Benidorm: British couple discuss decision to move to Spain
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But the authorities dismissed reports of a witch hunt to round up and deport Britons if they overstay the 90-day limit. Post-Brexit visa rules mean Britons are limited to visa-free visits to the bloc of just six months, with an extra restriction of a maximum 90-day stay per 180-day period. It is believed there are potentially thousands of unregistered British nationals living in Spain that could fall foul of the rules.
Under the 2019 Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Britons living in Europe were given the opportunity to register to maintain their residence and rights to remain in the EU.
Sue Wilson, chair of the campaign group Bremain in Spain, told the Guardian: “These are people who have been flying under the radar for a long time when they should have registered their residence in the country and didn’t for whatever reason.
“If they are unable to prove they were resident before December 31 and get entitlement to remain in Spain, they now face a 90-day deadline to leave the country.
“Many are still planning to do the same and think the Spanish will either turn a blind eye or will take time to get their act together to enforce the law.
“But they are kidding themselves. These rules are rules that have applied to third-country nationals for years and the Spanish authorities have no catching up to do.”
Spanish government sources have dismissed reports that police have been ordered to round up and kick out 500 British nationals in the coming days.
But anyone overstaying the 90-day limit will be punished if they are later identified at a control point.
Many Britons have adopted the post-Brexit residency in Spain amid fears it could impact their rights back in Britain, such as access to the NHS.
One said: “If they remain in Spain, they have to become officially resident and might be worried about their rights to go home to access the NHS for example. For them, it’s crunch time.”
Marbella-based Michele Euseden, managing director of the Euro Weekly newspaper, said there has been an uptick in people moving “lock, stock and barrel” back to the UK before hitting the 90-day limit.
She added: “Some people are frightened of the consequences if they overstay and are afraid if there is another lockdown they will not be able to leave and come back again and visit because they will be known to the authorities.”
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Ms Euseden noted that many Britons had been living in Spain, some for up to 40 years, without contributing anything in the way of taxes, so would not be missed by the system.
A spokesman for Spain’s interior ministry said: “Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, and in accordance with the Brexit agreement with EU countries and international conventions, British citizens are subject to the same rules as citizens of other third-party countries.
“Like any other third-country citizens, the maximum period they can stay in Spain is three months – unless they have a work, study or other kinds of visa that allows them to stay longer.
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Whitehall insiders say Spain is simply following the EU rules that apply to the UK after Brexit.
Government guidelines state: “Stays in Spain cannot exceed 90 days in an 180-day period, whether in a single visit or various visits.
“Britons needs to use their passports for identification purposes and will be exempted from visas.”
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