Britain has left the European Union and new rules apply to go to live, work or study in Spain 

Were you living in Spain before 1st January 2021?

British citizens who were living in Spain before 1st January 2021 are broadly entitled to keep their more generous rights from when Britain was in the EU for as long as they live. To prove they were living in Spain and entitled to these rights they need to have either: i) a pale green European registration certificate (A4 size or credit-card size) or ii) the new TIE plastic card explicitly stating that the holder is covered by ‘Articulo 50 TUE’. Either is valid proof of those rights but swapping to a TIE is recommended at some point. There is no deadline to do this. See here for an explanation on how to do this.  

The document on this link from the Spanish government shows photos of the two types of possible documents and can be used to explain to the authorities or other people if needed.

If you don’t have either of those documents yet, it is still legally possible to apply to be a Spanish resident under the old EU rules after 1st January 2021 providing you can prove you were living and settled in Spain on 31st December 2020 and you met the EU rules on sufficient public or private healthcare cover and a minimum income or assets to support yourself. A UK state pension usually is enough to prove this. You can apply from within Spain.

The benefits are far greater than not registering, as much support and welfare you are entitled in the future you cannot claim. You are at risk if you do not do so. See here for more details from us on the process. 

These guaranteed rights for registered residents include, for example:

  • The right to live in Spain full time as a resident, (and not just for 90 days in any 180 days), and access certain social services benefits now and in the future
  • The right to work and study in Spain under the same conditions as Spaniards and EU citizens
  • As a future pensioner, the right for your UK state pension (when you come to claim it) to be increased each year and to Spanish state healthcare for you and your dependents once you are claiming it; plus the right to still use the UK’s NHS for routine treatment
  • The right to automatically become a permanent resident in Spain after five years, when you do not have to meet minimum  income or healthcare cover conditions any longer
  • The right for legal partners and/or family members who depend on you to join you to live in Spain in the future with simpler processes and shorter timescales.

See more info from the EU on the Withdrawal Agreement

For the first 5 years you live in Spain, if you leave Spain for six months in any one year, you lose these rights (except in exceptional circumstances, such as study). Once you have lived in Spain for 5 years (automatically classed as a permanent resident), you need to be absent from Spain for five continuous years in order to lose those rights.

Do you intend to move to Spain after 1st January 2021?

The above information does not apply to you if you move to Spain after 1st January 2021. You will need a visa to spend more than 90 days in any 180 day period in Spain to live or on business. Getting a job in Spain or study also requires a visa. You need to apply for these from the UK before you settle in Spain. You cannot apply if you are in Spain. Click here for the Spanish consulate website in the UK . The Spanish government has consulates in London, Manchester and Edinburgh and you should apply for a visa at the consulate that covers your area. Check with them which one covers where you live.

It is still possible to become a a Spanish resident as a UK national, and acquiring residency will give you rights to support and welfare benefits and protection in the future, although the income requirements are higher to get residency and the benefits less generous and immediate than for those who lived in Spain before 1st January 2021.

Even if you move to Spain after 1st January 2021, you must ensure you are legally resident as you are at risk if something goes wrong, such as loss of work or a sudden health problem.

What stays the same?

Under the trade agreement between Britain and the EU approved in December 2020:

  • EHIC (the blue EU health cards) for temporary (short) stays in Spain are still valid for UK nationals who are on holiday or short business trips (and for Spaniards coming to the UK on holiday or short business trips). As these expire, the UK government will issue a differently designed card that will still be valid in Spain, called a GHIC. If you are resident in Spain you cannot use a EHIC/GHIC for treatment in Spain.
  • The UK and Spanish government are coordinating part of their social security systems still, even after Brexit. This means, for example;
    • A UK state pensioner retiring to live in Spain after 1 January 2021 can still register for and use Spanish state healthcare, as before Brexit, paid for by the UK government. (But they cannot return to use the UK’s NHS for routine/non-emergency treatment as those qualifying pensioners who were living in Spain on or before 31st Dec 2020 still can).
    • A British national who came to work in Spain with a contract either before or after Brexit can combine those years worked with any years previously or subsequently worked in the UK in order to quality for a state pension or possibly improve the amount of final state pension or Spanish unemployment benefit they can get.
  • UK driving licences can still be used by visitors to Spain after Brexit. There is no need for an International Driving Licence. If you live in Spain you must change your UK licence after living in the country for six months to a Spanish one otherwise you could receive a large fine. See here for updates on how to do this from the UK govt.

Official UK government websites with the latest news

If you haven’t already done so, see the UK government’s Living in Spain  (  and from here you can sign up for email alerts to be sent to you when and if this information is updated or changed.

Follow  from the British Embassy in Madrid for news.

Other useful links

The following independent groups can also provide additional information and support on the EU exit process:

Last checked: 12th January 2023