Diego is a founding partner of Fairway Lawyers on the Costa del Sol and offers legal advice to British clients. He has worked with many British clients applying for Spanish residency post-Brexit. Recent statistics show that 2,400 British residency applications were rejected this year.
Diego said: “English citizens now are not part of Europe. They have the same residency requirements as people in Asia or Africa. The requirements for those citizens are very tough to achieve.
“If you can prove you were in Spain in 2020, you can still apply but you need to submit a lot of paperwork. You need to prove you had a mobile phone, restaurant receipts, supermarket bills, you need to prove on your credit card you were here, spending money and living in Spain.
“Expats need to have their own private health insurance unless they have a work permit. The authorities are turning down applications because British people didn’t have health insurance before December 2020.”
Although Diego said expat newspapers in the Costa del Sol region widely reported the residency deadline, some Britons didn’t think the situation would be so serious.
He said: “There’s a lot of British people who lived here in Spain and they were out of the system. They followed their own rules.
“This has been going on for 20-30 years. And now all of a sudden they need to have everything in place and it’s quite difficult.
“A lot of people applied before Christmas but I would say there’s still 30 percent of the English population here that are in a grey area.”
Diego thinks it’s unlikely British expats would be arrested for not having residency but warned it could happen in the future.
He said: “In theory now they can only stay for three months. I’m not sure if people will have a problem when they leave the country and they have stayed over three months.
“At the moment we haven’t noticed any detentions or arrests for being illegal in Spain. But that could happen, if the police ask for paperwork.
“The authorities have been flexible so far but in the future that might change. From a legal point of view, they are not legal.
“It’s a new situation, a Brit in Spain is not legal. A lot of Brits don’t feel safe in Spain now.”
Diego told Express.co.uk some applications have been turned down for reasons he considers “nonsense”.
“We have cases that have been turned down for nonsense. We have been requested to show that the person had a property here or was renting here and they have requested a copy of the letting contract and the supermarket bill etc.
“But they didn’t believe the person was in Spain, so it was turned down. They’ve appealed and been rejected again.
“Brits can try again but 99 percent of the time they’ll be rejected again. You’re already on the computer, you’re already on file.”
Despite the harsh rules, Diego is hopeful that Spain and Britain can reach an agreement on expat residency permits.
He said: “Spain is a touristic country, it’s a big part of the economy. At the end of the day, the Brits are spending their pension here.
“I hope Spain will reach an agreement with the UK. People bought their second home in Spain to retire here.
“Those people make a big investment here and a lot of people have bought a house here with the thought to retire when they’re 65.”