How would Brexit affect UK citizens in Spain?

Brexit is creating uncertainty among the more than 400,000 British citizens who reside in Spain, as regards their future status. Although there’s an agreement, it’s true that the situation of those who want to settle in Spain in the future hasn’t been explained in much detail. Below are the main points of the legal framework should the UK exit the EU.

General legal framework for UK citizens in the event of Brexit

Firstly, it’s important to recall that, should the UK leave the European Union, this territory would then be considered a “Third Country”. The most important consequence is that the legal status of British citizens in countries of the European Union would depend on the bilateral agreements established by the States.

On the other hand, one must recall that there is no dual nationality treaty between Spain and the United Kingdom. The practical consequence of this situation is that, to apply for Spanish nationality by residence, you must give up your original nationality. Although the number of Britons who have applied for Spanish nationality has risen sixfold since the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, the number is marginal (209 people in 2018).

In any case, a Withdrawal Agreement has been signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom to provide a reciprocal solution to the residents’ situation. Below are more details on the framework that has been agreed for when the UK officially leaves.

The future status of UK citizens in Spain

The main aspect that UK citizens in Spain must know about is that, if they reside there legally, they will have the same free movement conditions as before the exit. In other words, the acquired rights will be maintained and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union won’t be retroactive.

However, British citizens who want to reside in Spain from the point at which the UK exits will have to apply for a permit the same as the nationals of any other Third Country. Therefore, the procedures for obtaining legal residency would be tougher and additional documentation would have to be provided.


In practice, the granting of the residence permit for Third Country nationals is faster if you show that you can support yourself with your own income and without being a burden for the health system. To do this, they will ask you to prove a minimum monthly income, to provide a medical certificate and to show that you don’t have a criminal record.

The main effect of leaving the European Union is that, if you want to live in Spain, you will have to show that you have money to support yourself financially. If you want buy a home, you will have no problems.


Brexit, should it be implemented, won’t be a problem for the UK citizens who already reside in Spain. However, it will oblige those who want to settle to prove that they are solvent if they don’t want to do go through a lot of bureaucracy.

Related Articles