Spain has warned British tourists and second-home owners that they have no right to spend more than 90 days in the country in a post-Brexit time, but dismissed reports that offenders would be detained and deported if they stayed longer.
EU-wide rules, which now apply to British people, limit visa-free visits to non-EU members to six months, with an additional restriction of a maximum stay of 90 days per 180-day period.
While the visitor rules do not apply to British citizens established in the EU legally, hundreds, if not thousands, of British citizens not registered in Spain could be affected.
“These are people who have been flying under the radar for a long time when they should have registered their residence in the country and did not do so for some reason,” said Sue Wilson, president of Bremain in Spain, a group that campaigns for the rights of British immigrants residing in Spain.
“If they cannot prove they were residents before December 31 and obtain the right to stay in Spain, they now face 90 days to leave the country.
“Many are still planning to do the same and think that the Spanish will turn a blind eye or take time to act together to enforce the law. But they are fooling themselves. These rules are rules that have been applied to third-country nationals for years and the Spanish authorities don’t have to catch up ”.
Spanish government sources have lamented what they say are misleading reports in the UK media suggesting that 500 British citizens will be “deported” or “kicked out” in the next few days.
The Guardian understands that the police will not be deployed to search for Britons staying in excess, but that anyone staying more than 90 days will be considered in an irregular situation and subject to the law if picked up at one point. of control. .
British citizens living in Spain before December 31 have the right to stay in the country permanently under the Brexit agreement and have until June 30 to register their residence.
However, the new rules are causing anxiety and stress for some who are faced with choosing their country of formal residence.
“If they remain in Spain, they have to become official residents and they might be concerned about their rights to return home to access the NHS, for example. For them it is a crucial moment ”, said a British citizen in Spain who did not want to be identified.
Michele Euesden, managing director of the Marbella-based newspaper Euro Weekly, said there had been an increase in the number of people moving “locks, stocks and barrels” back to the UK before they exceeded their 90-day limit.
“Some people are afraid of the consequences if they stay longer and fear that if there is another confinement they will not be able to leave and return and visit because they will be known by the authorities,” said Euesden, who also offers a one-stop shop for removals to and from. Spain.
He added that the departure of people who had “lived under the radar for 20/30/40 years” and who “did not contribute anything” in terms of taxes or social contributions would not be lost.
A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry said there were errors in media reports that suggested the government was planning mass deportations of unregistered Britons.
“Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, and in accordance with the Brexit agreement with EU countries and international conventions, British citizens are subject to the same rules as citizens of other third countries,” he said.
“Like any other citizen of a third country, the maximum period you can stay in Spain is three months, unless you have a work, study or other type of visa that allows you to stay longer.”
Government sources said that Spain was simply following the rules governing visits and stays in its territory that apply to the UK as a non-EU country.
the government guidelines Indicate: “Stays in Spain cannot exceed 90 days in a 180-day period, either in a single visit or in several visits. Brits must use their passports for identification purposes and will be exempt from visas. “
The Home Office also noted that fewer Britons were visiting Spain at this time due to Covid travel restrictions, which will end on Tuesday.
Spain introduced the curbs on December 22 last year in response to the spread of the so-called British strain of coronavirus, allowing entry only to flights and ships carrying Spanish and Andorran citizens or official residents. The restrictions will be lifted on March 30, but those arriving from the UK will still have to show a negative PCR result from a test performed no more than 72 hours before arrival.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism