area countries like Spain.
You will need to exchange your British license for a Spanish one ahead of Brexit if you plan to carry on living in Spain.
Using your Spanish license, if you have one, will still be allowed in the UK for short trips and for those taking their test, they can still exchange it for a UK one.
How to prepare – After being a resident in Spain for two years you must renew or exchange any old UK license that doesn’t have a 10-year validity period.
Also, if you are in Spain and your UK license is lost, stolen or expires then you will have to apply to the DVLA in Spanish for a ‘certificate of entitlement’.
From the day the UK leaves the EU, the Spanish Government has said you will have nine months in which to change your license.
You will also need to register your vehicle with the Spanish authorities and may be liable to pay taxes if you are a resident in Spain or spend longer than six months of the year in the country.
If you still have a UK license, for visits to Spain of up to nine months after the UK leaves the EU you will not need an International Driving Permit (IDP).
However for those visiting Spain on longer trips after Brexit you will need a 1949 IDP, which can be accessed from the UK Post Office.