31 Mar, 2021 @ 12:57
3 mins read

“No plans to deport British citizens”: Authorities in Spain urge calm over 90-day rule

Expat beach in Spain with suitcases Vidar Nordli Mathisen /Unsplash
Expat beach suitcases Vidar Nordli Mathisen /Unsplash

SPANISH authorities have said they will take “a pragmatic approach” to those who overstay 90-day rule.

Thanks to Brexit, March 31 marks an important deadline for those British nationals who have been in Spain since the start of the year and haven’t got their residency papers in order.

But fears of mass deportation by the Spanish authorities for those who fall foul of the new rules are unfounded.

David Hunt, the Head of Citizens’ Rights and Mobility Department (Europe Directorate) at Britain’s FCDO told The Olive Press: “The Spanish authorities have made it very clear that their intention is not to punish Brits for overstaying.”

Captura De Pantalla 229
David Hunt, Head of Citizens’ Rights and Mobilty Dept at FCDO during video call with the Olive Press.

“The Spanish authorities have said that they will take a pragmatic approach towards those people that have been trapped here as a result of covid  – there is no desire on behalf of Spanish government to treat people punitively. This is an issue that is outside of their control”.

He said that while it is very important for those Britons who live in Spain to get their paperwork in order, they should be reassured that even if they haven’t yet, those who have been living here since before the end of 2020 have their rights secured under the Withdrawal Agreement.

January 1 brought an end to the Brexit transition period and from that date UK Nationals without residency in another European country are only allowed to spend 90 days out of every 180 within the Schengen area for tourism or other specific purposes, such as business meetings, without needing a visa.

The British Embassy in Madrid reiterated the message this week in a statement issued to the Olive Press.

“All foreign nationals intending to stay in Spain for longer than three months have always been obliged to register for residency – whatever their nationality,” the statement read.

“Therefore if you arrived in Spain before 1 January you must take steps to become resident if you consider your home to be here. Otherwise, you should be arranging to return to the UK.

“However, if you don’t yet have a resident card but were legally living here before the end of the transition period on December 31, your rights are still protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

“If you are trying to become resident and are in the process of registering or appealing against your application having been rejected, the 90-day rule does not apply to you,” assures the British Embassy in Madrid.

Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador to Spain also had some reassuring words: “I’m aware that many second home owners are concerned about overstaying as we reach March 31,” he said.

Hugh Elliott British Ambassador Madrid
Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador in Madrid.

“The Spanish Government has been clear that it will take a pragmatic approach to anyone who is stuck in Spain due to circumstances beyond their control, so I don’t want people to be overly worried on that count.

“However, if people do not intend to become resident here in Spain and see the UK as their base, we do expect them to take steps to return to the UK as soon as they can.”

A Spanish Ministry of Inclusion spokesperson said: “The Spanish Government is working to provide maximum legal certainty for British citizens resident in Spain. Throughout the negotiations, the issue of citizens’ rights has been, and remains, one of the main priorities. Spain is the country of residence of the largest community of UK nationals in the EU.

 “The Spanish Government has no plans to deport British citizens who have made Spain their home and, for this reason, Spain has been one of the first EU countries to establish a documentation procedure under the Withdrawal Agreement, which consists of a declaratory system to apply for the new residence permit (TIE).

“We remind British citizens that, although there is no time limit, it is important to make this application as soon as possible as, among other things, it will facilitate the administrative processing and the crossing of the external borders of the European Union,” the government statement said.


If you are unable to return to the UK before the expiry of your visa/permit or visa-free limit due to C-19 restrictions, you should contact your local immigration office (Extranjería) for advice.  You can also call 060 from a Spanish phone line and request an English speaker.

 Those arriving after the transitional period, i.e. from 1 January 2021, will fall under the general immigration regulations. For more information on the rules in Spanish visit the government website HERE

 The UK Government provides detailed advice for UK nationals in our Living in Spain Guide online HERE ; and the Spanish Government has also produced a detailed Q+A document on residency in English HERE

The UK government is funding three organisations in Spain to help UK nationals with their residency applications. These are the International Organisation for Migration (IOM),  Babelia and Age in Spain which are each responsible for helping people in different parts of Spain. Geographical areas and contact details can be found in the chart below.

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Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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