A sunny life in Spain has been turned on its head for many British nationals, who must return to the UK due to new post-Brexit regulations.
Those who do not want to apply for Spanish resident staus must return home to Britain, as EU freedom of movement laws no longer apply.
If a Brit wishes to forego legal registration, or is rejected, they must leave Spain by 31 March or they will be deemed an illegal immigrant, with potential risk of deportation.
Spanish police reportly expect to begin deportation action for up to 500 British citizens within the first week.
Additional pressure is being placed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is causing delays on regional authorities who are now struggling to tell long-term residents of Spain if they are allowed to remain in the country or if they must return back to the UK.
Shaun Cromber, who voted for Britain to leave the EU in 2016, told Global247News: “Yes I voted out, but I didn’t realise it would come to this, my application has been rejected and we are on our way home – the wife is in tears, she’s distraught if I’m honest and I’m not too happy at the prospect of returning back to the UK.
“I’ve loved living on the Costa del Sol and after 5 years can’t believe it has come to this, we applied but got rejected and so have no choice, although long term I think the Spanish will regret chucking us out of Spain”
In most EU countries, Brits now only stay without a permit for 90 days out of every 180 days.
The British ex-pat group in Spain is considered the largest across Europe, with the most recent data showing 285,000 British citizens live there. The second-biggest British group is in France.