OUR new relationship with Europe means different rules for British citizens in Spain – here’s what you need to know to avoid being caught out by the new 90-day rule.
At 11pm on New Year’s Eve, Britain left the EU’s single market and customs union and Brits became third-country nationals, meaning UK residents are only allowed to remain in an EU country a maximum of three months within each six-month period.
The rule comes as a blow to the thousands of British citizens with holiday homes in Spain, particularly those who flew out to the country over Christmas and have been stranded on Spanish soil ever since.
Now as March 31 looms, time is ticking for those who have been on EU turf since the start of the year as their 90 days is set to run out.
If you are one of these people, all is not lost – you won’t be banished from the country forever. Still, there are things you must do to avoid disruption and keep on the right side of the law.
I have been living here for years, will I be ok?
If you have been living in Spain legally prior to 1 January you will qualify for protections afforded by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). Whilst the WA does not protect all our prior EU citizenship rights, it provides additional security, not least with regard to healthcare and pensions.
Can I still apply for residency?
For those that arrived before the end of the transition period, the option of applying for European residency – under pre-Brexit terms – is still viable for the next three months. New applicants in Spain are being encouraged to register as soon as possible as delays are mounting. Regional authorities are struggle to cope with demand and Brits are facing major setbacks, with wait times more than doubling.
What happens if I stay longer than 90 days?
Visits to Europe now limited to stays of 90 days in any 180-day period for British citizens – overstay the limit and you could face a fine or even an entry ban next time you cross the Channel. If you have been here since December 31 and plan on staying beyond April 1 you must either be a resident or apply for an extension. Failing to do so will officially result in you becoming an ‘undocumented immigrant’ and you could face a fine or deportation. If you are chucked out, Spain and most other European countries, won’t let you back in for up to five years.
What if me or a love one are unwell and unable to travel?
An extension beyond the allowed 90-day stay for non-residents is only granted in the event of ill health or accident, but is not guaranteed. Definitely speak to your embassy or insurance if you are facing difficulty. The European Union is encouraging member states to be flexible and to grant extensions where necessary but national governments ultimately make the decision.