Barcelona expat life brexit guide


Top Tips for Brits in Spain

Get a NIE number

Applying for a NIE number is the first step for ensuring your residency in Spain is valid after Brexit. A NIE is a tax identification number for foreigners which identifies you before the Spanish Tax Office and allows you to file and pay taxes in Spain.

Join the Registry for Citizens of the Union

If you are going to spend over 3 consecutive months in Spain, it is mandatory that you join the Registry for Citizens, by doing this you will receive a Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión. Obtaining Spanish residency ensures your EU rights will be respected post-Brexit. If you do not register, you will be stripped of a series of rights and it may even lead to deportation to your country of origin.

Enrol in the Town Hall Census

By law, if you spend more than 183 days per year in Spain you must be registered on your local Town Hall’s Census (Padrón). The British Consulate is urging all British Residents to make sure they have registered prior to Brexit.

Exchange your UK driving licence for a Spanish one

If you are a Spanish resident, you must change your UK driving licence for a Spanish one. You only have 2 years to do this without a penalty.

Submit your resident tax returns

IRPF: Spanish residents are taxed on their worldwide income and assets. You will be required to file an income tax return once a year if you work in Spain, lease property or derive any income in Spain you need to submit IRPF.

Apply for an EU Social Security Card

It is strongly advised that you apply for an EU Social Security Card to have unlimited access to Spanish healthcare.

Apply for permanent residency

If you are a legal resident in Spain for a period of 5 years, you may now apply for permanent residency.

Attend a citizen outreach meeting

The British Embassy regularly holds events across Spain for UK nationals. Attend a citizen outreach meeting to keep up to date on the conditions for working and living in Spain. For more information on upcoming events:

How does Brexit affect expats living in Spain?

If you are already a legal resident in Spain, or you obtain residency before the transition period ends on 31st December 2020, then you will have the right to stay. All Brits living in Spain must ensure that they have a NIE (foreigner identity card) before the transition period is over to prove their legal residency status. So far, there doesn’t seem to be the necessity of an additional visa. 

Healthcare in Spain after Brexit

British expats and holidaymakers are all asking the same question “Will Brits living in the EU still have access to healthcare after Brexit?”. If you’re a British expat living in Spain, you are entitled to healthcare if you meet one of the following requirements:

  • you receive a UK State Pension or some types of long-term sickness benefit
  • you are a working or self-employed resident in Spain and paying Spanish social security contributions
  • you receive a Spanish state pension or benefit
  • you are a permanent resident in Spain
  • you are a child resident in Spain
  • you are a UK posted worker in Spain
  • you are under 26 and studying in Spain
  • you pay directly into the public health insurance scheme (Convenio Especial)


Remember that these current healthcare conditions are guaranteed until the Brexit transition period ends. If you’re living in Spain before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare in Spain after this period will stay the same as long as you remain a legal resident. 

UK-funded healthcare: S1 form

You may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK if you live in Spain and receive either: a UK State Pension some other ‘exportable benefits’ You may also be entitled to an S1 form if you’re a posted/frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another). To find out if you’re eligible, you should contact HMRC National Insurance enquiries.  If you have a UK State Pension, you can request an S1 application form by phone from the ‘Overseas Healthcare Services’. When you get your S1 form, you must then register it with your local social security office (INSS) who will give you a Spanish social security number. The next step is to take this to your local healthcare centre to register. After you have registered, you’ll be given a medical card which you can use when visiting the GP. This will mean you and your dependants will be entitled to state healthcare on the same basis as a Spanish citizen.

British students in Spain

To get access to the Spanish healthcare system, British students can apply for a student EHIC. This is different from a regular EHIC and entitles you to healthcare for longer. This isn’t however, a replacement for travel insurance and you should have both to cover the duration of your course. If you started studying in Spain before the end of 2020, your EHIC will be valid for the rest of your course.

Residency in Spain after Brexit

During the transition period, those who are already residents in Spain prior to 31st January 2020, will need to replace their NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), with a definitive residence document, commonly referred to as a TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjeros). If you arrive in Spain during the transition period, a TIE card will be issued to you directly. With this, you’ll officially be a certified resident in Spain.

How to apply for residency

To apply for residency, you will need to make an appointment online at your local foreign office (Oficina de Extranjeros). To this appointment, you’ll need to take your NIE, your passport, your padrón (this is the equivalent of a census certificate), two passport sized photos and a completed EX-18 application form Before your appointment, you also need to take your EX-18 form to any bank and pay the corresponding tax which in this case is 21,44 euros. If you don’t already have a NIE, you will be issued with one at the same time as applying for residency in Spain.

Will UK driving licences still be valid in Spain?

One of the biggest doubts for expats living in Spain is what will happen regarding driving licences and if international driving permits will be needed. 

Current driving licences issued by the UK authorities will entitle their holders to drive in Spain for a period of nine months from the date of the UK’s exit from the EU. If you are a resident in Spain and want to continue driving there, you will have to exchange your licence to a Spanish one. You can start this process via the DGT website.


You can still use your Spanish licence in the UK for short visits or exchange it for a UK licence without taking a test if you return to live in the UK.