British nationals living in Barcelona


The right of all EU citizens and their family members to reside, work or study in any EU member State is one of the foundations of the European Union. Many EU and UK citizens have based their life choices on rights relating to free movement protected under EU Law. Protecting the life choices of these citizens and their families has been a top priority since the start of the negotiations.

The Withdrawal Agreement safeguards the right of more than three million EU citizens in the UK and over a million UK citizens in EU countries to reside and continue their current activities.

Barcelona’s British residents make up one of the city’s largest foreign-national communities. According to data from its January 2020 city residents’ register, Barcelona has over 9,000 UK-national residents, who will continue to enjoy full rights as EU citizens until the UK’s departure from the EU.

During the transition period provided for, in principle, until 31 December 2020, British citizens and their family members residing in Spain will keep their rights (except for those to vote for and stand as candidates at elections to the European Parliament and to exercise the European Citizens’ Initiative). In other words, British citizens legally residing in Spain before 31 December 2020 and their family members will have the same rights and obligations they had before the UK’s departure from the EU (31 January 2020).

Once the transition period is over, the Withdrawal Agreement will safeguard the rights to residence, work, studies and Social Security for citizens residing in Barcelona up to that period as well as their family members. British citizens who establish their residence here after 31 December 2021 will be subject to the rules and regulations set out in the agreement on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, which is currently being negotiated.



An important new development has been in place since 6 July 2020 regarding documents for British citizens residing in Spain and their family members from countries that are not part of the EU, the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland. The new procedure features in this practical guide 

published by Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration.

Until 6 July 2020, British citizens, like all other EU citizens in general, who wished to reside in Spain for more than three months had to register with the European Union Citizen Registry. The document evidencing such registration is the ‘Registry Certificate’ (a green-coloured card providing the citizen’s details and their NIE or foreign-national identification number). 

As of 6 July 2020, British citizens can now apply for a specific residence document explicitly stating their status as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement. This new residence document contains distinctive features such as ‘Article 50 TEU’ in its corresponding ‘Permit type’ field and a text stating ‘issued in accordance with Article 18(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement’ in the ‘Observations’ field.

The procedure for obtaining the residence document will depend on whether or not the British citizen has a registry certificate, whether temporary or permanent. The same will apply to their family members who are nationals of ‘third-party’ countries (family members who are nationals of countries that are not part of the EU, the EEA or Switzerland): obtaining the residence document will depend on whether or not they were already holders of an EU citizen family card.

British Citizens currently residing in Spain and their family members are therefore advised to check that their residence status has been correctly processed and that they are able to confirm their corresponding time of legal residence in Spain and benefit from the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement. They are also advised to ensure they are correctly registered with the residents’ register for the municipality they reside in. The municipal residents’ register is a list of all the people whose usual place of residence is in a municipality and who make up its population. The Spanish term for registering with this register is empadronarse. In this website, in the Formalities section there is information on how to register with a Barcelona municipal residents’ register.

The practical document British nationals in Barcelona: How to apply for a residence document in Spain?, encontrará información específica según sea su situación.



  • Government of Spain: Prepared for the brexit: This site is aimed at providing information to both individuals and economic operators on how their interests will be affected by the changes resulting from the UK’s departure.
  • UK Government: Living in Spain: This provides information to British nationals living in Spain or planning to move to Spain.
  • European Commission: Brexit Preparedness: This includes a specific section on the rights of British nationals living in the European Union.



The British Government, through the Embassy and Consulate General in Barcelona, has published the guide Your essential guide 2021. UK Nationals living in Spain offering information to British nationals already established here.

You can also find other tips for British nationals.

  • Checking whether your British passport is valid for travel: You can do this here.

In addition, the British Embassy has provided the following channels to keep you up to date with all the news: