Apply for new residency card in Spain

All you need to know about the new TIE residency card and what you need to do if you’re moving to Spain before Brexit.

Following the launch of a new residency card in the Spain, the British Ambassador, Hugh Elliott has urged British nationals to apply to ensure that they secure their rights after the transition periods ends in December.

This is particularly important for people in the process of moving to Spain or those who have holiday homes splitting their time between the UK and Spain. With the new residency card (called the Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero or TIE), comes a new residency status specifically created for British nationals which sits in between what EU entitled to but is much better than the status of non-EU citizens that would apply after the transition period.

Following the announcement and a rush of questions from British expats, the British Ambassador to Spain, published an update video on Twitter to reassure British Expats living Spain as well as those in the process of moving to Spain. All British nationals, who are legally resident in Spain by the end of this year, will have their rights protected, including the right to live and work here, and lifelong access to healthcare for UK state pensioners, including those who claim a pension in the future (after 1 year of being resident).

Whether you already have the green residency certificate – A4 or credit card-sized version – or in the future the TIE, they are equally valid in demonstrating your residence status and your rights as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement. There is one group of people who must take action. If you live here, but don’t already have a green residency certificate, you must apply for the new TIE as soon as possible.

What is the new TIE residency card? The new card is called the Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero or TIE and anyone registering their residency in Spain will now be issued with this new card rather than the current green paper document. There is no difference in the rights it endows but it will be a biometric card with photo.

Who should apply for the new residency card? Technically UK nationals and their family members will not have to apply for a new status as it is defined by the Withdrawal Agreement, however the residency card confirms their status as beneficiaries of the rights contained in the Withdrawal Agreement. It is a wise precaution therefore for British nationals to apply so that they have evidence in the future that they were resident in Spain before 31st December 2020.

Do you need to apply for the new TIE card if you have already registered for the old green residency document? The short answer is no. If you have the A4 paper document or a smaller credit card sized certificate, they remain valid as proof of your residency in Spain and also prove your rights of entitlement under the Withdrawal Agreement but they need to be changed for a new card as explained before.

You do now have the option of applying for the new TIE residency document, but there is no obligation for you to do so.

When should current British nationals resident in Spain or people moving to Spain apply for the TIE card? If you don’t have the green residency document will need to apply to register with the Spanish authorities and it is highly recommended that if you take action as soon as possible. It is an obligation for UK nationals living in Spain to register and when you register you will be issued not with the green bit of paper but the TIE.

What if you have not yet moved to Spain or what if your move has been delayed due to Covid-19 and you won’t be arriving until later in the year? You need to be currently resident and living in Spain to apply for the TIE card. If you are planning to move to Spain before the end of the transition period, it is recommended that you do so as soon as possible and then apply for the TIE card as soon as you arrive and are resident in Spain. Although it may take up to 3 months to be processed, your application receipt will prove your residency until you receive your TIE card.

How do you apply for the new TIE card? The process varies depending on whether you already have the old residency document or if you are registering for the first time. If you have the old green residency document you can submit your application directly to the police station to ‘upgrade’ to the new TIE residency card.

If you have not applied before or you have newly arrived in Spain then the application process for registering for the new card is different in that it is now a two-step process. Firstly you submit the documentation to show that you meet the residency requirements. The second step is obtain the physical card itself.

How long does it take to apply for the new card? The Immigration Office promise to give you a decision within 3 months but it is likely to be much quicker than that. If you apply for the initial stage online, you will receive a receipt which can act as evidence of your residence until your application is officially approved. If you book a physical appointment, it is unclear at the moment whether you will receive an immediate decision like in the old system or whether you have to wait for the final decision.

Are there any benefits to the new card over the old green paper document? In terms of guaranteeing your legal residency status and rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, the answer is no. However, one advantage is that people may find the card easier and more practical to carry around compared to the paper document. It is also more durable – some of the old paper documents are becoming a little dog-eared from frequent use.

Do you need health cover to apply for residency? To apply for residency you need to provide prove of health cover. We can help you with this as we are insurance agents. You need to have arranged appropriate healthcare cover before you can begin your application for the TIE card.

Do children under the age of 16 need to apply for the TIE card? It is important that children have their own residency document, so they need to apply for the new TIE card to guarantee their rights and prove their residency. Children being born after the end of the transition period need to be registered for residency within 3 months of their birth.

What if you split your time between the UK and Spain – for example ‘swallows’ who like to spend the winter in Spain and the summer in the UK? There are many thousands of Brits who like to divide their time between staying in the UK and Spain. You need to decide whether you want to be resident in Spain or UK. Spending large periods of time in Spain, but not being a resident may be difficult in the future. Under current rules non-residents can stay in Spain for up to 90 days in a 180 day period visa free. Future terms are still under negotiation and may change, but would need a special measure to be agreed with the EU to extend the 90 day period.

Should I apply for Spanish residency if I own a holiday property in Spain? You can only be resident in either Spain or the UK so you will need to decide which country you want to be formally resident in and be aware of the legal implications. If you are just using your property as a holiday home and only spending a limited time in Spain, then you will likely be better off just keeping your UK residency.

What is the situation after Brexit for retired people who have property in Spain? There is no change apart from the length of time that you’ll be allowed to stay in Spain – a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. There is no change to your right to own a property in Spain.

Can I apply for the TIE online? The first part of the application to submit your documents and prove your right to residency can be completed online. However, the second part to apply for and collect your physical TIE card needs to done in person.

How long is the TIE card valid for? The initial TIE card is valid for 5 years. After that period you can apply for the long term TIE which is valid for 10 years and is renewed automatically.

If you have already been living in Spain as a resident, then this time counts towards the 5 years. For example, if you moved to Spain two years ago, only need to wait 3 years to apply for long term TIE card.

Have the financial requirements for residency changed? The financial requirements for residency in Spain have not changed. You still need to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself independently e.g. have an income from being employed / self-employed, have a pension or prove you have sufficient funds and assets e.g. savings and own your property.

How can I exchange my UK driving licence for a Spanish one? You can still apply to exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one, however, you need your Spanish residency document before you apply and you must submit your request before 31st December.

It is therefore important that you apply as soon as possible so that you have enough time. After this time you will need to take a new Spanish driving test.

Can I have dual UK and Spanish nationality? Dual nationality is technically possible in Spain but is treated differently to the UK. Legally in Spain they would only recognise your Spanish nationality and you are treated just like any other Spanish citizen. You couldn’t therefore make use of British consular services for example.

Can you lose your residency after an extended period of absence? Yes, but the exact terms depends on how long you were resident in Spain before you left.

If you were resident in Spain for less than 5 years you are allowed absences for up to 6 months in any one year. In exceptional circumstances you may be allowed to be away for up to 1 year. If you have been resident in Spain for more than 5 years then you can claim permanent residency rights. In this case you can be absent for up to 5 years, which is very useful if you have children who need to leave to attend university in the UK. This means you can’t move to Spain for one month and then move back to the UK and expect to retain your rights to Spanish residency.

If you need some help relocating to Spain, Perez Legal Group can help. We have a comprehensive package of services. Trust our team to apply for your TIE card, NIE number, swap your driving license, apply for residency and more. For more information, see our brochure by clicking this link.


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