Moving to Spain

Brexit Changes to Immigration Abroad

Moving to Spain Michael Macdonald

So, now that the Brexit dust has settled a little, many British citizens are coming to terms with how the UK´s departure from the EU will affect their future in the short and long term.

For many Brits, the dream of spending sometime living in, or ultimately retiring in sunny Spain, is on the bucket list – but now it seems that the dream of emigrating is a little more complicated in the post-EU era.

So what are the Brexit changes to immigration and how do they affect people already in Spain or those still in the UK?

For those of you who have already made the move and were registered as Spanish residents before the end of 2020, your new TIE card is your golden ticket to keeping the rights that British citizens previously held as EU citizens, as these rights have been protected in the Withdrawal Agreement. These rights include: living and working without need for a Visa, accessing the public systems such as healthcare and education, travelling within the Schengen area for up to 90 days, pension benefits based on paid contributions in member countries. Visit this UK government website for more details.

British passport important for brexit changes to immigration

But what if you don’t have the TIE card yet and you’ve missed the deadline?

If you were already in Spain during 2020 and can prove you were living here before 31st December you can still obtain your residence in Spain following the usual EU route, and you will still be covered under the Withdrawal Agreement. If you have the green NIE card or registration certificate, you can still validate it to obtain the TIE card which is essentially the residence permit you need to ensure you can stay in Spain long term. The key thing is to stop procrastinating and make it a priority to get it sorted ASAP.

To make an application online you need to have the following documents (and a copy of each one): a completed EX20 application form, a valid passport, an empadronamiento certificate which must be less than 3 months old, proof of economic means – for example an employment contract, registration of self-employment or a bank statement showing you have savings of €5600 or more.

But what if you are still living in the UK and are starting the whole immigration process from scratch post Brexit?

If you are starting your immigration procedure from scratch and are still currently living in the UK then unfortunately the Brexit changes to immigration mean that you are now classed as a non-European citizen and so, you fall under the general immigration regime.

This means that, although the UK is located in the continent of Europe, you will be subject to the same immigration legislation and criteria as people from other continents, such as those from America and Asia. The main downfall is that there are now extra legal requirements and longer procedures, which may also mean that you have to start the procedure from the UK, and may not be able to move to Spain and start the procedure whilst also living in the country.

There are some different visa options to non-EU citizens that you need to look at in more depth to see which scenario suits your own personal situation best.

1. NON-LUCRATIVE RESIDENCE VISA - This is one of most requested and easy to obtain visas for people who are planning to move or retire and have the economic means to stay without working in Spain.

  • You need to prove that you are self-sufficient and have enough funds to support yourself (and your family) and that you will not cost the Spanish government anything, so you also need to have private health insurance. With this ´non-profit´ visa you can stay in Spain for one year after entry providing that you are not working or carrying out any economic or professional activity in Spain. However, you can continue to carry out business activities in your country of origin – so with technology now allowing for working remotely more than ever before, being a digital nomad offers a great opportunity.
  • It is ideal for people who want to retire in Spain, claiming their UK pension or for people who want to experience the Spanish way of life first hand, before modifying the visa to a work permit which means they can get a job in Spain.

brexit changes to immigration for students studying abroad

2. STUDENT VISA - This is for these who want to study in further education or do a professional training course or research project, including PhD´s, masters, post grad and bachelor’s degrees.

  • This visa is an authorization to live in Spain while you conduct your studies and you can apply for a short term (91-180 days) or long term (6 months+) student visa but you need to have sufficient economic funds in order to maintain yourself for the length of your studies and have proof of acceptance from the course/university you are studying at. You also need to have private medical insurance and no criminal convictions on your record.
  • It is possible to also work on a student visa, through 3 options: an internship, residence authorisation modification or residence authorization for highly qualified workers. There are various specifications which you need to check if you are entering Spain on a student visa and wish to work whilst studying.

3. INVESTOR VISA – Also known as the Golden Visa, this is one of the fastest ways to getting residency in Spain and, as the name implies, it requires the applicant to make a significant investment in Spain.

    • To get an investor visa you need to either purchase property worth more than 500,000€, or alternatively, you can buy shares in a Spanish company or have a bank deposit of more than 1,000,000€. You can also get this visa through investing in a business project that will give benefits, such as scientific or technological advances and provide employment in Spain, but also minimise socio-economic impact.
    • You must be 18+, have private healthcare and a clean criminal record. In comparison to other visas, holders of this visa are entitled to live and work in Spain for an initial period of 2 years (not 1) and the second renewal is made after 5 years, after which you will be able to apply for permanent residency.


There are other routes that you can look into, as those mentioned above are for those in special circumstances that are able to prove their situation and have some form of existing economic means to survive financially for an extended period of time.

if you are working abroad, there are brexit changes to immigration


What if I want to live and work in Spain but don’t have savings to live off?


If you are looking to move to Spain to start a new life but you don’t have savings and will need to work then you need to apply for a work visa/permit in order to legally start work, as Spanish companies cannot legally employ non-EU citizens unless they have a work visa. This is therefore a vital step for you to take in planning your immigration process.


You can apply for long term, seasonal and also au pair work visas, plus there is also something called the HIGHLY QUALIFIED VISA for people who work in a managerial or qualified, specialised or technical positions. There is also the option to register as self-employed, but much like the first 3 visas mentioned above this requires that you can prove a certain level of funds for self-sufficiency.


In order to apply for a work visa the best option is to contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country to obtain up to date information about the types of visas available and see which is most suitable for your current situation.


As you can see, the process is not as easy as it used to be, but it is not impossible and there are actually a variety of paths you can follow to make your dream of spending long summer nights on the terraces and beaches of Spain a reality. The main advice is to do your research and look into the all the immigration options before you make any rash decisions. Don’t quit your current job, book flights and pack your suitcase without having all the paperwork you need as the main thing the Brexit changes to immigration have led to is the need for patience as things will now take more time and require more pre-planning.


Download Free Guide: How to Apply for Spanish Residency

Michael Macdonald

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