The general rule is that for any official document issued in a foreign country to be valid and recognised in another, the document will need to legalised, or in the case of countries party to the Apostille Convention apostilled.
Exemption within the EU
As part of the EU’s administrative cooperation EU Regulation 2016/1191 came into effect on the 16th February 2019, simplifying the circulation of public documents between EU member States, and it applies to:
Administrative documents (such as certificates)
Said Regulation establishes an exemption from the Apostille, between EU member States, for these documents when they relate to the following subject matters:
A person being alive
Marriage (including capacity to marry and marriage status)
Legal separation or marriage annulment
Registered partnership (including capacity to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status)
Dissolution of a registered partnership, legal separation or annulment or a registered partnership
Domicile and/or residence
Absence of a criminal record
Right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal/EU Parliament elections
Furthermore, the Regulation also establishes an exemption from translations, under certain conditions. This means that if the original document is not issued in a multilingual format, you will be able to request a Multilingual Standard Form from the issuing authority, which saves on translation costs.
What about the UK?
The UK was of course an EU member State at the time that the Regulation was passed, but some people may be wondering if this exemption continues to apply to documents issued by UK authorities after Brexit.
Said Regulation was applicable in the UK immediately before the implementation period completion day (31st December 2020), which means that, in accordance with Section 3 of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 and Section 25 of the European Union Withdrawal Agreement Act 2020, the Regulation forms part of “retained EU law” and continues to apply after the 31st December 2020, until further notice.
As we all know after the approval of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement the UK now finds itself in a transition period which will last until the 31st December 2020, assuming that it is not extended. During this transition period UK citizens can continue to live, work and study in the EU as they did before the 31st January 2020, but it is important for those who have not done so yet to start preparing for their stay in Spain after the end of the transition period.
Legal residency and NIE
If you are living in Spain, but have not yet obtained your legal residency certificate (green A4 or card size document) you can still do so before the 31st December under current EU regulations, which we highly recommend. Any application made after this date, unless the transition period is extended of course, will be considered under whatever new regulation is agreed between the UK and EU, or under Spain’s current regulation for non-EU citizens if no agreement is reached on residency. This could mean a substantial increase in minimum income requirements, employment law requirements, etc. depending on the basis for your residency application.
The NIE document (white A4 document), as you will already know, is not proof of residency and is a way of assigning a legal and tax identification number to non-residents, which is required for certain transactions, such as buying a property, registering a vehicle, etc. The regulation surrounding this document will not change after the 31st December, as it is already a document which has exactly the same requirements for EU and non-EU citizens alike.
Life-long healthcare rights in Spain have been guaranteed to those who are resident in Spain before the 31st December, provided they remain a resident.
You can continue to receive and can still claim your UK State Pension if you live in the EU. If you are resident in Spain by the 31st December you will get your pension uprated each year as long as you continue to reside here, and even if you start claiming your pension on or after the 1st January 2021 as long as you meet the conditions set out in the new State Pension guidance.
Driving license and vehicle registration
Once you become a legal resident in Spain you are required to exchange your UK driving license for a Spanish one. Again, before the 31st December this can be done in the same conditions as before under the regulation of EU license exchanges, which is to say a straight exchange of one for the other.
Equally, if you are a resident or spend more than 6 months a year in Spain you are required to register your vehicle in Spain.
It is essential, even more so if you are a Spanish resident or in the process of obtaining residency, to make sure you have a Spanish will in place for your assets in Spain with an express choice of law clause allowing your inheritance to be governed by UK law. The importance of this is addressed in more detail in our post “Why is it more important than ever to have a Spanish Will?”.
The majority of regional Inheritance Tax allowances that UK citizens currently enjoy in Spain do not apply to non-EU residents. This means that, save for a tax agreement to the contrary, UK residents will have Spanish State Inheritance Tax regulation applied to their inheritance. It is therefore important to seek the right advice when structuring you will, in order to keep this in mind.
If you need help or advice with any of these proceedings, do not hesitate to contact us.