Supreme Court clears up how long foreign nationals can be outside Spain while maintaining residency status

Supreme Court clears up how long foreign nationals can be outside Spain while maintaining residency - Passenger plane and red location pin map icon

In a landmark ruling that has far-reaching implications for foreign nationals residing in Spain, the Supreme Court has recently delivered a groundbreaking judgment, bringing much-needed clarity to a longstanding question: how long can foreign nationals be outside Spain and still maintain their residency status?

For years, the residency requirements for foreign nationals living in Spain have been a source of confusion and uncertainty. Understanding the complex regulations and staying compliant with them has been a challenge for many, creating uncertainty among those who call Spain their home. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling marks a turning point in the legal landscape, offering those contemplating a move to Spain a clear understanding of the rules.

Here, we’ll take a look at the details of the Supreme Court’s decision, breaking down the key takeaways, especially for British nationals in this post-Brexit panorama.

What has the Supreme Court decided?

Integral to understanding the Spanish residency landscape is the Real Decreto 557/2011. Its main stipulations, until now, included:

  • An absence limitation during the initial five-year temporary residency, where an individual should not leave Spain for more than six months in any twelve-month period.
  • Once permanent residency is achieved (after the first five years), the individual shouldn’t be absent from Spain for more than two consecutive years to retain this status.

However, the latest decision from Spain’s Supreme Court has now rendered certain aspects of this null and void.

Notably, the six-month absence stipulation during the temporary residency period is no longer valid, offering residents greater flexibility in their travels.

What does this mean for UK nationals?

This Spanish Supreme Court ruling has far-reaching implications, not only for traditional residency applicants but also for UK nationals.

Brexit’s ripple effects span a multitude of spheres, but the impact on residency rights has emerged as a deeply personal concern for many. The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom signed on 24 January 2020, was crafted to protect the rights of UK citizens living in the EU once the UK left the bloc.

The Withdrawal Agreement, which safeguards the rights of UK citizens living in the EU post-Brexit, relies on Spain’s existing laws, such as Real Decreto 557/2011, for matters not explicitly covered. This means that the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the six-month absence requirement during temporary residency also applies to UK nationals under the Withdrawal Agreement.

As a result, UK nationals now have more flexibility in terms of their absences from Spain during their initial five-year temporary residency period without jeopardising their chances of residency renewal.

However, it’s important to note that the two consecutive-year absence rule for permanent residency remains in effect for both regular residents and UK nationals under the Withdrawal Agreement.

For British residents in Spain, this ruling offers much-needed clarity and peace of mind. Additionally, it allows them a wider travel margin without the constant worry of residency renewal – as long as they do not exceed a continuous absence of five years.

Get expert help with your Spanish residency application

Navigating the complexities residency permits in Spain can be a minefield, especially post-Brexit. A lot has changed but, luckily for you, we’ve got everything covered!

At CostaLuz Lawyers, our experienced team specialises in simplifying the journey, ensuring a smooth pathway to achieving your new life in Spain.

Contact us today to unlock new opportunities and let us assist you in securing your future in this wonderful country.

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