1 Aug, 2020 @ 10:00
2 mins read

Brexit is already making life harder for Brits trying to stay legal in Spain

P6 Nie

THERE are certain things in life that simply don’t make sense: Donald Trump’s speeches, tomatoes being a fruit and the fact that Beyonce still hasn’t divorced Jay-Z.

But nothing leaves me more completely flummoxed than the Spanish bureaucratic system. 

I thought I empathised with the frustrations of immigrants in Britain. But like childbirth or being kicked in the balls, you can never fully understand the pain until it happens to you. 

To permanently live, work and eat patatas bravas in Spain, expats must have a TIE residence card, which automatically assigns a  foreigner’s identity number (N.I.E) alongside it. 

In 2019, 365,967 Brits officially registered in Spain. But since the UK collectively gave EU membership the boot, our VIP pass through the paperwork maze has been ripped from our self-entitled clutches and red tape has become an instrument of torture to garrot us with.  

First I visit Estepona police station, but in the current corona climate, walk-ins are a no-go. Online, the only appointments available are in Ronda, so I accept my fate and fill up the car with petrol. 

It becomes apparent on arrival that Manuel from Fawlty Towers has left the hospitality industry and taken up a position processing immigration paperwork. Here, ‘I know nothing’ isn’t an excuse but a solemn promise. Every person has the memory of an Alzheimer’s patient, the personality of a door knob and the attitude of Lauren Cooper. Bothered? They are not. 

With a deadpan glare, Manuel tells me to go to Malaga. When I enquire as to why, his reply stings: “Because you chose Brexit,” he claims. I assure him, I did not. Anyway, isn’t Britain in the transition period until December 31? “Please leave my office,” he says. 

Of course, the trouble began in England. Somewhere amongst the onslaught of debates and negotiations, I had been sold an optimistic lie: Brits could break up with their European partners, keep the perks of a multinational relationship and live our merry lives while taking back control of our country – whatever the hell that really means. 

This type of lie is called an ‘informational cascade’. In other words, it is repeated so many times it is spoken into existence. The lie gains credibility, yet it is actually an avalanche of misinformation. And, in the Comisaria de Policia, there’s a stick of reality dynamite ready to blow it to smithereens. 

When I call the office in Malaga, they tell me to go back to Estepona where my quest began. And so, the bureaucratic tumble dryer starts up again, hurtling me round in circles while bashing my head against the sides with a Catch-22. There is no semblance of sanity to this procedure and it progresses at the speed of a three-toed sloth; a snail moves faster. 

Alas, it is already time to face the consequences for our country’s democratic choice. When looking in at the EU members club from outside in the cold, it is clear life is going to get a lot tougher for Brits wanting to remain abroad. 

Lydia Spencer-Elliott

GOT A STORY? Contact me now: lydia@theolivepress.es or call +34 951 273 575.


  1. We recently experienced the challenge of applying for a TIE. We went to the foreigners police department in Estepona, they told us to call a number for the office in Malaga, the answering machine message told us that we had to apply via a website, the website told us (after filling in all of our details) to call the office in Malaga or go to the foreigners police department in Estepona. I contacted the help desk of the office in Malaga who told me that there were technical issues with the web. We kept on trying and after a few days we managed to get face to face appointments in Malaga (to see if we met the criteria to apply) and then face to face appointments in Estepona (to register for the card). We have to go back in a month to pick up our cards. It was a very frustrating process but these things always are, in any country. As for using a lawyer/representative – one quoted us €1000 euros to do it, three others didn’t respond to us.

    Location : Benahavis
  2. Politics and indifference dominate Spanish bureaucracy, especially, involving residency. I was accompanied by a very polite knowledgeable Spanish gentleman; we sere shuttled around between several Oviedo offices and national police in Gijón before getting straight answers. Some clerks were dismissive; some uninformed; all hostile to some extent. After 3 years of residency mine was cancelled retroactively, ordering me out of the country, because I had not met the more than 182 days in Spain rule which forces becoming a Spanish tax resident. And after 5 years, the requirement to be in the country all but 30 days in a 5 year period. That is crazy stuff – the sun,food and culture just ain’t that good!
    It cost me €800 in legal fees to delay my departure so that I could use my original ticket. We learned there are ‘certain specialists’ who have connections to fix these things. Cost varies with who you know. Since we are not especially fond of patatas bravas, alcoholism, yobs and ubiquitous guardia nacional extracting road taxes every week, we made the hard decision to retire elsewhere, where law and social justice isn’t determined by an unknowable mix of whim, corruption and luck. Given the current state of affairs, the 3 months in, 3 months out Schengen rule looks good enough. The Brits were really short-sighted to vote Brexit.

    Location : Asturias and Midwest
  3. Just think Bexiteers. Thanks to your stupidity, Britain is now as low in the European pecking order as America.. Pay attention to Chas, you”ll all have his travails to look forward to.

    Location : malaga

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