If you follow the British media, you will have seen numerous articles about UK citizens who are about to be deported from Spain or who are leaving of their own free will, to avoid the risk. Emphasis has been placed on the alleged actions of the Spanish authorities, or the EU in general, rather than of the people concerned.
First of all, who is leaving Spain, who is concerned about this issue and what are the consequences of staying longer? It’s a broader range of people, with a wider range of motivations than you might expect.
Some Britons, for various reasons, did not meet the Brexit deadline of December 31, 2020. If a UK citizen was not in the country before the end of the transition period, they would not be able to apply for residency on the previous terms to Brexit. Anyone applying for residency in this post-Brexit world must meet a more demanding set of criteria and will not benefit from the protection of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, anyone who can prove that they were in Spain before the end of 2020 can still apply for residency under WA terms, even after April 1, and regardless of whether they have already started the application process.
Some UK press reports have included interviews with returned Britons who applied for residency but were denied. In the vast majority of cases, the reasons for these residency denials were not given, so we can only speculate. One thing is for sure: the Spanish authorities have every right to say “no” if their requirements are not met.
A large group returning to the UK are the “radars”, those who live in Spain without being legally registered, sometimes for years or even decades. This group attracts little sympathy from British “residents” who feel they have done the right thing and paid their taxes.
Meanwhile, the reaction of many “low radars” appears to be one of surprise or shock. It should come as no surprise, as they have had four years to confirm the requirements and start the residency application process. However, we cannot know everyone’s personal circumstances. Whatever these may be, deciding which country to call home is a difficult decision even under the best of circumstances. Now that element of choice has been removed.
The British were always required to apply for residency after spending three months in Spain, assuming they intended to stay. While we were members of the EU, Spain and many other EU countries, we have taken little action on those who are left out of the stay. Many people who will become “undocumented” on April 1 clearly think that Spain’s attitude towards their presence will not change and that they can continue to live under the radar. It’s a huge risk, considering the consequences: a fine, deportation, and possibly being barred from re-entry to the EU (not just Spain) for up to five years.
Time will tell how this scenario will play out, but people staying beyond should be aware that they are no longer EU citizens and will be treated as third country nationals. They will face the same immigration policies that apply to citizens of the United States or Algeria. While the national rules of third countries may be new to the British, the Spanish authorities have dealt with them for years. Despite media suggestions to the contrary, these rules are not new, and the Spanish government, or any other EU government, is not to blame for the position in which they have placed us. They simply enforce the rules that apply to non-EU countries. members, a consequence of Brexit of which the British government, if not all British citizens, would have been well aware. In fact, the British government helped write those rules.
For the British in Spain who need to apply for residency, there is still time. If you can prove that you lived here before December 31, you can apply for and benefit from the WA. You will need a printed copy of where you lived, such as a mortgage or rental agreement, and showing when you arrived in Spain. Even if you have not started the process before April 1, you will not be classified as an illegal immigrant if you intend to apply for residency or if your application is being processed. First-time residency applicants can begin the process online, so you can log into the system while waiting for personal appointments.
British media have claimed that 500 people will be deported when their 90-day visitation period expires on March 31.
Is that number exact? It is probably as accurate as the much disputed figure of 350,000 British residing in Spain; clearly, this was always a significant underestimate of the real number.
With the application of the 90-day rule and a series of new residency applications, we could finally find out how many Brits actually made Spain their home.
A warm welcome to all newbies!
Chair – Bremain in Spain
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism