S1 and the Non Lucrative Visa – 2022 update

S1 the 2022 update

Good news – S1 form now accepted for non-lucrative visa applications in UK.

On all fronts, 2021 was a turbulent year for British citizens looking to retire to Spain, not least those who qualified for an S1 for healthcare. The good news was that the UK and the EU agreed to continue the S1 healthcare scheme, meaning that if you want to move to Spain, you can still export your healthcare using the S1 programme. 

Good news, yes, but how does this work in practice?  For British citizens looking to retire in Spain on a Non-Lucrative Visa, how does this agreement affect them, and would they still need private healthcare? 

Last year, there were conflicting stories whether the Consulates would accept an S1 for a non-lucrative visa application. Previously, when British citizens registered for residency under either EU residency law or the Withdrawal Agreement, to meet the healthcare requirements all they had to do was present an S1

However, since 1st January 2021, British citizens fall under General Immigration Rules as third country nationals and the validity of the S1 scheme (albeit still an agreement between the EU and UK) was thrown into the realms of the unknown. No country had ever left the EU before, so there was huge confusion about how the S1 agreement 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 and the applicant(s) had a certificate from the Spanish social security to prove this. Then in July 2021, the Manchester consulate sent us the following message when we enquired about the validity of the S1: 

‘’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 receive this document without a residency card so, we had a chicken and egg situation – if you’re already resident and registered with Social Security for the S1, 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.”

This was great news for people who qualify, especially those who may struggle to get private healthcare due to pre-existing conditions 

So what are the practicalities of getting the S1 for a non-lucrative visa appointment? 

There are a number of issues you’ll need to overcome if you’re planning on using an S1 for healthcare for your visa. The first hurdle is that currently, the Overseas Pension Office of the NHS  will not send an S1 to the UK, they will only send it to a Spanish address up to 28 days before you move. In practice this means that you would need to order the S1, have it sent to Spain, then have it sent back to the UK so you can submit the original document with the visa application. 

Secondly, in order for the S1 to be accepted by the Consulate, you need to tell NHS Overseas that your intended moving date is the date of your visa appointment, not your actual moving date (which could be months later). It’s also advisable to have the same correspondence address on the S1 as you are using for your non-lucrative visa application – not necessarily a problem if you already own property in Spain, but if you are planning to rent or don’t actually have a correspondence address in Spain, this just adds to the logistical issues, especially as you need someone to send the S1 back to you. 

So yes, it takes some organisation but all that being said it’s doable, and as we have seen the consulates have said they will accept them.

Jump forward, you have your visa in your hand, 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 the likelihood is that you won’t have an actual residency card in your hand for at least 2 months. You can’t start the process of registering the S1 until you have your TIE residency card and Spanish social Security (Seguridad Social)  can take UP TO 6 MONTHS  to issue the healthcare certificate you need to register with your local doctors. This has huge implications because in effect it means that you could be without any healthcare cover for anything up to 8 months or more.

While you could argue that the first 3 months of emergency healthcare is covered by the GHIC, while you wait for the S1 to be processed by Social Security, you have no healthcare cover. 

Takeaways:

This is excellent news for those who struggle to get private health insurance and the only option is an S1 – but be sure to have funds in place for an emergency while you wait for the Social Security Registration. 

If you can get private health insurance cover, then it’s clearly the best thing to have this in place for the first year. Once you are safely on the system, you can use the S1 registration on your visa renewal without a problem. 

Historically, many British citizens have taken out private health insurance to run alongside the public health provision – many Spaniards do this as well. Private healthcare evidently offers assistance in the comfort of your own language (most of the time) while the attention received by state healthcare, albeit generally really good, can vary depending on where you live and English speaking doctors, nurses etc are a rarity in the public sector health service in Spain.

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