European Homeowners – where has Brexit left you?

We have been waiting a long time to find out about the situation for Homeowners and Homebuyers in Continental Europe, following the 11th hour deal between the UK and EU and what it means for:

  • Travel and moving around the European Union (EU)
  • European Homeowners
  • Finances / Taxation / Pensions
  • Health
  • Spain – a snapshot for homeowners
  • France – a snapshot for homeowners

Travel and moving around the EU

Travelling around the EU

From January 2021 the right to free movement guaranteed under EU rules ended for UK residents, who will only be able to remain within the Schengen-free zone ( most EU member countries), for a maximum of 90 days, within each 180 day period as a tourist. And this is irrespective of whether it is for work or leisure, in that country, or any other in the Schengen zone. There is a 180 day allowance over the entire year.

This is a challenge for people who have got used to homeworking and the idea that work can be non-location specific. This means some employed and self-employed Brits are feeling the draw to move to and work from countries like France, Spain or Portugal.

What if you want to stay longer?

Staying longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, to work or study, or for business travel, you will need to meet the entry requirements set out by the country you are travelling to. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit. Periods of time authorised by a visa or permit will not count towards the 90-day visa-free limit.

Passports and travel

You will need at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing and you may need to show a return or onward ticket.

Different rules will apply to EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area and each country’s travel advice will need to be checked for entry requirements.

Driving Licence

A UK driving licence will continue to be valid to drive in EU countries. The exceptions are people who only have a paper licence, not a photocard one, as well as those with licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. In these cases an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be needed.

You will need a green card, which is a document you get from your insurer to prove your car is covered if you are driving in Europe. Motorists should contact their insurers six weeks before travelling, to ask for a green card. Separate green cards are needed for trailers and caravans. The green card is only proof of a minimum level of third-party cover – it will not necessarily match the level of cover that you pay for in the UK.

If you want to take a UK-registered vehicle to the EU for longer than 6 months of the year it is likely to be needed to be registered within the country and you may need to pay some taxes.

European Homeowners and homebuyers

Continental European Holiday Home

If the ’90 day’ limit is too restrictive you might consider other options like residency or citizenship. A resident is a person who is legally living or working in a particular locality, a citizen legally belongs to a country. Once you become a citizen of a country, you can then apply for a passport, whereas residency status is usually conditional and you can only apply for a travel document such as an ID card. 

Residency in an EU country will enable you to travel more freely, a bit like a Schengen visa, but  you only have the right to reside in that specific country. Citizenship in an EU country means you have the right to live, work and study in any other EU member country, which opens up access to other EU countries.

There are a number of countries which offer a so-called ‘Golden Visa’ programme, which tend to be conditional on investment in the country of concern which includes investing in property. Residency, offered contingent on buying a property of a certain value, can often be upgraded to citizenship.

Some countries that offer this type of incentive include Portugal, Greece (Residency only), Cyprus, Malta, all at differing investment thresholds.

Finances/Taxation/Pensions

The UK arguably has a reasonable taxation system and some Continental European countries have higher personal taxation regimes. Becoming resident of another EU country can mean being taxed in that country on worldwide income and potentially assets too. If you are not a resident, you will usually only pay tax on income that came from that European country.

If you are a property investor, filing tax returns in an EU country, the UK has double taxation treaties with most countries and this gives protection at an international level (not EU legislation level) that – in essence – you won’t get taxed twice on the same income.

It is worth checking the taxation protocol of the country of concern to see if the tax regime changes for citizens of ‘3rd countries’

Pensions

Whilst State Pension payment should not attract bank charges being paid, expats might incur extra charges for Private Pensions being paid into foreign bank accounts

Health

A replacement for the EHIC card is being introduced – a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the European Union (EU). In the meantime EHIC cards are valid until the expiry date shown and it’s a question of ensuring travel insurance covers other medical needs which might not be covered.

Spain – Homeowner Snapshot

Spanish Costa Holiday Home

If you were legally resident (and correctly registered) in Spain before 1 January 2021, you will be able to stay.

The Spanish system Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE) is being rolled out to register permanent foreign residents – but there is a backlog. So proof of application is meant to be sufficient at this point in time by way of the ‘Green Certificate’ a green A4 certificate or credit card-sized piece of paper from Extranjeria or the police. This is still a valid document and proves your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

You can exchange your paper ‘Green Certificate’ residence document for the new TIE but you are not obliged to. The Spanish government recommends obtaining the TIE because the biometric card is more durable and may simplify some administrative processes.

You will also need your NIE – Número de identidad de extranjero (similar to a National Insurance number).

If you have not yet applied for a residence document, you should carry evidence that demonstrates you are resident in Spain. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020.

EHIC European Health Insurance Card and State healthcare: S1

If you have a registered S1 form (for Spanish Healthcare) and were living in Spain before 1 January 2021, your rights to access healthcare will stay the same e.g. receiving a UK State Pension

If you are not an S1 holder, but are registered for public healthcare in Spain in another way and are travelling outside of Spain, you may need to apply for a Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (TSE – a Spanish-issued EHIC)  for travel to countries outside the EU.

You ought to buy comprehensive travel insurance to cover anything not covered by your TSE, or EHIC. An EHIC is not a replacement for comprehensive travel insurance.

Working in Spain

If you were legally resident in Spain before 1 January 2021, you have the right to work, as long as you remain legally resident. If you are planning to go to Spain to work, you may need a visa or permit. You should check with the Spanish Embassy in the UK.

France – Homeowner Snapshot

France Holiday Home Gite

For those of you with homes in France you visit but want to stay for longer periods then the new system in France will be of interest.

British citizens living in France will have to apply for a residence permit. For those living in France prior to 31 December 2020 they can apply online by 1 July 2021 in line with the Withdrawal Agreement. You need to have your new residency permit before 1 October 2021.

British citizens who arrive in France after 31 December 2020 will need to apply for a standard residence permit at a Prefecture de Police.

All UK nationals resident in France need to apply for the new residency permit. This includes UK nationals:

  • with a European carte de séjour (even if it is marked “permanent”, or has no expiry date)
  • without a European carte de séjour (it was previously optional)
  • applying for a second nationality
  • married to or in a civil partnership with (known as PACSed) FR or other EU nationals

If you have been living in France for over 5 years, you will be eligible for permanent residency and a 10-year renewable residency permit. If you have been living in France for fewer than 5 years, you will be eligible for a card with 5 years’ validity. You will need to provide evidence of your personal situation (e.g. employed, financially self-sufficient).

If you are a British national who has already worked in France, you will be issued a residence permit valid for 5 years. If not , you will be issued an APS (Admission exceptionnelle au Séjour), valid for 6 months and renewable once, if actively seeking realistic job opportunities (there is a likelihood of being hired within a reasonable period of time).

Conclusion

Moving around and doing business has become more challenging, but there are ways to make life easier for yourself by becoming familiar with the procedures and paperwork which are necessary.

Over time as officials, travellers and homeowners become more familiar with the process travelling and living in EU countries should become easier

Disclaimer

Please note this information is provided as a guide only and has been expressed in layman’s terms. Definitive information should be obtained from the Spanish or French authorities and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the NHS.

This blog provides guidance on the rules – ignoring any prevailing Covid restrictions which change continuously

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