The Post-Brexit 90-day Rule.

Second homeowners in Spain will be limited to 90 days!

If you are British and follow comments made in the UK press, you are probably not happy about the “EU’s new post-Brexit travel rules”, which ban you from spending more than three months in your holiday home in Spain from January 2021.

Many second-home owners are worried, confused and saddened by the news regarding the 90-day rule giving them cause for concern. If you are not aware of this, then the following information will be of interest and useful for you to know.

The changes to your rights are not down to “new post-Brexit travel rules” as although this is a result of Brexit it is not new. The same rules have always applied to non-EU citizens, moving around as third country nationals.

You were fortunate to enjoy special rights that waived this rule because the UK was a member of the EU. Brexit has taken those benefits away from British people because the UK is no longer a member of the EU club, so therefore cannot expect exclusive membership rewards. Britain chose to put itself in that different category.

The 90-day stay rule means anyone visiting any EU country cannot return for a further three months. It is actually worse than that, as the rule doesn’t apply to just Spain, but the entire EU bloc.

So, once a 90-day allowance in a 180-day period has been spent, you cannot return to your holiday home in Spain, or travel anywhere else in the EU.

When you enter the Schengen area more than once in the 90 days, official guidance from the EU says, “you must carefully calculate your days of stay, as the overall period of stay must not exceed the overall total of 90 days within any 180-days period”.

For those of you who like to spend all winter in the Tenerife sun, you will find yourselves having to return to cold Britain sooner than you would wish.

The ramifications of overstaying in Europe could be serious. Post-Brexit, British passports will be scanned on arrival and departure. Anyone caught “illegally present”, staying longer than permitted, risks an “over-stay flag” on their passport. This could lead to a fine, difficulties applying for any future visa, or even a re-entry ban.

As more details emerge regarding your lost rights, blame has frequently been levelled at the “vindictive” EU, but really, it is standard third country national rules being applied. Anger exists at the dawning realisation of what benefits are being lost to British owners of a second home in Spain. For some people, perhaps including some reading this article now, late awareness of the 90-day rule is a real shock.

Note. The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

We will attempt to cover questions that may be asked by British people who have previously enjoyed longer term stays in their Tenerife property and the following Q & A’s will clarify some of the things you need to know.

Frequently asked questions The Post-Brexit 90-day Rule. 

Click the question to view the relevant answer.

Up until now, UK citizens have been able to come to Spain for whatever length of time they wanted, and many people would come for maybe four or five months over the winter. But now, British people who are not resident in Spain or other parts of the EU will only be able to spend 90 days in every 180-day period in the EU.

It is really important that you understand that it is not from the moment that you reach your final destination but rather when you first enter the Schengen area. You may be destined for the south of Spain by driving though France from the UK, and the clock starts not when you reach your destination but when you initially leave the UK.

Yes. If you are not a resident in Spain, you are bound by the 90-day rule as well. It is perfectly possible that at some point in the future Spain may choose to have a different sort of regime for second-home owners or people who spend long periods of time in Spain, particularly as the UK is not putting the same restrictions on Spanish people visiting the UK. However, the Spanish government has many matters of greater priority to deal with at the moment, so if they are eventually willing to consider relaxing the 90-day rule, it could be quite a way off in the future.

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no. If you are a non-resident Briton in Spain you will not be able to spend two 90-day periods together to form 180 days in a 365-day year. At the end of the 90 days, you must be out of the Schengen area and until you reach day 180 you will not be allowed to re-enter again.

You can split the 90-day period into two 45-day periods within a total of 180 days, starting from the moment you first enter the Schengen area.

From January 1st, 2021, British people entering the EU will have their passports stamped, so it will be clear how many days you have spent in the Schengen area. Your UK passport may also be scanned and there will be a record of the date you entered Spain on your flight or ferry booking.

The 90 in 180-day rule started on the 1st January 2021 for British non-residents.

Passports will need to be valid for at least six months on the day that you enter Spain/Schengen area. So, in order to travel, there cannot be fewer than six months left on your UK passport before it expires and needs to be renewed, or you won't be allowed to travel.

If in the past you renewed your UK passport early, and your passport is valid for ten years plus the number of months that you renewed in advance, keep in mind that those extra months do not count when considering passport validity.

All UK nationals, including those who are residents in Spain, will technically have to queue in the third country nationals’ queue at airports but exactly how that will be implemented at each airport is down to each Member State.

This is not something that British people in Spain have previously had to worry about, as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitled them to emergency treatment in Spain should they fall ill or get injured while they are here.

However, as a European scheme this is no longer available to British people after Brexit and therefore holidaymakers and non-residents arriving in Spain after the 31st December 2020 will no longer be able to use their EHICs and will have to take out travel/health insurance.

No, a NIE is often wrongly used to refer to the green residency document issued to Britons before the 6th July 2020, but it is just a foreign identity number which non-residents will need to open a bank account in Spain, own a home etc. It is not a residency document and therefore will not mean you can sidestep the 90-day rule.

If you are struggling to work out your travel plans, below is a link to a tool which can help you to calculate your allowance.


This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for proper qualified legal advice regarding this subject.

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