Written by Bethany Hemsley,
Last Modified: 6th December 2021

With the UK now out of the European Union, the British must start to follow many of the same rules and procedures as other third country nationals. However, while the visa processes for Americans, Australians and others are well established, they have not been for British long-stay visa applicants. Hence there is nowhere to apply just yet.

This has left British people who wish to retire to Spain, or just spend a long time in their holiday homes, with more questions than answers. Here we aim to answer as many as we can, with the help of Spanish lawyer Raquel Perez. 

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What happens if I already live in Spain?

If you have been legally living in Spain since before 31 December 2020 your rights are protected.

In the months leading up to the Brexit transition period deadline, Spain has been issuing UK citizens who wish to become residents in the country with the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). This biometric card ensures that those already living in Spain will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. Anyone with a green residency document will also be protected and does not necessarily need to get a TIE card.

For further information about applying for visa and residency, as well to buy a home in Spain safely, click here to meet our trusted solicitor today 

The card has already been issued to other non-EU residents of Spain, however, Britons will benefit from a slightly different version of the card, granting them an easier route to residency than other third party countries.

The deadline to apply for the TIE card was 31 December, however, due to Covid and general Christmas delays, Brits who can prove they were legally living in Spain before the end of 2020 can still apply. However, do try and get an appointment as soon as possible. If you have a digital certificate, you can actually start the residency process online.

Some of the documents you can use to prove you were legally living in Spain before the end of 2020:

– A padrón certificate
– Utility bill
– Healthcare policy
– Work contract
– Flight ticket

What happens if I want to live in Spain in the future?

The 90-day rule

The first thing to point out is that property buying is unaffected by being outside the European Union, as property per se is not one of the EU’s “four freedoms”. Living there (freedom of movement) is, however.

Find your perfect holiday home in Spain, right here

To avoid the need for a visa, once you make your first trip to Spain this year and have your passport stamped, you have 90 days there within the next 180. After that 180 days is up, you can once again start another 90 days worth of visits.

Bear in mind, however, that this is 90 out of 180 in the whole EU. So you cannot spend 90 days in Spain then pop over to Italy for another 90.

Tourist visitors and the visa waiver

The 90 day rule does not give you the right to work in Spain for 90 out of 180 days, only to visit as a tourist or for such purposes as shopping (including for a property!). There are other rules allowing business people and others to travel to Spain.

Until 2022 you won’t require any paperwork for your trip to Spain other than your passport. However, just like when travelling to, for example, the USA, the border authorities in Spain have the right to stop you and ask about your plans.

For example, they could ask where you are staying and whether you have a return ticket. They could even ask for evidence that you have the financial means to support yourself during your stay (at least €90 per day).

In practice, with hundreds of planes arriving in Spain from the UK each week during a normal tourist season, it seems unlikely that tourists will be questioned too closely.

Hence once the current Covid-19 restrictions are removed your passport should be all you need.

From 2022, the ETIAS

However, from late 2022 the ETIAS visa waiver system will come into operation for all third country nationals traveling to the EU, including Spain.

It will be very similar to the eTA system for any trip to Canada or the ESTA for the USA; a simple online application that should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. The cost will be €7 per applicant and it will last for three years.

It won’t require any biometric information other than what is on your passport already. You can find further details on the ETIAS here.

Before this happens there will be plenty of information about the change, so don’t worry about it for now.

Staying more than 90 days, visa options

If you wish to stay in Spain permanently for the first time, and you have not been resident in Spain before, and are not joining a close family member covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, you will need to apply for a visa.

That should be possible, so long as you either have a work visa or have sufficient savings to avoid working, have medical insurance and no serious criminal convictions.


living in Spain after Brexit

Brexit will not stop you moving to Spain in the future, but the process will be longer.

You will have to apply for a visa; the most common visa is the long stay national visa (visado nacional). There are three types of visa for living in Spain:

Residence – visado de residencia

This is the visa to apply for if you are wanting to live, but not work, in Spain, such as for retirement.

It is likely that you will need to apply via the Spanish embassy in the UK (or more likely by separate visa processing centres such as those the French government has already set up for applicants for French residency).

The rules for third-country nationals to get the visa can seem quite tough. For example, American applicants are required to prove that they can live in the country without working by each proving an income level of €30,000. They must also produce a letter from their doctor saying they have no communicable diseases, a background check report from the state police or FBI, certified] by the department of state.


That may all sound rather worrying! However, on the financial side, to get a residencia in Spain British people have been required to show savings of €10,000 per person, so it may end up being lower. Moreover, there have already been agreements to continue current health arrangements for tourists and a version of pet passport, so we hope and expect procedures will be simplified more generally.

You will certainly require comprehensive health insurance, however.

For further information about applying for visa and residency, as well to buy a home in Spain safely, click here to meet our trusted solicitor today 


Work and residence – visado de trabajo y residencia

If you want to live and work in Spain, you will need a work and residence visa. You cannot apply for this yourself, so you must have a job offer. Your employer can then apply on your behalf.

Student – visado de estudios

For those wanting to study in Spain, it is possible to obtain a student visa, allowing you to live in the country for the duration of your studies. You must be accepted by an institution first, and then you can apply for the visa.

Criminal convictions

Some buyers in Spain may be worried that a previous criminal conviction – perhaps from their youth – could prevent them either getting an ETIAS from 2022 or a visa.

Current thinking is that rules on gaining an ETIAS with a criminal conviction will be far more lax than the US or Canadian equivalent. If you have served a sentence of three years or more, you may have a problem, however.

There are likely to be stronger checks for getting a long-stay visa, and you may have to provide a letter stating that you are of good character from the police.

Other considerations


For travelers whether under the 90 days or with visas, at the airport, you will have to use the third-country nationals line rather than the EU line. There may be longer border checks and your passport must be valid for at least another six months from the day you travel to the EU. It also must not be more than ten years old.


One important thing to note is that your European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, will continue to be valid until the expiry date.

The government has announced that the EHIC is being replaced with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). See more details here. This means that Brits travelling to Spain, and indeed all EU countries, will still be able to receive free, or cheaper, state-provided medical care. You can apply for a GHIC here.

About The Author

Bethany Hemsley

Bethany is the resident copywriter for Property Guides, producing regular news, articles and guides. She is an expert in Spain and Spanish property having owned a property in Mazarrón in the Costa Cálida since 2003. She offers great, personal advice on buying property abroad. Publications written for include Rightmove, Care Home Management Magazine, What's New in Publishing, Luxury Advisor and Property Press. She has also been featured in the Daily Express.

Whether you are splitting your time between there and the UK, retiring, working or building up to permanent residency in Spain, there are lots of different VISA options available to choose from to get you there safely.

Speak to our trusted Spanish VISA specialists about your plans and they will help you pick the right VISA for your circumstances. Our recommended specialists have years worth of experience in helping our readers. They will give you all of the information you will need clearly and concisely, in English.

You can Brexit-proof your plans and get connected with our VISA specialist by completing our short form.

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