Spain’s recent rise in infections is of concern to us all including the retired

Spain’s recent rise in infections is of concern to us all including the retired

When I dreamt of a Spanish retirement over many a cold, grey, British winter, the last few months of living with Covid did not feature in my vision, writes Sue Wilson.
Governments and medical professionals might have game-planned potential pandemic scenarios, but the general public were living in ignorant bliss. The shock, when it came in March, was scary and dramatic, and on an unprecedented scale.

When the worst appeared over, and safety measures were relaxed, our relief was tinged with caution, and lots of unanswered questions. Was it safe to go out? Would there be a second wave? Would life ever return to normal?

Covid aside, retirement in Spain has been everything I could have hoped for, and more. Although the rise in new Spanish cases has been alarming, we’ve been relatively virus free in my usually quiet corner of the Costa Azahar.

Being retired during lockdown has provided some relief. I’ve avoided concerns like earning a living, or worrying about job security, and the restrictions have affected me less than the younger, more social animals.

Covid people

Recent changes to safety measures, such as the closure of nightclubs, or the “early” closure of restaurants and bars at 1 am have not affected my life one iota.

Like everyone else, I have missed my family and friends, but not eating out is not a hardship, and the shopping restrictions have ensured my bank balance, at least, is healthier.

Regardless of age or personal circumstances, the recent rise in infection rates in Spain concerns us all.

The article in full can be found over at The Local.

‘Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?’

‘Who are the Brits who have flocked to Spain because of Brexit?’

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU Brits have been on the move, with many heading to Spain. Many are accepting a cut in wages and career prospects, but they’re willing to make the sacrifice, writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.
A recent study by the Oxford University in Berlin and the WZB Social Science Centre has revealed a significant rise in the numbers of Brits migrating to Europe.

Since the Brexit referendum, the numbers of Brits choosing to live in EU countries has increased by 30 percent. Spain has seen the largest increase in numbers, with an estimated 380,000 British nationals now living here. EU countries have witnessed a 500 percent increase in applications for citizenship, as British migrants strive to retain their freedom of movement rights.

Daniel Tetlow, an author of the study, said: “We’re observing a new social migration phenomenon and a redefinition of what it means to be British-European.”

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU, British citizens in the UK have been on the move. Many wanted to fulfil a long-held dream to migrate, while it was easier and cheaper to do so. For others, it was a fresh idea, and a means of retaining valuable rights for their families.

Although many of the incoming British residents arrived soon after the referendum, the process is still underway. The Covid crisis ended many plans and put paid to many home sales. Now that things are returning to ‘the new normality’, plans are being expedited. With just a few short months left before the end of the transition period, the clock is ticking.

Nobody is suggesting a move to Spain once Brexit is finally ‘done’ is impossible. However, it would be more complicated and expensive. The exact requirements are still being defined and may be more akin to those for other Third Country Nationals.

The main reason to move to Spain this year is the rights secured during the UK/EU negotiations. The legally binding Withdrawal Agreement (WA) enshrines residency, work and social rights, including protecting healthcare and pension rights.

People dreaming of retirement in Spain can benefit from the WA protections. Even those who aren’t of pensionable age by the end of 2020 will still qualify for healthcare and pension benefits, assuming they’ve made the appropriate level of UK contributions.

You can read the full article over at The Local. 

‘I trust the Spanish government to protect rights of Britons in Spain’

‘I trust the Spanish government to protect rights of Britons in Spain’

The Spanish government’s attitude towards British residents in the country is in stark contrast to that of the UK government towards EU residents, writes a grateful Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.
The recent sentiments expressed by Spanish Secretary of State, Hana Jalloul (Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones), were welcomed by British citizens across Spain. In fact, they brought a tear to many an eye and a lump to the throat.

In a recorded video message, British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott – along with Hana Jalloul -clarified forthcoming changes to the residency document for UK nationals and offered messages of support to the British community in Spain.

The quality and frequency of the information provided by the British Embassy over recent weeks has reassured many resident Brits. The clear steps to the new process, and the necessary requirements, have been frequently communicated to relevant stakeholders. However, it was reassuring to hear directly from the Secretary of State. The simple, straightforward approach by Spanish politicians has been welcome, but Jalloul’s personal message really hit home. 

As a Brit living in Spain, I’m constantly aware of similarities and differences between here and the UK. Whether it’s the prevailing attitude towards Brexit or coronavirus, a crisis can bring out the best or worst in people – and their governments.

The attitudes of the Spanish authorities and public towards the European Union contrasts with the UK and its constant rhetoric surrounding migrant residents. While Spain has shown compassion for its British residents, and people wishing to join them, the UK’s treatment of Spanish and other European citizens has, at times, been hostile and shameful.

Apart from the British government’s lack of empathy for EU citizens who already live there, the process of securing residency rights is complex and costly. There’s also a considerable risk that EU citizens who were legally resident before Brexit may have their applications rejected or their status downgraded.

You can read this article in full at The Local. 

Now it’s time for under-the-radar Brits in Spain to become official residents

Now it’s time for under-the-radar Brits in Spain to become official residents

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Brits in Spain will soon be applying for the new Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE). For the time being at least, I will not be one of them, writes Sue Wilson from the Bremain in Spain group.
Don’t get me wrong – I think the new identity card is a great idea, and there are benefits over my existing, and rather ragged, green residencia certificate.

Since I moved to Spain in 2007, I’ve never left home without my passport. Although I have photo ID in the form of my Spanish driving licence, I’m a belt and braces kind of gal, and old habits die hard. Having a new photo ID card will finally make me leave my passport at home – in theory at least!

The TIE won’t provide any additional rights to those we enjoy as legal residents.  It does prove our entitlement to those rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), but the old, green residencia certificate does the same. However, the new card will specifically state (i.e. printed on it) the protection of WA rights.

Legally resident Brits are under no obligation to swap their existing green certificate or card for the TIE, as our existing documentation will remain legally valid, even after the transition period. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has liaised with Spanish authorities and British citizen groups across Spain over this matter. Considerable debate has surrounded the TIE and the implications for non-resident Brits. Although it has recently been impossible to meet the Ambassador or embassy staff in person, because of Covid, our virtual meetings have continued. The Embassy are also keen to engage directly with British citizens, legal or otherwise, via their Facebook group, including live Q&A events.

TIE Example

Using funds provided by the British government, several organisations are providing support to British citizens in the most populated regions of Spain. These groups will focus on helping the most vulnerable people navigate the residency application process.

The number of British citizens legally resident in Spain has hovered over the 300,000 mark for some time, although the figure is now rising because of Brexit. The total number, including those living under the radar, is estimated at up to one million. Even if that is an over-estimate, the Spanish authorities will certainly be handling applications from hundreds of thousands of British citizens.

The two-step process for those who are not currently legally resident involves the immigration office and the national police and can take many weeks. To qualify for the important benefits conferred by the WA, such as healthcare and pensions protection, the non-residents will be mindful of the transition period ending on 31 December 2020. 

To read the full article please head over to The Local. 

Here are some useful links also: 

What are the steps to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain?

Why British second-home owners in Spain should register for residency

Q&A: What you need to know about the new Brexit-friendly Spanish residency card

Watching the UK from Spain is like watching a slow-motion car crash

Watching the UK from Spain is like watching a slow-motion car crash

“Only time will tell if Spain’s approach will prevent any serious reintroduction of the virus. By contrast, it’s difficult to watch events in the UK without feeling like we’re seeing a slow-motion car crash,” writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.

British citizens living through lockdown in Spain have generally appreciated the Spanish government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis. Watching developments back in the UK – especially in England – has been a cause of concern, as we fear for the safety of family and friends.

The British lockdown, in comparison to ours, was late, loose and poorly managed. The rules were confusing and frequently illogical, and only seemed to apply to the general public – not to family and friends of the prime minister. It came as no surprise that the lifting of these measures was equally chaotic. 

On the much-hyped Super Saturday, pubs and restaurants were finally able to open in England, except in Leicester, which remains in lockdown due to a Covid spike.

To persuade the public to spend, spend, spend, the government opened pubs at 6am on 4 July. While encouraging a return to normality, such as enjoying a pint at the local, the government was advising the public to “act responsibly”. At the same time, Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, was warning of the continued need to socially distance to avoid a second wave. 

Sunday’s media coverage – of London, in particular – showed that social distancing in newly opened pubs was being largely disregarded. Pubs may have tried to stick to government guidelines but were overwhelmed by crowds of drinkers. The police seemed unable, or unwilling, to enforce the rules, with a senior police chief saying it was “crystal clear” that drunk people were unable to socially distance. 

Covid 19

When bars and restaurants finally opened in Spain, the safety measures were clear. Tables were further apart, group sizes were limited, strict cleaning regimes put in place, hand sanitiser everywhere, and masks to be worn when moving around. If my local bars and restaurants are anything to go by, the rules are being strictly applied, and every effort is being made to ensure compliance and safety. 

You can read the full article in The Local. 

Our lives in Spain are changing, no matter how you view Brexit

Our lives in Spain are changing, no matter how you view Brexit

While Brexit divides still run deep the reality for those on both sides is that their lives in Spain are soon going to change as transition nears an end, writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.

On the last day of June, the deadline for the Brexit transition period extension passed, almost unnoticed.

The British government has always insisted it would not seek an extension, even though one was on the EU table. This position may have been justifiable before the coronavirus crisis, but not under current circumstances. 

The EU/UK negotiators have just a few months to agree a trade deal and cement a future relationship. Although the transition period expires at the end of 2020, an agreement will need to be reached by October to allow time for ratification. 

Should an agreement not be reached, the UK will be forced – perhaps willingly – to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. That would see tariffs on goods, customs inspections at borders, and additional costs and administration – none of which have been adequately prepared for in the UK.

For UK residents, that will probably mean a further significant economic downturn, food and medical shortages, job losses, and more. For those of us living in Spain, many of the EU citizenship rights we have enjoyed will finally cease, and we can expect the Pound/Euro exchange rate to decline further.

A no-trade-deal Brexit is not the same as the much-feared no-deal of 2019, when all our rights were at stake. We now have a deal that protects many of our rights, including ongoing healthcare and pension provisions.

Those are protected for our lifetimes by the Withdrawal Agreement – a legally-binding, international treaty. People who are not of retirement age on 1 January 2021 will qualify for their S1 pension/healthcare when they reach retirement, if they have the required UK National Insurance contributions.

Other citizens’ rights have not been agreed, and probably won’t be, even if the EU and UK reach a trade deal. The loss of our freedom of movement as EU citizens will have the greatest impact. This signifies more than our ability to travel freely, or to work/study anywhere in Europe – it’s also about where we live. 

You can read the article in full over at The Local.