domingo, 12 de junio de 2022

UPDATE FROM THE EMBASSY ON UK NATIONALS' VOTING RIGHTS IN SPAIN


EuroCitizens has received an update from the British Embassy in Madrid about local voting rights of UK nationals in Spain to clear up some of the confusion caused by recent articles in the press.

As some of you might have read, the European Court of Justice recently ruled on the case of a UK national, living in France, who contested that she should be able to vote in local elections in France. She lost the case, on the basis that UK nationals are no longer EU citizens. The ruling set out that UK nationals no longer have the right to stand and vote in local elections on the basis of EU law. Some media articles have picked up the ruling and suggested it affects UK nationals across the EU.

It is important to highlight that the judgement does not affect UK nationals’ right to vote and stand in local elections in Spain. That is because these are provided by the bilateral agreement between the UK and Spain, which allows UK nationals who have lived in Spain for more than 3 years to vote and stand in local elections

More information on voting rights in Spain (and the treaty) is available on our Living in Spain guide.  As the guide highlights, UK nationals who wish to vote in next year’s local elections will need to register on the electoral roll at their town hall within the dates specified by the electoral authorities (we expect these to be between December 2022 and January 2023). There is therefore no action that UK nationals need to take now.

It is, of course, important to ensure that there is a good understanding of the process for standing and registering to vote in local elections. The Embassy is already working on these issues and will be formally following up with the relevant Spanish authorities during the course of June.


lunes, 2 de mayo de 2022

03/05/22: EUROCITIZENS UPDATE - VOTING IN THE UK AND DRIVING LICENCES

Some important news for our members:

1. Elections Bill 2021

 
The Bill completed its Parliamentary passage last week and has now received Royal assent. This gives all UK citizens born in the UK and living abroad the right to vote in general elections and referendums, irrespective of how long they have lived outside the UK. The mechanics of registration and voting will be the subject of secondary legislation and we will press for this to be introduced as soon as possible, in case the PM calls a snap election.
 
We have to say that this welcome development is somewhat tarnished by other elements of the Bill that appear to undermine democracy. These include ID requirements that may effectively prevent many of the most disadvantaged members of society from exercising the vote, removal of the independence of the electoral commission and restrictions on campaigning, amongst others.
 

2. Driving licences
 
From 1 May it will be illegal for holders of UK driving licences who have more than 6 months residency in Spain to drive with such licences. We understand that the British Embassy remains in discussions with Spanish officials to secure a regime where UK licences can easily be exchanged for Spanish ones. 
 
However, for the time being, application for a Spanish licence must be undertaken as for a first time applicant, ie by taking a driving test. We cannot imagine that many, if any, of the EuroCitizens group find themselves impacted by this, however, you can obtain more information through the following link



sábado, 2 de abril de 2022

EUROPEAN COMISSION GUIDANCE ON PASSPORT STAMPING

 

Stamp in a British passport. Source The Telegraph (a reader expressing the pleasure he felt at getting stamps on his visits to EU countries. No comment!)

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, EuroCitizens has been monitoring the passsport stamping of British residents in Spain in the Schengen free movement area. There was a big response to our request for information about TIEs (third-country residence cards covered by the Withdrawal Agreement) and people mentioned passport stamping when travelling.The general conclusion was that there was little rhyme or reason to stamping. 

The European Commssion has provided clarification on the matter (see below). Basically, the EC says that there is little point in British WA beneficiaries having their passports stamped, but that the Comission cannot actually prevent stamping. The most important thing is that it has no impact whatsoever on rights of entry/exit, stays in other EU countries of less than three months and residence rights in our Host Country. They do recommend however that Britons get the appropriate resident document; in Spain this means the TIE covered by the WA. 

Here the old green EU certificates do remain valid, but both the Spanish government and the UK Embassy advise changing them to a TIE WA. Doing that will make your life easier both within Spain and when travelling. Another useful recommendation from some EuroCitizens committee members is to keep your electronic or paper boarding cards until your trip is finished - just in case there are complications. 

 


 

jueves, 10 de marzo de 2022

EUROCITIZENS INFORMATION REQUEST FOR UK HOLDERS OF TEMPORARY RESIDENCE CARDS (TIEs)

 

This is an example of a permanent card, but you can see the reference to article 50.


Do you have one of the new 'tarjetas de identidad para extranjeros' (TIE) issued for Britons, and is your card temporary (temporal - for those with less than five years residence)? 
 
If so, could you please check the front of your card to see if there is a reference to Article 50 (see the photo above).  It would also be interesting to know if on the reverse side of your card it states "EMITIDO BAJO ART. 18.4 ACUERDO RETIRADA". This information is what certifies that you are a citizen protected by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UE and the UK.
 
Please then write to us at eurocitizens2016@gmail.com and tell us if your card has the references or not. We do not need photos of the card or your NIE.

We are looking into the issue of the passport stamping of Britons at borders and the inclusion of this information seems to be making a difference.

jueves, 23 de diciembre de 2021

2021 END OF YEAR ROUND UP FROM EUROCITIZENS

 


Dear EuroCitizen Member

In wishing you all a very happy Christmas and new year (and safe and healthy travels), I would like to give a review of issues as we approach year end.

There was a virtual meeting of citizens' group with the British Embassy (consular services) on 16 December.   Nick Green and I represented EuroCitizens. This call covered a range of issues as follows

1. Notices to leave
You may have seen press reports that residence applications of a very small number of UK citizens have been rejected and that 15 day notices to leave have been issued.  The Embassy believes that some may. have been issued incorrectly to Withdrawal Agreement (WA) beneficiaries who should have a full hearing, a month's notice if they do not meet the requirements and the right of appeal.  The issue has been taken up with the European Commission (who will investigate) and there is some evidence of provincial discrepancies in applying the rules.  The Embassy believe that the matter will be raised in the Joint Committee (JC - set up to monitor the WA and jointly  chaired (now) by the Foreign Secretary and a European Commission VP).  The next meeting is scheduled for 24 January.  However, there is no knowledge of anyone actually being expelled who is covered by the WA.

The Embassy have asked the Spanish authorities to update guidance documents, especially what documentation is required/acceptable in applying for WA based residency, to ensure that the rules are employed uniformly and that there are opportunities to provide evidence before getting negative responses.  The Spanish government will provide greater granularity in their statistics on the matter from January 2022.
 
2. The UK National Support Fund  in Spain will wind down from the end of 2021 which will be the deadline for taking new cases.  Activity will cease at 31 March 2022.
 
3. Driving licences
At the moment there is no extension of acceptability of UK licences beyond 31.12.21 where the holder has residency of more than three months. Negotiations ongoing for a bi-lateral agreement.  The Embassy advise contacting the ombudsman in provinces where it is impossible to get an appointment with DGT - especially Valencia.
 
4. Passport stamping
Although the European Commission accept that passport stamping should not generally happen in the case of WA protected individuals, they also say that this matter is subject to national law. Inconsistencies in Spain have been referred to the authorities and the Embassy reiterated that all Schengen entry/leave stamps are null and void for those covered by the WA. One of our members recently officially challenged the fact of stamping and received a formal notification that the practice should not happen (details will be posted on Face Book) and annulling the stamping that prompted the complaint.  A couple of days ago, this form was produced at Barajas and prevented stamping albeit with mutterings from the immigration police!
Nevertheless, we understand that the European Commission will provide further guidance on this matter (for citizens) as well as further clarifications to officials in all Schengen countries.  The guidance could be used should there be attempts to stamp WA protected passports. 
Ins Spain the key problem seems to be one of training of officials.
 
7. Double taxation
The Embassy reminded participants that UK paid public sector pensions etc subject to the UK/Spain bi-lateral tax agreement should be declared.  Although they will not be taxed in Spain they are taken into account in calculating tax bands.
 
8. Permanent/non permanent residence status
The Embassy have reminded the Spanish authorities of the need to take into account years in Spain when issuing TIEs.

9. Visits to private residences by friends and relatives
The "requirement" to demonstrate that Third Country Nationals have somewhere to stay etc was raised.  No instances of demand by the immigration officials have been reported.  The Embassy  repeated an earlier suggestion that the standard form could be used to prove an invitation but limited discussion also suggested that an e-mail would suffice.  The general view was, nevertheless, that this is a non issue.

10. There are still isolated case where the green document is not accepted both by officials and for some transactions.  Whilst this is simply wrong, and the result of misunderstandings or lack of training in the vast majority of cases, we would reiterate our advice to change the green document for a TIE. We strongly suggest that you retain a copy of your green document before handing in the original.

British in Europe (BiE) related
As previously announced BiE will "cease to be" shortly.  The closing should have been 31 December but will now be following the JC in January (see 1 above) as this was postponed from earlier this month. Consequently a final announcement from BiE is delayed to end January.  There are a number of residual issues (eg right of return, student fees) that will be addressed in that announcement.  However I would for now like to mention two issues
  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP) - a large number of UK citizens abroad are in receipt of the exportable element of this social security benefit (globally around 2m people)  - typically about GBP 60 per week. There is an ongoing review of benefit payments by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and there are suggestions that PIP will be consolidated with Universal Credit (which is not payable abroad). If consolidation takes place then large numbers of recipients could face severe financial hardship unless some protection is introduced. We have made representations to both the Government and opposition MPs including the Chair of the DWP Standing Committee and I will be following up with the Chair in the new year.
  • Elections Bill - this passed its second reading in the House of Commons.  The Bill will effectively confer general election votes for life for UK citizens who have previously voted in the UK - the limit is currently 15 years.  However, there are contentious elements to the Bill including provisions for election financing and the need to produce ID when voting. This latter provision has now been challenged by the House of Commons elect committee on constitutional matters, who have asked the Government to halt its progression.  We await the Government's response.
To be clear, at our AGM we agreed to continue EuroCitizens, not least given the 400,000 UK citizens resident in Spain and protected by the WA. As we discussed then our finances are depleting and then stood at just over €200 in the bank! To continue as a valid organisation we do need financing.  May I remind you please of our bank account- ES35 2100 1658 2602 0028 9449 Caixa Bank
A very big thank you to those who have donated!

Spanish nationality
There is some evidence that the Spanish Justice Ministry are finally making some progress with the backlog of nationality applications.  And, whilst prejura appointments are hard to come by online, persistence and trying out of peak hours can pay off.  We would also like to remind you that Notaries are empowered to handle both prejura and jura (normally at the same time if both are needed) although a fee (possibly up to €200) will be charged.

All the very best
 
Nigel Aston and the EuroCitizens' Committee

viernes, 11 de junio de 2021

AN MBE FOR SERVICES TO BRITONS AFFECTED BY BREXIT

 

A personal view from Mike Harris, Vice-chair of EuroCitizens

 

I was down at the allotments and almost dropped the hoe on my foot when HMA Hugh Elliot rang to offer me an MBE. It was, he explained, for campaigning with EuroCitizens and British in Europe for the rights of UK citizens in Spain and the EU. When Hugh mentioned a ceremony at Buckingham Palace I baulked. I don't do aeroplanes, I gasped, almost confessing that I don't do Queens either. Hugh replied that the ceremony could also be done in Madrid and, while we chatted horticulture, I imagined a party on the ambassadorial lawn with as many EuroCitizens present as possible.

 

Our committee supported my idea to write something about it. Everything somehow got more complicated as I entered the long dark night of the soul of the leftist offered membership of the British Empire, with its long and bloody past. Surely it hasn't even existed for fifty years? And wasn't Brexit, so damaging for us Britons in the EU, fuelled by imperial nostalgia and fantasies of 'Empire 2.0'? And wasn't it the current government that got us into this mess in the first place? And what about....?

 

Of course, such misgivings are common, and many have rejected honours for similar reasons. Others, like Professor David Olosuga, finally accepted - in his case on the grounds that the contributions of non-white people have been under-recognised. Whilst in no way comparing our position to that of ethnic minorities, British emigrants in Europe have also been long ignored by UK journalists and politicians (because most of us cannot vote).

 

I returned to my initial gut reaction in the allotment, thought of our brave little group getting back together again after this damned pandemic - and that coming on top of years of uncertainty. It has been such a long road since we first met in the shoddy back room of a bar in Lavapies. There have been great moments, the anti-Brexit demonstrations in London, our own at the Plaza Margaret Thatcher and our 24-hour vigil outside the Embassy in Madrid. Even our singsong on Brexit night alleviated our sadness about this most futile and destructive act.

 

It's true that campaigning has been gruelling, we have not got everything we wanted by any means and there is still work to do. However, we have done our best as a committee with the support of our small but loyal and generous membership. We have worked closely with other groups in Spain* and have received constant backup from the brilliant British in Europe*. All this has enabled us to punch above our weight and make a real difference to people's lives, I think.

 

So why turn down the possibility of a glass of Foreign Office red when there's so much to be proud about?   

 

 

 

* Congratulations to Jane Golding and Fiona Godfrey on their OBEs - they more than deserve them. The only pity is that the UK Embassy in France did not recognise the fantastic work of BiE's Kalba Meadows and Kathryn Dobson and that the Embassy in Rome did not do the same for Jeremy Morgan and Zoe Adams.


* Congratulations also to Debbie Williams (Brexpats Hear Our Voice), Anne Hernández (Brexpats in Spain) and Sue Wilson (Bremain) who have also been awarded MBEs. Again, all three awards are well deserved.

lunes, 17 de mayo de 2021

HELP US TO FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO COMBINE DIFFERENT STATUSES

 

https://sede.policia.gob.es/portalCiudadano/extranjeria/EX19.pdf

 Are you the spouse or the dependant of an EU citizen as well as being protected by the Withdrawal Agreement? If so, please write and tell us about your situation (eurocitizens2016@gmail.com). Under EU law you should have the right to enjoy both statuses which give you advantages but, currently in Spain, this is not possible. We think this is unfair.

 

The right to residence of a number of UK residents in Spain is protected by the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) as well as through status as a dependant of a Spanish or EU national (with residence rights in Spain).  However, in practice, it is impossible, for the moment, to reconcile the two.

 

The benefit of dependency status is that a degree of freedom of movement is preserved - you can reside in another EU country as a dependent and would not lose the right to reside in Spain after an absence of five years or more.  However, in such a case, the rights are held as a dependent and not as an individual, as per the WA. Recognition of more than one status can thus be a valuable means of securing the full rights of residency to which someone may be entitled.

 

With the support of the European Commission, we have lobbied the Spanish authorities to recognise that a citizen could be entitled to more than one status.  This would confer both individual rights, as a WA beneficiary, whilst acknowledging supplementary rights as a dependent. However, the authorities have shown intransigence, saying that only one status (and thus only one NIE - foreign citizen identity number) can be recognised.  We have pointed out that in practical terms the issue could be resolved by an annotation to the Third Country residence card (TIE), maintaining just the one NIE but they are not prepared to shift their position.  In turn, the Commission have made clear that they will only intervene formally on the basis of examples where citizens have been refused multi status.

 

We are trying to identify examples where this has happened.  Please let us know if you or someone you know has encountered this difficulty and would be prepared to allow details to be passed to the Commission in order to take formal action.