5 Jun, 2021 @ 17:15
2 mins read

Help is at hand: British expats in Spain struggling to navigate Brexit red tape


BRITISH expats in Spain are facing a great deal of Brexit-related red tape over their immigration status post-Brexit.

They are being urged to leave the country if they cannot apply for residency. 

Many failed to register their residency before the deadline of December 31, 2020 and, until Brexit came into force, had been flying under the radar.  

Worse, since Britain left the EU on January 1 expats are facing increasingly heavy tax burdens: UK non-resident taxpayers must pay 24% income tax, compared to EU nationals who pay just 19%. 

It has shone a spotlight on the issues around freedom of movement with thousands of British citizens previously splitting their time between Spain and the UK. 

red tape

Brexit restrictions are being taken very seriously by the Spanish authorities and border control systems mean that nobody can be invisible.

The status of Britons trying to live in Spain who have not registered their residency will be subject to the new rules applying to the Schengen zone. 

It means British citizens will not be able to outstay the ‘90 out of 180 days’ limit which has been implemented.

And there is no leeway for emergencies. Overstaying in the Schengen area could mean a ban from the country for three years. 

The only real solution for those who do not wish to become residents is to purchase the so-called Spanish Golden Visa, but this is restricted to applicants that purchased a property over €500,000 and has other conditions attached.

What’s more, these visas are subject to large consulate fees of £1,623 for Brits, which is extortionate given Canadians pay just £86 for their visa which allows them the same benefit. 

Take the case of John, a British pensioner, who bought a house in Mallorca last year to spend some of his retirement in Spain. 

Spanish law did not prevent him from buying a property in Spain priced at €499,999, yet he does not want to become a Spanish resident, which is entirely his right.

Now under the new Schengen Immigration Policies in place since January 1, he was only entitled to stay at his holiday home until March 31 and won’t be allowed to re-enter Spain until July (due to the ‘90 days in and out’ rule).

At Del Canto Chambers, we believe that not allowing access or imposing time limits to the use of properties may be a human rights infringement as per the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It states that individuals have a legal right to ‘peacefully enjoy’ the possession of their home and by restricting the use to ‘90 or 180 days’ is illegal. 

If you are a British citizen who owns a property in Spain and would like to enjoy freedom of access, it is worth seeking legal advice. 

One must have exhausted all the remedies in the State concerned that could provide redress, usually by appealing through all the courts up to the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court.

For anyone who has been negatively impacted by this situation, it is worth exploring your options.

Julio Prieto is an international barrister based in London. He is Director of Del Canto Chambers, an international tax legal Firm based in London with a country focus on Spain. Del Canto Chambers has been advising numerous UK individuals and families on their tax and immigration status post Brexit. More details of the Firm can be found here https://delcantochambers.com/

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