Spain has reminded British tourists and second-home owners that they are no longer entitled to remain in the country for more than 90 days, under the post-Brexit laws. They have, however also brushed off reports that anyone who is found to have broken this new ruling will be rounded up and deported from the country.
EU rulings, that now apply to Britons due to Brexit, limits visa-free travel to six months to anyone from outside of the bloc. There is also an additional restriction that allows a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180 day period.
The visitor rules, of course, do not apply to British nationals who live in Spain as Spanish residents. But this still leaves hundreds if not thousands of unregistered Brits that will be affected by the changes.
Sue Wilson, who is the Chairperson of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the rights of British migrants living in Spain said: “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 didn’t for whatever reason. If they are unable to prove they were resident before 31 December and get entitlement to remain in Spain, they now face a 90-day deadline to leave the country.”
“Many are still planning to do the same and think the Spanish will either turn a blind eye or will take time to get their act together to enforce the law. But they are kidding themselves. These rules are rules that have applied to third-country nationals for years and the Spanish authorities have no catching up to do.”
Spanish government sources have lamented what they say are misleading reports in UK media suggesting they will be “deporting” or “kicking out” 500 British nationals in the coming days.
It is understood that Spanish police will not be deployed to seek out any Brits who have stayed longer than the 90 days allowed, but if they are picked up at a control point, they will be considered an ‘irregular situation’ and will be subject to the law.
The current law says that, under the Brexit deal, all British nationals who have registered as a resident before December 31 2020, are entitled to remain in Spain permanently.
The new law, however, is causing stress and anxiety to those who face having to choose which country they formally want to have residency in.
One British national living in Spain said: “If they remain in Spain, they have to become officially resident and might be worried about their rights to go home to access the NHS for example. For them, it is crunch time.”
Marbella-based managing director of the Euro Weekly newspaper Michele Euesden, said there “had been a surge in the number of people moving ‘lock, stock and barrel’ back to the UK before they breached their 90-day limit.”
She continued: “Some people are frightened of the consequences if they overstay and are afraid if there is another lockdown they won’t be able to leave and come back again and visit because they will be known to the authorities.”
She also said that the departure of those who have “lived under the radar for 20, 30 or 40 years and have contributed nothing in the way of social contributions or taxes will not be missed.”
A spokesman for Spain’s interior ministry said that there were errors in media reports that suggested the government was ‘planning mass deportations of unregistered Britons.’
He also said, “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-party countries.”
“Like any other third-country citizens, the maximum period they can stay in Spain is three months – unless they have a work, study, or another kind of visa that allows them to stay longer.”
Government sources said that Spain was “merely following the rules, governing visits and stays in its territory that apply to the UK as a non-EU country.”
The government guidelines state that “Stays in Spain cannot exceed 90 days in a 180 day period, whether in a single visit or various visits. Britons need to use their passports for identification purposes and will be exempt from visas.”
Due to the Covid pandemic and travel restrictions, fewer Brits have been visiting Spain, the interior ministry pointed out but these restrictions will end today, March 30.
Spain introduced the travel restrictions last year on December 22. This was due to the worry of the spread of the British strain of the coronavirus. Only flights and ships carrying Spanish and Andorran citizens or official residents were allowed entry into the country.
These travel restrictions will be lifted today, 30 March. Anyone travelling from the UK, however, will still need to show a negative PCR result from a test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.
If you are in Spain and unable to return to the UK before the expiry of your visa/permit or visa-free limit due to Covid-19 restrictions, you should contact your local immigration office (Extranjería) for advice. You can also call 060 from a Spanish phone line.
April 22, 2021