Some British expats are “deliberately” ignoring orders to leave Spain despite new Brexit laws meaning those living unregistered face deportation, it has been claimed.
The EU country’s authorities have made it clear that rules on residency will change from tomorrow amid unconfirmed reports police in the Costas are ready to boot out 500 ‘illegal’ UK citizens.
Chair of campaign group Bremain in Spain said many are still “burying their heads in the sand” despite the tourist visa deadline approaching in a matter of hours.
She told the Local: “The clock is ticking, yet there are still Brits deliberately planning to overstay their welcome.
“They are burying their heads in the sand and assuming we’ll be treated differently from other third country nationals, simply because we are British.
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“I fear many that have ignored the warnings of the consequences of exceeding a 90-day stay are in for a rude awakening.”
Spain is clamping down on those who breach the rules on tourist visas, which allow non-nationals to remain for 90 days in every 180-day stretch.
In the past, many have remained beyond the limit and stayed under the radar, avoiding paying taxes.
But under the Withdrawal Agreement, anyone unregistered could be fined or even banned from returning – while criteria for applying for full-time residency has been upped.
Downing Street said its Spanish counterparts are adamant claims police are ready to take action are exaggerated and anyone turned down for residency can remain while they reapply.
The Foreign Office added UK nationals’ who are already legally registered to live in Spain prior to January 1 can remain and are protected by law.
Of the 300,000 Brits currently living in the Spanish Costa islands, including the ‘Sunshine Coast’ of Costa del Sol, a small proportion are estimated to be at genuine risk of deportation.
John Price and Elaine Wilson are among those whose residency application was rejected, and say they are now “on tenterhooks”.
They claim it failed because they had not bought private medical insurance before the end of 2020 when the transition phase of Brexit ended.
Ms Wilson, 53, the delay was due to her waiting for the all-clear on her breast cancer, and said they were previously advised they had until March 31.
Mr Price, 51, told the Times : “We don’t know if we face fines, a bad stamp in our passports and being banned from entering the Schengen area.”
Spain has been rolling out a new system to register permanent foreign residents with biometric cards called TIE but due to so many requests the process has ground to a halt.
Worried Brits have taken to Facebook to ask for advice as they wait for their cards to be processed.
Julie Van P said last night her son’s TIE application was sent on December 9 to Almeria and was put into the system seven days later.
But since then there’s been “no change from ‘in progress'” since then, she said.
She said an agent has since told them the office were still dealing with applications received on December 1.
“Has anyone else using Almeria city experienced similar delays?” she asked. “It’s a constant cause of worry.”
Moira Carmenate, of the Expat Centre in Costa Blanca South, said the confusing Spanish system has baffled many vulnerable Brits.
She said many elderly people don’t have access to social media and have been “unaware of the recent and ongoing changes”.
“This leaves Brits vulnerable and at the mercy of hearsay, I really feel for them,” she added.
Anthony Cook, from Cardiff, is among those who must head back to the UK as the new regulations “have made it impossible to stay”, he told Global247News.