How long can non-resident UK nationals stay in Spain after 30/12/20?

National Police Station in Malaga

How long can a UK passport holder stay in Spain as a non-resident after Brexit?
It’s all about the Schengen 90/180 day rule for non-residents in Spain 

One of the major points of confusion for ‘swallows’, non-resident holiday home owners and Spanglophiles in general is how long can a UK passport holder spend in Spain/the Schengen area now the UK has left the European Union (EU).

What are the Schengen Visa rules and what has changed?
Although not part of the Schengen area, as an EU member, UK passport holders were allowed full freedom of movement without any visa requirement, time limits, strict border controls etc. With the UK having left the EU, from 1st January 2021, if a UK passport holder wishes to spend more than 90 days in any 180 day period in the Schengen area, they MUST have a visa to do so

What is the Schengen area and which countries are members?
The Schengen area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Cyprus is in the planning stages of joining the scheme.

I spend the winter in Spain/have a holiday home in Spain – how will this affect me?
Basically, if you want to spend more than 3 months continuously in Spain after the end of 2020, you will either have to be legally resident in Spain prior to the end of the Transition Period OR obtain a visa.

I don’t want to become resident, is there any way round this?
Honestly, no there isn’t – you can be sure that if there were any loopholes or workarounds, they would have been found by now. 

Can I spend my 90 days in Spain and then pop back to the UK for a few days to reset the clock?
No, that’s not how it works – if you spend 90 days in Spain, then you have to spend the next 90 days outside the whole Schengen area before you can return (remember, this would include travelling to France or Portugal for example).

How can I work out the best way to use my rolling 90 in 180 day allocation?
There’s a really handy Schengen calculator where you can enter your dates and the time is calculated for you.

How does becoming legally resident in Spain help with the Schengen rules?
If you are a UK national and legally resident in Spain under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, or with a visa, any time you spend in Spain is not counted towards your annual Schengen total. 

Residency is a BIG decision and not to be taken lightly
There’s a huge difference in the criteria between those who are legally resident in Spain under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and those applying for residency from 1st January 2021 onwards.

Spanish law specifically states that as from 1st January 2021, all UK passport holders come under General Immigration Law as Third Country Nationals (TCNs) and are no longer considered EU citizens.

Also, you will need to consider how becoming tax resident in Spain will affect your personal circumstances.

In theory, it’s not too late to apply for residency under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement IF you can prove that you were living in Spain before the end of 2020 and that you fulfil all the requirements.

Find out more
If you are considering going down the Residency route, please
Book a Call with one of our consultants for a no-obligation chat about the options and implications for your specific circumstances.

This information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last reviewed/updated 01.05.2024

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