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EU criticised for fraud allegations against British expats

  • UK expats warned over “fraudulent residency” applications by Spanish authorities
  • British expats facing deportation post-Brexit
  • Britons visiting family in France need to carry a Brexit acceptance certificate
  • Where are the best places for expats to work and live abroad in 2021?

British expats living in Spain have been warned over “fake residency applications” following several arrests in the Iberian country.

Spanish authorities have detained at least eight UK expats for submitting doctored proof of residency, all of which were handled by the same gestor company.

Due to Brexit, Britons living in Spain must prove that they have legal status to continue their residency. As the paperwork is lengthy and complicated, British expats have been turning to local administrators to facilitate the process.

However, one firm in Costa Blanca appears to have been falsifying documents, with at least 22 applications under investigation by Spanish authorities.

Although the police are also investigating the gestor company, the Britons involved are in great distress.

Retiree Lily Higgins said the process was “humiliating” and that Spanish authorities had treated her like a “common criminal.”

Another UK expat explained: “They took us into a room, read our rights and told us to explain why our 2021 Padron had been doctored to show a 2020 date. It was hell.”

Meanwhile, Jay Elliott, who has lived in Spain for half a decade, insisted that she submitted the correct paperwork for residency and is being “wrongly held for fraud.”

However, Ms Elliott and the other detainees now face the threat of legal action and potentially deportation.

British citizens living in Spain must apply for TIE residency cards and register on the Padron to prove they have legal status following Brexit.

Although the Brexit treaty guarantees the rights of Britons that already have residency status in the EU, some have had difficulty proving this to the Spanish authorities.

Due to the situation in Spain, residencia applications from every gestor in the province are now being investigated. A Spanish officer has also said that those accused of submitting fraudulent applications will be given two choices: appeal or leave Spain within 15 days.

President of the British expats association in Spain, Anne Hernandez, said Britons living abroad need to be careful over which gestors they decide to use as many people are being exploited or landing in trouble by employing unlicensed gestor company’s.

Ms Hernandez also claimed that regulations differed from region to region and urged the Spanish government to provide clear national guidelines on application requirements for residency.

The incident is not isolated to Spain either as Brexit red tape means that Britons travelling to see friends or family in France this summer will need to pay extra and show proof of invitation.

Britons travelling to France face additional costs

Although Britain formally left the EU on January 31st 2020, it remained closely tied to the bloc until December 31st 2020, meaning UK residents could continue to enjoy EU benefits such as freedom of movement.

However, now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union, Brits travelling to France to spend time with family or friends will need to pay a EUR 30 fee and apply for a Brexit acceptance certificate before visiting the country.

That said, the new regulations only apply if you plan to visit the country for less than 90 days and will be staying with friends or family at their private residence.

The hosts will need to register the traveller’s details at their local town hall at least a month before their guests’ arrival and submit documents showing their proof of address in France. 

Although a EUR 30 fee applies, it includes the entire party, meaning a spouse and children are also covered if the primary traveller is visiting with relatives.

Currently, France is listed as “amber” under the UK government’s travel traffic light system, meaning that British holidaymakers visiting the country will be required to self-isolate at home for ten days upon their return to Britain.

A Downing Street spokesperson warned Brits booking trips to France to be “prepared to show proof of accommodation at the border, irrespective of whether they are staying with a host or in a hotel, to avoid being turned away by border authorities.”

UK travel journalist Simon Calder also said that hosts must prove that visitors have valid insurance and warned that applications could be rejected if travellers are not covered by a minimum of GBP 26K (EUR 30K) insurance.

Although the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) covers emergency medical treatment, he said, “Brits must ensure they have valid travel insurance when travelling to the EU as the UK government is still seeking clarity on French healthcare requirements.”

EU member states are believed to be under heavy surveillance from the UK government amid speculation that some countries are failing to uphold the terms outlined in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and mistreating British expats.

UK monitoring treatment of British expats living in the EU

EU citizens and UK citizens living abroad have been impacted by post-Brexit rules, many of which have struggled to complete paperwork to prove entitlement to residency rights.

In a House of Lords EU Committee meeting, Lord David Frost said that the bloc has failed to resolve the slow rollout of residency ID cards. He added that the issue had left Brits living in Europe unable to access health care services and benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lord Frost also declared that some member states were “overburdening” expats with paperwork following Brexit and not honouring “the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement that need to be complied with.”

Many Britons have also found themselves cut off from access to investment management services and wealth advice post-Brexit.

British investment management firm Brewin Dolphin, which is fortunate enough to have offices throughout the UK and Ireland, said they had opened the door for “orphaned clients that no longer have financial advisors” following Brexit.

As Ireland remains within the EU, Brewin Dolphin can continue to offer its services to Britons living in the EU and said they had already gained an abundance of new clients as a result.

So, with post-Brexit disruption and the expat residency row persisting, should Brits considering living and working abroad look beyond the EU in 2021?

Best place to live or work abroad in 2021

According to the InterNations Expat Insider 2021 survey, the best places for expats to work and live abroad in 2021 are Taiwan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Portugal – the only European destination to feature in the top ten.

The survey, which represents the views of 12,000 expats from across the globe, ranks Taiwan 1st out of 59 countries for the third successive year.

Taiwan holds first place in the Quality of Life and Working Abroad Indexes, with 81% of expats satisfied with their job security, 75% of people are happy with their jobs and 80% are happy with the quality of life within the country.

Meanwhile, 96% of expats ranked the healthcare system positively, and 94% were satisfied with its affordability versus Portugal, where 73% are happy with healthcare costs.

Portugal placed 36th in the Working Abroad Index but ranked highly for quality of life, with 86% of expats living in the Iberian country happy with their lives in general.

A further 97% said they felt safe living in Portugal, and 96% find the country peaceful, with one British expat stating, “the people are lovely, as is the climate and quality of life.”

According to InterNations, the worst places for expats to live in 2021 are South Africa (57th), Italy (58th) and Kuwait (59th).

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