Consul reassures Britons as Brexit talks cut-off approaches

Brits in Spain face new procedures. File photo of an anti-Brexit demonstration in Malaga in 2019.
Brits in Spain face new procedures. File photo of an anti-Brexit demonstration in Malaga in 2019. / Migue Fernández
  • UK residents are warned to get a Spanish driving licence, check their passport and carry proof of residency at the border

The British Consul for Andalucía launched a calming message for Britons living in southern Spain on Thursday this week in the light of no clear outcome so far in Brexit trade talks and ahead of the 31 December transition deadline.

Charmaine Arbouin reassured those UK nationals that are legally living in Spain that their position would be unaffected. Speaking in an online seminar for members of the British Chamber of Commerce, she said the current talks “in no way affect what is already signed off on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU”.

Arbouin explained that the older green documentation showing residency or the newer TIE plastic cards are equally valid to prove residency into the future and rights to public healthcare and other pre-Brexit benefits.

Those that are in the process of applying to live in Spain should also be covered, providing that they keep proof of meeting the requirements for residency on 31 December, principally: detailed evidence of sufficient income or savings not to be a burden on the State; full healthcare; and proof of an address in Spain where they are living full time. Although few appointments are available to present this documentation, this can be submitted online or appointments sought as soon as possible in the new year.

The Consul added that the UK government is funding IOM, a non-profit organisation, in Andalucía to assist those in the residency process that are most in need. General details of how to register for residency can be found on the UK Foreign Office’s Living in Spain online guide.

Swapping licences

Speaking at the meeting, the Consul also advised UK residents to apply to the Spanish traffic authority, the DGT, to swap their UK driving licence to a Spanish one, as required by law.

Recognising that there are few appointments to do this, Arbouin explained that it is possible to register a UKlicence online or by phone with the DGT ahead of 30 December even before formal residency is granted, providing the holder has a Spanish NIEnumber.

This means the driver “is in the system” and the Spanish authorities can check the validity of their licence with the UK’s DVLA ahead of the end of the year. The holder can then apply to make the formal swap in the first six months of 2021 as more appointments become available and providing they have received confirmation of their residency status by then.

For those residents not swapping to a Spanish licence or not registering their UKlicence with the DGT by the 30 December, rules are likely to mean taking a Spanish driving test, although the Spanish government is allowing UK licences to still be used for the first six months of 2021.