EXPLAINER: Why Brits in Spain are being urged update residency document to TIE ‘without delay’

BRITISH residents in Spain are being urged to update their ID to a TIE ‘without delay’ as more and more of Spain’s administrative bodies fail to recognise the former ‘green card’ as a result of Brexit.

British residents in Spain have been able to obtain a new residency document since July 2020 as Spain updated the registration process as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.

Since then, the new TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjero) has replaced the previous paper EU Residence Certificate (a.k.a. green residency document),

Although at the time authorities insisted the old green document would remain valid indefinitely, expats were advised that the new card, which is biometric and includes a photo ID of the holder, could make some processes easier.

Now, expat advice groups as well as the British Embassy itself are advising all British residents to make the change.

An Age in Spain poll conducted online suggests that most expat residents have either received or are in the process of applying for their TIE. 

But a substantial minority have been deterred from applying for a variety of reasons – some are worried about not being able to deal with the bureaucracy involved, don’t know where to start, or don’t feel it’s important, while others just haven’t got round to it.

Many people feel that since the paper certificate is still valid indefinitely, it’s preferable to the TIE which needs to be renewed every ten years.

But there are serious disadvantages to relying on the paper certificate, as some Spanish authorities no longer accept it as proof of identity and residency.

Helen Weir, chief executive of Age in Spain, has reports of people encountering problems when they only have the paper certificate.

“Some administrative bodies in Spain have stopped recognising the green residency document,” Weir said last week.

“In particular, the Employment Office (Oficino de Empleo) has recognised only the TIE as ID since January of this year, meaning if you are in employment, on ERTE, or receiving unemployment benefit, it’s imperative that you apply for a TIE,” she explained.

“There are many advantages to having the TIE – not just its durability. It is evidence that you are officially resident in Spain, it’s valid ID and all you need for internal travel in Spain, and it shows clearly that you are under the scope of Britain’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

“Most importantly, it is recognised by every administrative body in Spain.”

Moira Carmenate, owner of The Expat Centre in Ciudad Quesada (Alicante), which provides a valuable advice service to local expats, agreed.

“There are definite advantages to having the plastic TIE card, especially when travelling the Schengen region, as passports aren’t needed,” she said.

“There is no current obligation to swap the green card, but that may still change in the near future.”

“We continue helping residents swap their green documents for a TIE card, because should the swap become mandatory, it will be chaos!”

Further information:

  • Age In Spain can be contacted between 11am and 3pm on 932 209 741 or email info@ageinspain.org.
  • The Expat Centre is open 9am – 5pm and can be contacted on 865 668 596 or email info@TheExpatCentre.com
  • Spain’s government has a fact sheet for British residents to help guide them post-Brexit, available in English HERE

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