Britons hoping to move abroad and retire to Spain face challenges after Brexit that could threaten perennial and significant ex-pat societies.
Any UK person who did not apply for a residence permit in Spain before 1 January 2021 must do so from the UK, making the process significantly more difficult than before.
In San Fulgencio, 25 km south of Alicante, fears are growing among the British ex-pat community that their numbers will start to decline.
Spain has traditionally been the most popular country for British ex-pats to enjoy their retirement.
Many of the ex-pat community in San Fulgencio are retirees in their 70s or 80s who are attracted to the relatively relaxed lifestyle, according to Darren Parmenter, a local councilor in the Costa Blanca region.
Parmenter, who has lived in Spain for 37 years and is one of only two Britons in a municipality that rules the country, described the community as “a bit like a new school year.”
In a speech to The Express, he said the last 35 years had seen a constant number of people coming out to the region on holiday and buying a cottage to retire.
“Unfortunately, some have since died or returned to the UK due to ill health or a number of other reasons,” he said.
When a group of people leave, a new group joins the community. “But of course after the first of January it is actually not that easy to get to Spain. So our fear is that people who want to retire here are slowly starting to fall. ”
If there are fewer people living in the region, fewer friends and family will visit and decide to retire there again.
“So they do not come and visit these people, so the visitors are not looking to buy a property for their future. It’s like this vicious circle. “
Parmenter said he was “concerned” about the future ex-pat population and has been in discussions about possible visa options for British nationals.
In his role as councilor, he has helped some ex-pats understand the new rules for living in Spain.
Since March 2021, Spanish immigration rules dictate that those wishing to live in Spain must have a monthly income of £ 2,000.
Due to Brexit, British citizens can only visit Spain without a visa for up to three months for tourism and business purposes. From 2022, British citizens will need a visa waiver to enter Spain.
AFP via Getty Images)
However, it can be difficult for some people to apply for a Spanish residence permit as they do not live on the Costa Blanca full time.
For the “swallows” – people who travel to the region during the winter months to escape the cold at home – Spanish law dictates that they should have applied for residence after three months.
But Mr Parmenter says these people have told him they cannot spend a long period in the area without a residence permit.
It happens when the British are reportedly leaving Spain “in droves” due to problems arising from Brexit and its impact on intra-EU travel and Spanish immigration rules.
According to data published in 2017 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), just over a third of UK citizens living in Spain are aged 65 and over.
Health issues tend to be more prevalent among older generations, and the new rules say that an expat can now only access free health care in Spain if they are resident, or work and pay taxes.
In addition to this, retirees must show that they have an income of £ 21,000 a year to live in Spain. That is more what the British National Pension pays out.