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Due to Brexit, UK nationals who wish to keep living in Spain must prove they have are long-term residents. Many Britons have been turning to local gestors, who can be hired to deal with administration, to make it through the bureaucracy.
However, in Costa Blanca police are investigating a number of possibly doctored documents provided by one gestor company.
Speaking to the Olive Press, an expat newspaper, Spanish National Police said they are looking into cases involving over 22 Britons.
They are working with Guardia Civil officers to investigate possible “widespread fraud”.
However many of the Britons involved insist they submitted legitimate documents.
British expats have been accused of submitting doctored proof of residency
Spanish police say they’re investigating “widespread fraud”
Jay Elliott, aged 66, told Olive Press she has lived in Spain for five years.
She commented: “We were wrongly arrested for submitting fake padrons, even though we put the correct ones in with our paperwork for residencia.”
Ms Elliott now faces the threat of legal action which could end in her deportation.
Lily Higgins, aged 71, added: “I’ve never been in trouble before but here I am, being treated like a common criminal. It’s humiliating.”
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360,000 Brits have registered to live in Spain
Another expat commented: “We were taken into a room, read our rights and told to explain why our 2021 padron had been doctored to show a 2020 date. It was hell.”
Spanish padron cards, short for empadronamiento, are given to show a foreign national has the right to live in the area.
Whilst Britain was an EU member all UK nationals had the right to live and work in Spain.
The UK formally left the EU on January 31 2020, though it remained closely tied to the bloc until the end of December during the Brexit transition period.
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Brexit means Britons lost their free movement rights to Spain
Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016
Britain now trades with Europe on the terms of Boris Johnson’s new deal, which restored the UK as a fully independent trading nation.
It also guaranteed the rights of those Britons already resident in Europe, though some have been having difficulty proving this.
Speaking to Olive Press a Spanish police spokesman said: “All residencia applications from every gestor in the province will be investigated in case of possible connections.”
Any fraudulent applications will be refused with right to appeal granted.
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The officer added: “The outcome of the appeal will be either ‘you now have residencia’ or ‘you have 15 days to leave Spain’.”
Anne Hernandez, from the campaign group Brexpats in Spain, warned expats to be careful over which gestors they employ.
She also claimed regulations can differ from region to region due to the lack of clear nationwide guidelines.
Britain now trades with the EU under Boris Johnson’s trade deal
Ms Hernandez said: “One would expect that when you turn to a professional for help, you pay the money and get professional advice but we hear lots of stories every day about people being given the wrong information or even being exploited and landed into trouble by so called qualified gestors.
“This case of fraudulent padrons being submitted is shocking but it’s by no means isolated.”
According to Spanish figures, there are over 360,000 British nationals officially registered to live in Spain.