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Brexit and Spain news roundup: residency delays, looming deadlines and passport stamps

Brexit and Spain news roundup: residency delays, looming deadlines and passport stamps
The Brexit puzzle is still far from finished for either the UK or Spain. Photo: Daniel Díaz Bardillo/Pixabay
This week we cover UK alcohol shortages in Spain, the huge backlog of Spanish residency applications in London, the matter of missing stamps in UK passports and plenty more.

British booze drying up in Spain

Spain’s main alcoholic beverage distributors have announced that they’re running out of stock, in particular whiskies, gins and vodkas they import from the United Kingdom. 

Absolut, Beefeater, Jameson and Seagram’s are among the brands that Spanish supermarkets and bars will struggle to get a hold of the most this Christmas period, but other alcohol such as champagne is also expected to be in short supply. 

This is part of an international supply problem affecting many countries currently, not least the UK, caused primarily by a global shortage of raw materials, drivers and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Brexit and the added paperwork, regulations and tariffs that come with trading from outside the single market are serving to further complicate the situation, hence why Spanish distributors have stressed that shortages of UK alcohol will last longer, “until February”. 

At least as a benefit to Spain, locally produced gins and vodkas are now in higher demand.  

Residency application delays 

Around 4,000 British nationals who want to apply for residency permits for Spain at the Spanish consulate in London are being kept waiting due to a lack of resources, Spanish online daily OK Diario has reported. 

The figure is based on the calculations of several British-based legal firms that specialise in helping Britons apply for non-lucrative visas and golden visas, but who now find themselves not being able to get appointments or visas approved for their clients. 

The right-wing newspaper, which is critical of Spain’s Foreign Ministry for “paralysing” the arrival of these “high-income” UK nationals with private health cover, gives examples of some of those who’ve sold their homes and left their jobs in the UK to find themselves in limbo waiting to move over to Spain. 

“The high demand for appointments means that all requests cannot be met at the desired speed,” reads one of the emails sent by the London consulate. Their counterparts in Manchester and Edinburgh are not experiencing the same hold-ups, but applicants have to apply at the consulate closest to them. 

Although average waiting times aren’t given, the fact that certain documents that applicants are providing are not being accepted because by the time consular workers get round to checking them they’re no longer valid (some have a validity of just three months) provides a rough idea of the delays and highlights an absurd catch-22 scenario.

However, it’s worth noting that according to successful applicants who’ve commented on forums for Brits looking to move to Spain, the process hasn’t been as problematic for everyone.

Will there be an extension to UK driving licence validity?

You may have read our article from earlier in October in which we reported how the British Embassy in Madrid had requested another extension to the period of validity of UK licences in Spain, as the current October 31st 2021 deadline fast approaches.

Six days from that deadline and there is no confirmation yet of whether this second extension will be accepted by Spanish authorities, although the previous one was also fairly last-minute. 

You can read about it in detail here, stay tuned to The Local Spain as there is likely to be an announcement on the matter in the coming days. 

OCT 27TH UPDATE: Spain extends UK driving licence validity until December 31st

Another important deadline looming for Gibraltar 

Sunday October 31st also marks the end of the transition period which protected important rights for Gibraltarians in Spain post-Brexit.

These include having access to healthcare in Spain, having their qualifications recognised in Spain and being able to access Spanish universities easily, as well as being allowed to drive in Spain with a Gibraltarian driving licence. 

Spanish authorities are now studying whether to extend this grace period further as negotiations with the UK over the future of Gibraltar continue. 

Are Brits in Spain really selling up and returning to the UK ‘in droves?

Reports in the British tabloids have recently claimed thousands of Britons – particularly retirees – are leaving the popular destinations of the Costa Blanca and Costa Del Sol because of Brexit complications, but is it really true?

The Local Spain contacted a number of estate agents and experts who painted a pretty different picture. 

“The British are still buying, the British are still selling …there’s no mass exodus,” one Marbella-based realtor summed up. 

Read our full article here: Is it true Britons are leaving Spain ‘in droves’ as UK tabloids claim? 

One-to-one residency assistance in Alicante

Asociación Babelia and its team for the UK Nationals Support Project are working with the Provincial Council of Alicante to hold a number of informative talks in some town halls of the province of Alicante in the coming weeks for those UK nationals applying for residency in Spain under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. 

“We would especially like to extend this invitation to those who may struggle with the paperwork,” Babelia says. You can find out more details about times, locations and RSVPs here

  

The problem with passport stamps 

Last Thursday, The Local Spain ran the story of a UK national who was denied entry into Spain from Gibraltar because her passport was not stamped by Spanish border officials on a previous visit to the country. 

Passport stamps reflecting the date of entry and exit are a way for border officials to calculate that Brits and other non-EU nationals who aren’t Spanish residents haven’t overstayed, but the changing status of UK nationals means not all border officials and airport staff fully understand the new rules yet.

This case is of particular concern for non-resident Britons who visit Spain regularly to spend time in their second homes or for an extended holiday, as they have to pay special attention that border officials DO stamp their passports when they fly between Spain and the UK, inbound and outbound.

UK residents in Spain are also getting their passports stamped by Spanish officials even though they should not be, as Spain’s Ministry of Interior confirmed via the UK Embassy back in July, but even if they do get only one stamp this should have no impact on their stays in Spain if they have the correct residency documentation.

You can read more about the UK national who was denied entry here. The Local has contacted Spain’s Interior Ministry to find out if passport scanning is carried out at all Spanish borders, airports and ports, as a more reliable means of proving entry and exit from Spain and sticking to the 90 out of 180 days rule. 

READ ALSO: Passport stamp or scan? What foreigners at Spain’s borders should expect

What’s top priority for Remainers in Spain now?

Now is as good a time as ever to put a callout for any Spain-based Leaver groups who want to make their wishes for British nationals’ rights in Spain post-Brexit known. We realise that some of our British readers did vote for Brexit and stand by their vote, so if there are any campaign groups out there in Spain with clear objectives for the future, feel free to reach out. 

Logically, the vast majority of citizen right groups representing British nationals in Spain are against Brexit as their work is centred around solving the problems they’re experiencing which have been directly caused by the UK’s exit from the EU.

Bremain in Spain is one the main campaign groups. Their head, MBE Sue Wilson, has been discussing with members what their objectives are ten months after Brexit became a reality.

“Unsurprisingly, as our group is strongly pro-EU, the top three selections all reflected a desire to return to full EU citizenship rights, lost as a result of Brexit,” Wilson told The Local Spain.  

“Although ‘Rejoin the EU’ was top of our members’ list, stronger ties with the EU were also highly valued, including rejoining the customs union and the single market. 

“The next most popular choice was ‘holding the UK government to account’, which we will continue to do with our lobbying efforts and press articles. Of course, the protection of all of our citizens’ rights will continue to be an important focus, including our campaign for the return of our full voting privileges. 

“Thankfully, that battle is closer now to being won than at any time in our history. We look forward to the day when the same can be said of our fight for the return of the rights Brexit stole from us all.


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