BREXIT: How many Britons in Spain have a TIE residency card in 2022?

New government data reveals just how many UK nationals in Spain have applied and received their post-Brexit residency documents as of early 2022, a rate that’s slowed down considerably over the past months. 

how many brits have tie card spain
Less than half of Brits in Spain - 180,000 out of 400,000 - have a TIE residency card. Photo: Jose Jordán/AFP

How many?

A year and a half since Spanish authorities started to issue non-EU TIE residency cards to Britons residing in Spain, 180,000 UK nationals have applied and received this document. 

That’s according to a report published on January 24th by the Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights, established under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the European Union (EU). 

According to their data, the 180,000 figure means that less than half of Spain’s British resident population have the new biometric card, as they estimate there could be as many as 430,000 UK nationals residing in Spain.

Fewer applying recently

Last summer, the UK Embassy in Madrid reported  how “at the beginning of June (2021) more than 150,000 UK Nationals had applied for their Withdrawal Agreement TIE”, which represented a jump of around 100,000 new cards over the previous five months

The rate of Britons applying for this new residency document has slowed down over the past half a year, with only 30,000 new TIE cards issued from June to December 2021.

TIE in a nutshell

The TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) is a credit card-sized biometric ID card for foreign residents in Spain from outside of the EU, which can either be valid for five years (temporal) or ten (permanente) depending on the length of residence in Spain. 

Spain issues two different types of TIEs to British applicants, which look practically the same except for some different wording.

One is for Brits who were residents before Brexit came into force in 2021 and are therefore protected under the Withdrawal Agreement, and another for Britons who have successfully applied for residency post-Brexit, which is harder overall as it’s dependent on financial resources, work or other requirements.

READ ALSO: How much money do Britons need to move to Spain after Brexit?

As things stand, it’s not compulsory for British residents who have the old green residency certificate to exchange it for a TIE card, although UK and Spanish authorities strongly encourage Britons to do so as it will help with border crossings and other official matters.

Conclusions from latest figures

Firstly, there’s the estimated number of British residents in Spain – 430,000 – which is higher than the last estimate by Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion in July 2021, as they put the total at 400,000. 

However, this is probably explained by the fact that the 430,000 estimate also includes other third-country nationals residing in Spain with their British family members, as they are also affected by Brexit and have to consolidate their residency status in Spain. 

Secondly, there’s the steep drop in new TIE cards issued to Brits over the last six months: 30,000 in the second half of 2021 compared to 100,000 in the first half. 

Less than half of Brits in Spain – 180,000 out of 400,000 – have a TIE, and the majority of the remaining 220,000 that don’t have it are likely long-term residents with the green residency certificates who don’t want to exchange their old paper ID for the new biometric card (we assume this as since July 6th 2020, all new British residents in Spain get a TIE). 

It’s not compulsory for these pre-Brexit residents to exchange, and even though the TIE card is a more durable, versatile and modern photo ID, many appear to remain unconvinced about getting it. 

READ MORE: Does Spain’s TIE residency card always have an expiry date?

One of the reasons mentioned by Britons on forums is that most of the old green certificates don’t have an expiry date and therefore don’t have to be renewed, whereas TIEs do have to be updated.

And finally, there’s a difference of 7,200 between the number of TIE applications received and those concluded, as published by the UK’s Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights. This doesn’t necessarily mean that 7,200 TIE applications have been rejected as the figure can also include applications that were withdrawn, incomplete or void in other ways. 

In October 2021, the total number of refused TIE applications from Britons was 2,400.

The UK’s Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights monitors the implementation and application of citizens’ rights, protecting UK nationals in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, including their family members. Their latest figures were published by the European Commission. 


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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?