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British applicants for Spanish citizenship rise by 431% since Brexit vote
BRITISH residents in Spain applying for citizenship have multiplied in number by 431% since the Brexit referendum results were announced, and this figure is expected to continue to climb now Article 50 has officially been triggered.
Just 28 Brits sought Spanish nationality between January and March 2016, for reasons ranging from fears the Brexit vote would prosper through to wanting to be able to cast their ballots in national elections.
But in the same period in 2017, a total of 111 have already filed applications and numerous others are talking of doing so.
Whilst there was no suggestion of the UK ever leaving the European Union – before anyone spoke of a referendum – Brits living in Spain had no real need to take Spanish citizenship since, other than being barred from voting in national and regional elections or standing for Parliament in either, their rights as expatriates were identical to those of any Spaniard.
They still are, but this may well change by the end of March 2019, or earlier if UK-EU negotiations are settled and Britain decides to formalise its exit.
As yet, nobody knows for sure, and with long waiting lists to apply for citizenship, and a growing number are not willing to chance it.
Citizenship requirements changed in October 2015, but are relatively within reach of the average British expatriate – the language test is set at level A2, or a good GCSE grade, and two years' worth of classes or dedicated home study is normally enough for complete beginners to reach this standard.
A sociocultural and constitutional knowledge test must also be passed – 25 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 45 minutes, of which 15 must be correct, or 60%.
Successful applicants must then swear allegiance to the Spanish Constitution and agree to renounce their nationality of birth.
In practice, and at present, the UK does not allow its native-born subjects to give up their British citizenship, even though joint nationality is not available to Brits living in Spain.
For those concerned about future restrictions to movement between the two countries, Spanish nationality may, strangely, make this procedure easier: a British-born subject is unlikely to be denied the right to spend an indefinite time in the UK as a visitor to, for example, care for family members in need, and with a Spanish passport, re-entry to Spain is guaranteed however long they have been away.
The largest increase in British applicants for citizenship has been seen since last summer when the Brexit vote prospered – only three UK-born residents sought nationality in Barcelona between January and May 2016, but in June alone, another 21 did so in the same province, rising to 62 by the end of the year.
Another 29 applications were handed in between January and March 2017.
Madrid received 11 requests in the first five months of 2016, and then another 18 just in June, followed by 19 in July, with a total of 99 by the end of the year.
With 111 nationwide in three months, the trend has changed sharply – in 2013, only 36 Brits sought citizenship, down from 71 in the whole of 2010.
Officially, Spain has 308,821 British residents registered, although the total is expected to be higher in reality and could be as many as a million, when taking into account those who have not met their legal obligation to sign on the padrón, or municipal census, and those who have not got around to applying for a 'green certificate' showing their NIE, or foreigners' national ID number.
Additionally, another 110,373 British subjects who are not resident in Spain own property there, either as holiday homes, future retirement pads or purely for investment.
Spain is the number one European destination for Brits who have left the UK, followed by France, although a slightly higher number lives in Australia and the USA.
Of the nearly 309,000 Brits registered as living in Spain, just under 108,000 are retirees in receipt of a State pension from the UK, and nearly 60,000 work – two-thirds are employed by firms, and the remainder self-employed or business owners.
The vast majority of Brits in Spain live in the Valencia region – 83,493, with the overwhelming majority being in the province of Alicante – followed by Andalucía, home to 80,055.
Also popular for resettled Brits is the Canary Islands, where 27,349 have made the region their permanent home.
Others can be found in the Balearic Islands, Murcia, Catalunya and Madrid, but those in northern and inland regions tend to be very few in number.
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