British in Spain - Are You Prepared for Brexit?

Last updated on 5 Jul 2020

July 5th 2020

A new residence procedure as well as the matter of TIE cards for UK citizens, both have been confirmed in the new BOE issued on July 4th 2020. 

According to this new law, UK citizens, legal residents in Spain (the ones in the possession of the green EU certificate) will be able to apply for the new type TIE residence card (the one expressly mentioning the status of the beneficiary of the Withdrawal agreement) as of July 6th and until the end of the transition period, by the form of exchanging their current cards to the new type TIE card.

This will be a VOLUNTARY PROCEDURE! The BOE states that there is NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to apply for a new residence status and undergo a new document procedure, but is the right of UK citizens to receive a residence document expressly reflecting their status of the Beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The above procedure will be performed by the departments of the National police according to the place of residence. The applicants will need to present the application form, valid passport, paid fee, and ID photo. The validity of the new TIE will depend on the period of residence of the applicant: those residing less than 5 years will receive a “temporary” TIE valid for 5 years; those residing more than 5 years will receive a “permanent” TIE valid for 10 years. 

Those UK citizens who are already in Spain or will arrive before the end of the transition period (December 2020) and still do not possess a legal residence document (an EU residence certificate) will have to apply for the new TIE card by following a newly established procedure, which will consist of two main steps: 

1) application personally or through representation in the Provincial Foreign office. The application processing time can be up to 3 months. Once the application is registered, the applicant’s status in Spain is legal until the resolution of the application 

2) once the above application is resolved positively, the applicant within a period of 30 days needs to apply for the TIE card in the department of the National police by presenting the documents as listed above

This is now the new law things will be implemented in practice - the time will show.

Here is the link to the actual BOE

With regard to UK driving licences, the deadline to exchange those to Spanish still remains December 31st 2020

June 2020

As Spain is slowly coming out of the State of Alarm and moving onto a New Normality, the offices resume work and police appointments for residencies are re-opening. The procedure for UK citizens remains the same, i.e. British citizens are treated as EU nationals throughout the whole transition period and at present the same format residence cards (Certificado de Registro) are issued. It is expected to stay this way till end of 2020, however still pending the official announcement. General advice to those UK citizens living in Spain without legal and /or updated paperwork (residencies, padron, driving licences) is to arrange it as soon as possible and not to delay till the year end.  

March 2020

Due to current State of Alarm related to COVID-19 pandemic, all procedures are stopped and deadlines are frozen. All public offices remain closed until further notice!

February 2020

BREXIT IS OFFICIAL. Since February 1st, 2020 UK does no longer belong to the European Union. 

With the Withdrawal Agreement ratified, the transition period has been agreed to last till December 31st 2020. During this period everything fundamentally stays the same, the rights of British citizens, living or arriving to Spain, remain the same, as well as the requirements to obtain residence status. Until April 3rd 2020 no changes are involved, after this date the residence application procedure is expected to change towards the TIE card (Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjera), the details and implementation of which are still being developed by the Spanish authorities.

UK driving licences remain valid in Spain until the end of the transition period and those residing legally in Spain need to apply for the exchange to a Spanish driving licence before December 31st 2020

December 2019

The new Brexit deadline is January 31st 2020 and with the results of the recent general elections in the UK we can be almost certain it is going to happen. Currently the transition period is planned till December 31st 2020. At this date the agreements between UK and EU should be finalised. If not, there may be further extensions agreed, which will be confirmed in the course of time.

All British citizens, already living in Spain or planning to relocate to Spain, and not yet possessing required paperwork (residencias, Spanish driving licenses, registration with Social security where applicable, padron with the Town Hall) are urged to apply for it BEFORE January 31st 2020. 

October 2019

Announcement from DGT – Trafico regarding UK driving licenses.

In case of UK leaving EU on October 31st, meaning all existing EU agreements in the field of traffic regulations, come to an end, the driving licenses issued in the UK will only be valid to drive in Spain for a reduced period of 9 months. To be able to continue driving in Spain, the holders of UK driving licenses need to exchange (renew, exchange or substitute) those to Spanish driving licenses and need to submit their application BEFORE November 1st 2019

Spanish Trafico has put in place an extraordinary quick procedure to help exchange the licenses in the shortest possible time, but you MUST submit the application by LATEST October 31st 2019. To qualify for this procedure, you need to be a legal resident in Spain and possess a driving license issued in the UK, the original of which needs to be handed in at the start of the exchange procedure. A provisional license will be issued at the place and the final license will arrive by post in the shortest possible time. 

See original announcement here 

April 12th 2019

Brexit…the word most heard recently in the news, in the social media, in people’s conversations! The word full of uncertainty and worries, stealing peace from so many people and turning the lives upside down! The good news is that it hasn’t happened yet, and we have a new deadline – October 31st 2019. Although it may seem far away, and you may feel there is time to relax – our strong advice is to act on all your outstanding matters NOW and avoid delays. Besides, the new deadline is not fixed, it is a “flextension” so the actual exit can happen much earlier, including the possibility of a “no deal” scenario the consequences of which we covered earlier – read it here

If you are British citizen planning to move to Spain, or living already in Spain, below is the summary of paperwork you need doing before the Brexit day finally comes. 


Whether you have just arrived or are already living in Spain but do not yet possess the Residency green card (Certificado de Registro) – do apply as soon as possible. It has been difficult to obtain Police appointments over the last few weeks, but those have been re-opened again just recently, while the appointments issued previously in the Foreign office for the “special procedure for British citizens” have now been all cancelled. Do check carefully the requirements for obtaining your Spanish residency as EU national and make sure you comply and have all required documents available for the appointment. Police has notably become much more demanding over the last few months and all documents requirements are strictly observed.  

If you are a Spanish resident already, make sure your residency is up to date with all information, including your actual address. If you have moved recently, you need to reflect it on your residency card, for which you will need a Police appointment as well.

If you have been residing in Spain for 5 years or longer you become a permanent resident and although it is not legally required but would be highly advisable to update your residence card and reflect your permanent status on it. Once Brexit has taken place, it is assumed that permanent residents will be able to swap to new type resident cards automatically. Note, that to update your residence to permanent, you will need to qualify and meet all residence requirements again.

Padron – Town Hall registrations

Do make sure you are registered in your local Town Hall and all your details are correct. For example, if you are still registered with your passport number, as initially when you arrived you didn’t possess the NIE yet but have obtained it since then - do update your padron with your NIE number. All Spanish residents need to renew their padron every 5 years, while non-residents – every 2 years.

Health care

If you are a British pensioner receiving state pension from the UK and legally residing in Spain, you are eligible to national health care in Spain. If you are not yet registered with the public health care, do request your S1 form from the NHS Overseas department in the UK and once received – register it with the Social Security of Spain. The procedure will take several weeks, so do not delay it. Once properly registered and in possession of Spanish Social Security certificate confirming eligibility for health benefits, go to your local Health Centre and register with your doctor (GP) as well as apply for your health card (Tarjeta Sanitaria). 

Driving licenses

If you are a British citizen legally residing in Spain and driving with your UK driving license – do exchange/renew it to a Spanish one as soon as possible! At present the exchange/renewal is still automatic, however this would not be the case once Great Britain has left EU. The overall process takes several months, so like with everything else – do not delay it. The appointments in Trafico department of Malaga are scarce, but if you use the services of a professional (gestor, asesor), the renewal will be done for you in shortest possible time without a need for you to attend any of the Trafico appointments. 

We at Malaga Expat Consulting will be able to help you with any of the above procedures, saving you time, worries and unnecessary stress, just as we have done for many of our British clients over the last years and especially in the last months. However, the appointments are limited especially the ones of the Police, as well as our capacity, so do reserve with us as soon as you can. Do not afford any further delays – this is your future!

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