Brexit: UK expat calls for changes to Spain’s residency rules
After Brexit, European citizens living in the UK have been urged to apply for the settlement scheme in order to be able to stay. Likewise, British citizens living on the continent have been warned not having the correct paperwork could prevent them to stay in their second homes abroad. Michael Lewars, director at William Russell.com, warned: “The difficulties facing some British expats in registering as being resident in Spain illustrates just how important it is for people to have their paperwork in order post-Brexit.
“Not being registered means being left without access to state healthcare, which is particularly worrying if people are unable to return home because of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions.
“It’s worth remembering, however, that even if you are resident, state-provided healthcare in many European countries isn’t entirely free.
“France, for example, has a co-payment system where patients make a contribution to their care.
“Plus, people living and working outside the UK will be faced with negotiating unfamiliar healthcare systems and processes.
“Having international health insurance can give expats the reassurance of access to high quality private hospitals and clinics, in preferred locations, at a time of their choosing; and with multi-lingual practitioners.
“In the case of Spain, you may need private insurance to register as resident in the first place.
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“UK citizens must register if they want to stay in Spain for more than three months.
“In order to do this, they must have healthcare cover in place, whether this is through social security or voluntary contributions to the Spanish healthcare system, or private insurance.”
UK nationals will retain their rights in the EU as long as they apply to the correct schemes covered under the withdrawal agreement.
In order to access the national health service in Spain, you must be registered and contribute to the social security system.
However, if expats do not register for the health service in Spain and prefer to use private healthcare, this could mean they may be missed off the country’s list of vaccinations.
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The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) said: “Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live.”
Fred Hall who lives in the town of Icod de Los Vinos, revealed he had not been on the state’s vaccine list as he had private healthcare insurance.
Due to this, he was forced to contact local officials to alter the list and called on the FCDO and consular services to aid expats living abroad.
Had it not been for his local mayor, Mr Hall claimed he may have missed his vaccine appointment.
Mr Hall told The National: “Thanks to an intervention by my local mayor, my wife and I are now on the vaccine roll-out list.
“I raise the issue because others may not be as fortunate as me with my mayor.
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“I believe hundreds if not thousands could be affected by this.
“I am ok but I want to ensure others are ok too, no one is safe until we are all safe.
“The embassy needs to work with the Spanish Government and come up with a workable solution for UK citizens not in the Spanish public health system, then pass that information onto the people they are paid to serve.”
Speaking to The Times Jeremy Morgan, from pressure group British in Italy, said many Italian officials are unaware of what rights British residents are supposed to have.
He said: “We are often treated like third-country migrants from outside the EU and are asked for the number of the permesso di soggiorno document [residency permit] which those immigrants have.
“The problem is that we did not need to have that document when the UK was in the EU and now we can’t get it because of the withdrawal agreement.
“People have been stopped by police who demand to see their permesso di soggiorno, which they don’t have.
“A British man in Puglia was told by an employer that his contract could not be renewed because the labour ministry’s computer would not accept his application without a document number.”
Mr Morgan said Italian and British authorities have been trying to help but the process has been slow.
Britons living in France have until June to apply for either a residency permit or French citizenship.
Thus far 120,623 expats have made permit applications which will be required from October.
However according to Brian Jones, from UK expat group Hear our Voice, there are concerns some Britons have yet to make an application.
Speaking to The Times he said: “We are especially concerned for the more vulnerable people who are maybe thinking, ‘Does it really matter [if I get a residency permit]? Should I bother?”