The rules have changed and the shock has been complete for some. Just imagine what would happen if, all of a sudden, the weather on the Spanish Costa del Sol changed completely. If rain and grey skies started to become the dominant note. Thousands of British expatriates in the Mediterranean would probably say: "I didn't come here for this". No?
Well, that is what has happened with Brexit. Rain and diplomatic winds have battered the coast. And many wonder how they got here. Since 1 January, when the new agreement between the UK and the EU came into force, British citizens have been treated as people from a "third country". And this brings with it a new system to fall under.
Change of status
These are the main differences that, since last January, any UK citizen arriving in Spain faces:
- Tourists, including those who have a second residence in the country but have not applied for residency, can no longer come and go as they please. They can now spend a maximum of three months out of six in Spain.
- In order to acquire residency in Spain, the applicant will have to prove that they have income, either through a contract with a Spanish company, or by proving that they have at least £2000 (2223 euros) per month in their account.
- In case the applicant is a whole family, the total amount increases. It will have to be an extra £500 per month for each member of the family. For example, a family of four would have to prove that they have an annual salary of at least £42,000.
- In addition, British driving licences will have to be replaced by a Spanish driving licence.
Stories from those affected
For all these reasons, the last few months have been a frantic period of adaptation, of change, for many Britons who thought their lives would go smoothly on the shores of the Mediterranean.
- The change in trend has already been detected, for example, by Michel Euesden, editor of the Euro Weekly in Fuengirola, a newspaper that provides news for Britons living here. "Moving companies have never been busier, this is the first time we have seen anything like this. "On the one hand, because of the pandemic, because of the lack of income, a lot of older people are leaving the Costa del Sol, while younger people with income, with telematic jobs, are coming to replace them.
- Some, like long-time friends Jan Miller and Sonia Martin, took the opportunity before January 2021 to move to Spain. They succeeded, and settled in Malaga without any problems, leaving Warrington behind. But nothing is as easy as it used to be: "I think it's going to be a lot more difficult.... you have to have more income in the bank, plan much more for the future financially; it's not that simple."
- The changes have made life even more difficult for Eric Anderson, one of those swallows who used to spend the winter in Britain and the summer on the Costa del Sol. A retired shipyard worker from Newcastle, 71, Eric has been unable to fly to Spain for two consecutive summers. And when he is able to do so, his length of stay will be limited by the new post-Brexit framework: "I am very disappointed. We paid a 20-year mortgage to have a holiday home and now we are limited to only 90 days anywhere in Europe. And this is something that is happening to a lot of other people".
- Because, despite everything, there are worse stories, of family ties that can be broken, like that of Tracy Turnero Sheehan. Tracy arrived in Marchena 16 years ago, is now a Spanish resident, runs an English language school and has a Spanish partner, Enrique, with whom she has a son. "But if we ever wanted to go back to the UK as a family," Tracy explains, "I could go back, my son could go back, but Enrique would need to meet the minimum income or points system. And with regret, she says: "It's almost impossible to go back to live in the UK. The truth is I feel a bit forgotten."
These are just four stories, four among the more than 360,000 registered British residents in Spain, many of whom live on the Mediterranean coast. According to Euro Weekly's Michel Euesden, a dramatic change is coming: "Traditionally, the British have been a community with an average age of more than 50 years. In 12 months' time, it is likely to be 35.
The British community will get younger. More paperwork, new driving licences, healthcare that is no longer shared, a mandatory minimum level of income. All of these are hurdles, the older the expatriate, the higher the hurdles. "The old groups will be replaced by a group of young people who can afford to be here," says Euesden.
Brexit has already left many changes in Britain. Now, the reality is also beginning to change in the second homes of many British citizens. In the Mediterranean. Where the future plans of many Britons have changed radically since January 2021.