Good news – the S1 form is accepted for non-lucrative visa applications in the UK. This is a game changer for people who qualify, especially those who may struggle to get private healthcare due to pre-existing conditions
On all fronts, the end of the Transition Period for the UK leaving the EU was a turbulent time for British citizens looking to retire to Spain. The news that the UK and the EU had agreed to continue the S1 healthcare scheme was a great relief, meaning that if you want to move to Spain, you can still export your healthcare using the S1 programme.
But how does this work in practice for British citizens looking to retire in Spain on a Non-Lucrative Visa? Previously, when UK passport holders registered for residency under either EU residency law or the Withdrawal Agreement, an S1 was valid to meet the healthcare requirements, without the need to take out private health insurance. Would this still be the case?
Since 1st January 2021 (end of the Transition Period), UK passport holders fall under General Immigration Rules as third country nationals so initially, there was a lot of confusion about how the S1 should be treated alongside a non-lucrative visa application.
At first, the S1 form was not accepted by the UK Consulates unless it had been previously registered in Spain, with a certificate from the Spanish social security to prove it.
In July 2021, the Manchester consulate sent us the following message when we enquired about the validity of the S1 for a visa application:
‘’Si el S1 está admitido por la Seguridad Social en España, puede aportarlo. En este caso tendrá que traer una prueba de que se admite. Si no lo estuviera, tendrá que contratar un seguro privado, puesto que como ciudadano británico ya no pertenece a la Unión Europea. ’’
“If the S1 is registered by the Social Security in Spain, you can bring it to your appointment. In this case you will need to bring proof that it has been registered. If it’s not registered, you will have to take out private insurance, since as a British citizen you no longer belong to the European Union”.
The proof that the S1 is registered is a document called a DOCUMENTO ACREDITATIVO DEL DERECHO A ASISTENCIA SANITARIA. It’s impossible to obtain this document without a residency card so, we had a chicken and egg situation – if you’re already resident with an S1 registered with Social Security, why on earth would you need a non-lucrative visa? In reality, this policy made it impossible to use an S1 for a Non-Lucrative Visa application.
Move on a few months and all change – after numerous reports that Consulates were now accepting the S1 document (whether registered in Spain or not), in November 2021, we consulted Manchester again, and they reported back as follows:
‘’El S1 lo tienen que presentar en el consulado con la solicitud y se puede activar una vez en España.’’
”The S1 has to be presented at the consulate with the application and can be activated once in Spain.”
And then for 2022, yet another change – rather than registering the S1 once you arrive in Spain, the latest information is that the Consulates now require that the S1 is PRE-REGISTERED IN SPAIN before the visa appointment.
So what are the practicalities of getting the S1 for a non-lucrative visa appointment?
Step 1 – Contact NHS Overseas and request your S1 – at first the NHS would only send the S1 to a Spanish address, but have now changed this policy and will send the S1 to either your UK or Spanish address.
Step 2 – In order for the S1 to be accepted by the Consulate, you need to pre-register with Spanish Social Security (INSS) – Upsticks will organise this for you and provide a receipt to show at the Consulate.
Step 3 – be sure to include the S1 and the receipt of registration with INSS with your visa application.
Step 4 – complete the S1 registration is Spain.
On arrival in Spain
Jump forward, you’ve got your visa, and you’re on your way to register it in Spain. When you arrive, you have 30 days to register for your TIE card, which in turn will take another 30-45 days to be produced, so chances are you won’t have the physical residency card in your hand for at least 2 months.
You can’t finish the process of registering the S1 until you have your TIE card, and in some areas, Spanish Social Security can take UP TO 6 MONTHS to issue the healthcare certificate needed to register with a local doctor. This has huge implications because it means that you could be without any healthcare cover for anything up to 8 months.
While you could argue that the first 3 months of emergency healthcare are covered by the GHIC, while you wait for the S1 to be processed by Social Security, effectively you have no healthcare cover.
Have funds available for an emergency – While S1 validity is good news for those who may struggle to get private health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, be sure to have funds in place for an emergency while you wait for the Social Security registration.
Private health cover is a good back-up – If you can get private health insurance cover, then do so. As you intend to use the private policy as back-up, the criteria and coverage don’t need to be as comprehensive as for a visa application, so the premiums are likely to be much lower. Many people in Spain take out private health insurance to run alongside the public health provision. While Spanish state healthcare is generally very good, it can vary a lot depending on where you live and English speaking doctors, nurses etc are a rarity in the public sector health service in Spain.
Contacting an insurance broker is always a good idea because they have access to the market and can find the correct company for your specific needs.
Ask us for details of our recommended Brokers.
The information in this article was current on the date published.
Last reviewed/updated 03.06.2023
***new S1 2023 video added at the begginging of the article***