The 3 ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL STEPS before 31 December 2020 for UK nationals living in Spain.
On 17 October 2019 the revised Withdrawal Agreement was agreed between the United Kingdom and the European Union which sets out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Those of us from the UK who are living in Spain or who are arriving to live in Spain during 2020, have until 31 December 2020 to get our paperwork in order if we wish to protect our rights after this transition period ends.
Both Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement make it necessary to know which UK nationals reside in Spain before the end of the transition period and which ones arrive after that date. This is because the former, those who reside in Spain before 31 December 2020, will have the rights of residence, free movement and social security recognised by the Withdrawal Agreement. While those who arrive after that date will have different rights, either those that recognise the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom or, in its absence, those recognised under Spanish law.
The three crucial steps that must be completed before the end of this year are:
1.- Register as a resident in Spain
As explained on the GOV.UK web site: “If you are living in Spain before 1 January 2021 and register as a resident after 6 July 2020, you will be issued with a biometric residence card called a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). This card will prove your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
If you registered as a resident before 6 July 2020, you will have a green A4 certificate or credit card-sized piece of paper from Extranjeria or the police. This is still a valid document and will prove your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, including after the transition period ends. You can exchange your paper residence document for the new TIE but you are not obliged to.
The green paper residence certificate and the new biometric TIE card will continue to be equally valid in proving your residence status and rights in Spain. But, the Spanish government advises that the biometric card is more durable and may simplify some administrative processes.”
The application form, appointment booking and explanatory notes are all available online (in Spanish) here: https://sede.administracionespublicas.gob.es/procedimientos/index/categoria/34/language/es_ES
2.- Register for Health Care
Until now, UK citizens have been able to obtain healthcare in Spain in one of these ways:
- through entitlement to healthcare as a permanent resident if they’ve lived in Spain for 5 years or more.
- through entitlement to healthcare if they’re employed or self-employed in Spain.
- paying directly into the public health insurance scheme (Convenio Especial).
- registering a UK-issued S1 form* with the social security office.
- using a UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for temporary stays.
*The S1 form entitles UK nationals access to state healthcare on the same basis as a Spanish citizen. You’re entitled to an S1 if you receive a UK State Pension or certain other benefits such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or another exportable benefit.
If you are resident in Spain, you must not use your EHIC from the UK to access healthcare in Spain, unless you are a student or posted worker.
We probably all know of people who have used their EHIC even though they are resident in Spain; but the EHIC is only designed to cover treatment that is medically necessary (emergency treatment) until your planned return home. If you are one of those people, now is the time to get your house in order!! Do not delay – get your health cover organised now. After the 31 December 2020 you may not be entitled to this most essential service. You can apply for an S1 form via:
NHS Overseas Healthcare Services
Tel: +44 (0)191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm; Saturday, 9am to 3pm)
You must register your S1 at your local INSS office. The INSS will give you a Spanish social security number. Take this to your local healthcare centre to register. You’ll be given a medical card which you can use when you visit a doctor.
If you are living in Spain or move there permanently before 31 December 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Spain in the above cases, the same as you do now, provided you remain resident.
3.- Exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one
You have until the end of 2020 to exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one. If you do not do this before 31 December 2020 you will need to take a driving test. But bear in mind that you must have a valid residency document in order to exchange your licence!!
As with the residency application, you can find all the information and forms and book an appointment with the Spanish Traffic Authority (DGT) online here:
or by calling 060 (Spanish language only). Make sure you request the correct appointment option:
- if your licence has expired or is due to expire in the next few months, you should choose ‘renovación’
- if you have lost your licence or it has been stolen you should choose ‘sustitución’
- for all other instances choose ‘canje’.
You will be given a temporary driving permit (“Autorización temporal para conducir”) which you can use until your Spanish licence is processed. This document is only recognised by traffic authorities in Spain and is not a valid document in any other country.
Be ready for 2021
The above is a very brief guide to help you get your paperwork in order before the transition period finishes on 31 December 2020. Many other matters will remain unchanged. For example, if you are resident in Spain on or before 31 December 2020, your right to work will stay the same, for as long as you remain resident in Spain.
Also, the UK will continue to have a double taxation agreement with Spain to make sure that you do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. Existing double taxation arrangements for UK nationals living in Spain have not changed. As a Spanish resident, you must declare your global income to the Spanish authorities, no matter which country it came from. If you are not a resident, you will only pay tax on income that came from Spain (see our previous article on Non-Resident Taxation).
And remember, whether we like it or not, Brexit has happened. Don’t be caught out after 31 December 2020 – get your paperwork sorted out NOW!
Most people without a reasonable command of the Spanish language find it easier to let a gestor or an experienced person handle this matter for them. If it is all too daunting, Real Spain Properties can help you with all of the above. Call, email or Whatsapp us. We are here to help!