The Brexit deadline has arrived for undocumented expats

by Lorraine Williamson
undocumented expats

MADRID – Following Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU.  British citizens are only permitted to live in Spain or another Schengen country for up to 90 days in any six-month period. Otherwise, as undocumented expats, they will require a visa.

Prior to Brexit, many UK citizens had been living in Spain without registering. However, despite plenty of warning, thousands of Brits are still awaiting official paperwork allowing them to stay in Spain. Otherwise, they could be forced to return to the UK.

Hundreds of last-minute applications were made and there were administrative delays caused by staff shortages due to the pandemic. Therefore, this has meant many are still waiting to find out whether their application has been accepted or not.

Mass deportations

According to UK newspaper, The Guardian, A spokesman for Spain’s interior ministry said there were errors in some media reports. These reports wrongly suggested the government was planning mass deportations of undocumented expats.

“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,” he said.

90 days in any 180-day period

“Like any other third-country citizens, the maximum period they can stay in Spain is three months.  Unless they have a work, study, or other kind of visa that allows them to stay longer.”

Government sources said Spain was following rules governing visits and stays that apply to the UK as a non-EU country.

The government guidelines state: “Stays in Spain cannot exceed 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies whether in a single visit or various visits. Britons need to use their passports for identification purposes and will be exempt from visas.”

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

March 31 deadline

At the end of 2020 when Britain was no longer part of the EU, it meant the 90-day rule came into effect. Although the deadline has arrived, the Spanish government have advised they will be sympathetic to those still waiting for confirmation of their residency.  Britons living in Spain prior to December 31 will have to provide evidence confirming they have been living here.  Information on income or pensions is also required.


More than 360,000 UK nationals are legally registered as living in Spain. Over the last few months, the Spanish government has been encouraging people to exchange their green residencias to the new TIE cards.  Details of how to apply for the TIE are in our previous article.

New residency applications

New applications will be considered, but the requirements are much stricter than before. For example, you must provide proof of means to support you and that you have adequate healthcare provision. Each region has slightly different requirements, but a minimum amount deposited in a bank is also required.

“Undocumented” expats

Technically if you are found to be living in Spain and have made no effort to register or apply for residency, you could be fined or even deported. If you are deported, you may be barred from returning to Spain for a 5-year period. This is normal practise for any “third-country” nationals.

As reported by, the Spanish and British governments have been quick to stress that nobody is facing deportation on March 31. And that U.K. citizens in the country should familiarise themselves with the new rules and get the paperwork done if they want to stay.

Appeal any rejections

There are also those who have missed the application deadline. Or failed to gather enough documents to prove their entitlement. Some have even had their applications rejected by the Spanish authorities. In these cases, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) strongly advises them to apply for status and appeal any rejections.

“We recommend UK nationals check the Living in Spain Guide on GOV.UK for any actions they may need to take and for up to date official information,” a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said.


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