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Spanish residence and healthcare for EU citizens

Whether or not you own a property in Spain, here’s a brief guide to some important changes, introduced in March this year, relating to residence permits for EU citizens coming to live in Spain, who are now asked to report within 3 months with their passport to their nearest “Foreigners’ Office” (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station.

They will receive a certificate stating name, address and nationality, identity number and date of registration – which replaces Spain’s residence card or ‘Residencia’. EU citizens who already have valid Residencia need take no action until the card expires. This change is not yet total, so you may be still asked for a residence card.

There is little difference to the rights of EU expats to receive free treatment within the Spanish health system – those who are retired, employed or registered self-employed are entitled to access state-run healthcare and the same treatment as a Spaniard. Pensioners who have made National Insurance contributions therefore receive health care in Spain, provided they register with form E121 from the UK Department of Social Security. The British Treasury financially compensates its Spanish counterpart for each pensioner. UK citizens on a disability pension are similarly entitled.

If you are under pensionable age, there is no automatic right of access to free, extended, healthcare. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will provide free emergency care, but this is a provision for holidaymakers and those on “short” visits. These are the same as the old E111 cards or forms. Unfortunately, those who have not reached UK pensionable age, are not getting a disability pension and are not working, are likely to be disappointed other than in an emergency – a definition, it must be said, that is not clear cut.

The British Foreign Office advises: “Those who settle in Spain after early retirement, i.e. before the normal UK pensionable age, should consult their local DSS office before travelling.” It adds: “Think ahead: deteriorating health should be taken into account when considering medical costs so it is advisable to take out adequate private insurance, which will cover medical and dental treatment and even repatriation to the UK.”