The UK Embassy in Spain has issued a statement following media reports that the Spanish government was planning to actively find and deport Britons living illegally in the country post-Brexit.
The embassy quotes a Spanish Ministry of Inclusion spokesperson as saying that “the Spanish government has no plans to deport British citizens who have made Spain their home.”
“The Spanish government is working to provide maximum legal certainty for British citizens resident in Spain. Throughout the negotiations, the issue of citizens’ rights has been, and remains, one of the main priorities. Spain is the country of residence of the largest community of UK nationals in the EU,” added this ministry source.
And The Guardian reported that “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.”
However, officials also note that since January 1, when the Brexit transition period ended, UK nationals have been bound by the same rules that apply to third-country citizens from outside the European Union or Schengen space.
British nationals may spend 90 days out of every 180-day period within the Schengen area for tourism or other specific purposes, such as business meetings, without requiring a visa.
The 90-day visitor rule does not apply to Britons who are already registered as residents of Spain, or are in the process of doing so. Thousands of previously unregistered UK nationals applied for Spanish residency before the deadline, but there are still many others who have failed to do so despite spending much of their time in the country.
“I’m aware that many second-home owners are concerned about overstaying as we reach March 31,” said Ambassador Hugh Elliott in the embassy statement. “The Spanish government has been clear that it will take a pragmatic approach to anyone who is stuck in Spain due to circumstances beyond their control, so I don’t want people to be overly worried on that count. However, if people do not intend to become a resident here in Spain and see the UK as their base, we do expect them to take steps to return to the UK as soon as they can.”
The embassy also adds that “if you are trying to become resident and are in the process of registering or appealing against your application having been rejected, the 90-day rule does not apply to you.”
The statement reminds UK nationals that if they and their family members were lawfully resident in Spain before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, they may continue to live, work, study and access benefits and services, such as healthcare, broadly as they did before the UK left the European Union.
“Their rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, whether or not they have registered for residency,” notes the embassy. “Anyone who has not yet done so, should register for residency and apply for a TIE [foreign national identity card] which can be used to evidence their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement. Previous versions of this document, also known as the ‘green residency document,’ remain valid. More than 360,000 UK nationals in Spain have already registered.”
As for Britons arriving in Spain after the transitional period, from January 1, 2021, they will fall under the general immigration regulations.