British homebuyers can still claim full residential rights in Spain
If you thought British property buyers will lose their rights in Spain due to Brexit you’re fortunately wrong. There is still time for homebuyers to claim rights to work, residence, and free healthcare in Spain. This is thanks to the fact that the UK and EU are in a transition phase between the official onset of Brexit on 31st January and its final implementation on the final day of 2020.
During this time, a window of opportunity exists for British property buyers to still be able to enjoy the benefits of Spanish residency, and this includes free healthcare and the right to work here. If you apply during the next few months, you will fall under the Withdrawal Agreement, whose stipulations safeguard the same rights as if you’d been here since before Brexit.
The reciprocal arrangement on things like healthcare, which exists between EU members will also continue to apply to British citizens who register before the end of this year. As a result, British retirees over pensionable age, and those on UK benefits, will continue to enjoy free Spanish services if they are resident in the country.
The sheer number of British people applying for this right now has caused a waiting list that can delay things for up to a few weeks, but if you engage the services of a gestor, or administrative representative, it can be done in a question of days.
What you need to qualify
To qualify for continued free or subsidised Spanish healthcare and related services you will need to be a resident with a residency card and associated NIE number. In addition to the green residency card (which is also an ID document), you’ll need to apply for a healthcare card, known as a Tarjeta Sanitaria in Spain.
December 31st 2020 is the final deadline for residency cards, but you actually have until June 2021 to acquire the health card. If you are already resident but coming up to pensionable age over the next year, make sure to get the healthcare card too; it’s a pretty straightforward procedure and one that ensures complete peace of mind.
How to do it
Apply for the healthcare card by requesting an application form from the British Overseas Healthcare Services (by telephone). It falls under the NHS Business Services Authority. Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 1999, open weekdays during normal UK working hours and Saturdays 9:00-15:00hrs.
Fill this document in, make copies, and take them in person to your closest INSS office (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social). Make sure you keep at least one copy on file yourself. You will also need to take your passport and NIE card, and it never hurts to have some copies of them available.
Each member of the household will have to apply as a separate person, and each will be given a unique Social Security Number. Once done, register at the local town hall, or Ayuntamiento, so that you are legally registered as a resident in the area and the local authorities receive central state funding to cover your service needs.
Bring your passport, NIE card, and the escritura title deeds of your Spanish property or rental contract along with you and ask for three copies of the document you’ll be issued with. This process is called empadronamiento, which basically means registering on the municipal residents’ list. Having done this, you will be eligible for a healthcare card, so head for the nearest medical centre to be placed on the patient list of one of the resident GPs.
To do this, you need the new empadronamiento document, your passport, and social security number. It may sound a little convoluted but is actually quite simple and needn’t take more than a couple of weeks. Just be sure to follow the steps in the right order, take clear note of which documents you need to present at each step, and where, and it should be a smooth process.
New residency permit and process for British citizens from July 2020
The procedures involving residency cards for British citizens coming to live in Spain were amended by a law that was passed on 4th July and came into effect on the 6th. It follows an updated procedure related to Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was agreed by the UK and the EU in November 2018.
It maintains that British nationals who acquire Spanish residency before 31st December 2020 will have the right to reside in Spain with access to work permits, freedom of movement, and social security, as before. The new format involves a two-step process as part of which British citizens have to submit their application for Spanish residency to the Immigration Office, where they must provide documentation to show they are living in Spain, are solvent, and have valid health insurance.
Once approved, applicants must request a residency card at the police station nearest to their property. The card will be valid for periods of five years and easily renewed. Those British citizens who already have a European Residency Certificate can choose whether or not they would like to apply for the new residency card for British nationals. They will be issued with a temporary (5-year) or permanent (10-year) residency card at the police station. Once obtained, it will entitle them to Spanish public healthcare in addition to the choice of private health insurance, not to mention full residency privileges within an EU country.
Contact our team at Terra Meridiana if you have any further questions. We are long-time foreign residents on the Costa del Sol and can assist you with information and advice.
This article has been prepared in collaboration with Blanca Loring of Loring International, experts in immigration law.
By Adam Neale | Property News | July 16th, 2020