New rules for new UK expatriates in Spain

Although introduced in March, getting any new rules in Spain to be operational takes time. At last, the changes have just reached the provinces.

UK expats wishing to make a new life in Spain now have a new procedure to get access to the country's healthcare system - but this still with no guarantee of automatic free treatment.

Newly arrived expats are now asked to report within three months with their passport to a "Foreigners' Office" (Oficina de Extranjeros) in their province of residence or a designated police station. Assuming that where they report to is up to date with the rules, and in Spain this is not always so, they will get a certificate stating name, address and nationality, identity number and date of registration. The certificate replaces Spain's residence card, or residencia. Existing expats with valid residence cards need take no action until their card expires.

The new procedures make little difference to the rights of UK expatriates to obtain free treatment within the Spanish health system. If you are under UK pensionable age (65 for men and 60 for women) you have no automatic right of access to free extended healthcare.

Showing an Ehic (European Health Insurance Card) will provide free emergency care, but this is a provision for holidaymakers and those on "short" visits, not those in residence.

UK expats who are retired, employed or registered self-employed in Spain can expect the same treatment as a Spanish citizen. If you have not reached UK pensionable age, are not getting a disability pension, and are not working, you are only entitled to emergency treatment.

The Foreign Office advises: "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."

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