You are now probably aware that the Spanish government has launched the new TIE card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) for British citizens in Spain.
In general, if you are an EU citizen intending to live in Spain for more than 3 months, you must register with the Spanish authorities. As a consequence of Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January this year, on 6 July 2020, the Spanish government introduced new registration and documentary procedures specifically for UK nationals wanting to register in Spain. Whether or not these requirements and procedures apply to you as a UK national depends on whether you already hold a certificate of registration as a citizen of the EU (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).
What is the new process for registration in Spain for UK nationals?
Before 6 July 2020, all UK nationals wanting to register in Spain had to apply for a certificate of registration as a citizen of the EU (a green paper residence certificate, A4 or credit card-sized). On 6 July 2020, the Spanish government introduced a new residence document for UK nationals living in Spain – the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) – a chipped card with a photo and fingerprint. This means that from 6 July 2020 all UK nationals wanting to register in Spain will have to apply for their TIE. The TIE explicitly states that it has been issued to the holder of the card under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
What is the Withdrawal Agreement?
The UK’s exit from the EU took place on 31 January 2020 and the terms of the UK’s departure are set out in the “Withdrawal Agreement” negotiated between the EU and the UK. The Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1st February 2020, set in motion a “transition period” that amongst other things, aims to provide more time for citizens and businesses to adapt to the UK’s departure from the EU. It is currently foreseen that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020.
The Transition Period
During the transition period, the UK will continue to apply EU law, but it will no longer be represented in the EU institutions. From the perspective of free movement, all rights will continue until 31 December 2020 as if the UK were still a member of the EU. This means that those UK Nationals who moved to Spain after Brexit (i.e. 31 January 2020) and those who move before the end of the transition period (for now, 31 December 2020) will continue to have the same rights as those who arrived before Brexit.
So why the change in registration procedures?
The Withdrawal Agreement offers two possibilities for dealing with registration procedures and issuance of documentation for UK Nationals in EU nations before the end of the transition period:
- The first one requires UK Nationals living in the host nation to apply for a new residence status as a condition of legal residence and be issued a new residence document (which may be in digital form)
- The second one does not require UK Nationals living in the host nation to apply for a new residence status as a condition for legal residence. However, they will have the right to receive a residence document expressly identifying them as beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement
Spain has opted for this second option. Accordingly, for UK nationals who already have their certificate of registration as a citizen of the EU (the green paper residence certificate) it not mandatory to apply for a new residence document (TIE) though they do have the right to apply for and receive a TIE that expressly reflects their status as beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Therefore both the green paper residence certificate and TIEs obtained before the end of the transition period certifies legal residence and protection of rights under the Withdrawal Agreement – the difference is in the form of the document and the TIE explicitly states that the holder of the card is a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.
To avoid double requests (certificate of registration of a citizen of the EU and TIE) on 6 July 2020, the Spanish Government introduced a uniform and standardized procedure for issuing residence documents to UK Nationals. In short, from 6 July 2020, all UK Nationals who do not already have their green paper residence certificate and who want to register as residents in Spain will have to apply for their TIE.
If you already have the green paper residence certificate
If you registered your residency with the Spanish authorities before 6 July 2020 and have a green paper residence certificate, according to the UK and Spanish Governments, you do not need to take action. Your green certificate will remain valid proof of your residence and of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement even after the end of the transition period (even though the residence certificate does not explicitly state so).
You have the right to exchange it for the new TIE if you want to but at present, there is no deadline or obligation to do so. You may however still want to exchange your green paper residence certificate for a new TIE for the following reasons:
- The TIE explicitly states that the holder of the card is a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.
- The TIE is a physical biometric EU-standard ID card, similar to the Spanish Identity Card (DNI) and follows the European model of European documentation – this means that with the TIE you can travel within Spain without having to carry your passport and be able to travel smoothly within the Schengen area.
- It is more durable than the residence certificate which is a piece of paper.
- Though there is no current requirement to exchange your green paper residence certificate for a TIE, this is all subject to change and you may be required to do so in the future – there are rumours circulating on the web that you may be required to do this by the end of this year, though there has been no official confirmation of this.
- It only costs €12 and involves one step – making an appointment at the designated police station nearest to where you live to submit the documents required, photo and fingerprints. Once this is done, it may take up to a month before your TIE is ready for collection.
If you do not have the green paper residence certificate
It doesn’t matter when you started living in Spain – if you never documented your legal status in Spain as a resident and do not have the green paper residence certificate, because of the new registration and documentary procedures introduced by the Spanish Government on 6 July 2020, you will have to apply for your TIE to protect your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement before the end of the transition period. In Barcelona, this involves a two-step process:
- First step – You need to submit your residence application to the immigration office (Oficina de Extranjeros). You can do this:
- electronically (if you have an electronic signature “firma digital”); or
- via a third-party representative who can submit your application, electronically on your behalf
- Second step – Once your application has been approved or you receive “authorisation” you have to make an appointment at the designated police station to submit further documents, photo and fingerprints. Once this is done, it may take up to a month before your TIE is ready for collection.
What happens after the Transition Period?
If you have your green paper residence certificate or TIE (or have official confirmation that you have started the process of obtaining your TIE) before the end of the transition period (for now, 31 December 2020), your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are protected even after the transition period (i.e. you can continue living in Spain until you acquire enough years to qualify for permanent residency or Spanish citizenship).
If you arrive after the transition period, you will not be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and may be subject to general immigration rules governing third country foreign nationals in Spain. These rules are a lot more stringent then the current rules for UK Nationals wanting obtaining Spanish residency before the end of the transition period.
It is currently foreseen that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020. Although the Withdrawal Agreement allows for the extension of the transition period with the EU and UK’s mutual consent, the current UK government has repeatedly stated that they do not wish to seek such an extension. This means that the transition period could end in just over 4 months. With the added complication of COVID-19, TIE appointments are difficult to procure. If you do not have a green paper residence certificate and wish to secure your legal status as a Spanish resident before the end of the transition period, it is strongly advised that you apply for your TIE as soon as possible.
How we can help
We offer immigration and legal advice with fixed prices on obtaining TIEs, including handling all the necessary paperwork and scheduling TIE appointments in Barcelona. For more information or for a quote, please contact us.
Published on 17th August 2020