The British Embassy in Madrid is urging the more than 200,000 British citizens living in Spain to exchange their Green Cards for TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) cards as soon as possible to avoid any complications arising from the recently introduced EU Entry and Exit System (SES).

The British authorities in Spain are advising the thousands of British citizens living in Spain who still have their old pre-Brexit Spanish Green Cards to obtain a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) as soon as possible. This is recommended in anticipation of the implementation of the new European Union (EU) Entry and Exit System (EES), which is likely to be introduced this autumn.

"Obtaining the TIE is crucial for British residents in Spain, as it serves as a reliable and permanent method of proving their rights in the country. In addition, the TIE will avoid any inconvenience at the border once the EU Entry and Exit Regime is implemented," said Hugh Elliott, outgoing British ambassador, in his press release.

"We are working with the Spanish Government and the European Union to make the necessary arrangements for the introduction of this new programme. In addition, we have formally requested an increase in the number of appointments for the EIT".

[IMAGE] Union Citizen Registration Certificate

The Green Card, available as a card or A4 sheet, serves as an official residence document for EU citizens and is formally known as a Union Citizen Registration Certificate. These documents do not have a photograph or an expiry date. They are sometimes incorrectly referred to as NIEs.

The British embassy has been urging UK citizens in possession of these green certificates to exchange them, as the Spanish government began distributing Withdrawal Agreement NIEs to UK citizens in July 2020.

However, exchange has never been mandatory, only strongly recommended.

What is a foreigner's identity card? 

The TIE, an acronym for Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero, is a biometric residence card issued to non-EU residents in Spain. Since 2020, this card is also available to UK citizens.

According to a study conducted by the Spanish Immigration Observatory in 2023, almost 50% of British citizens resident in Spain did not replace their green residence documents with the TIE after Brexit.

However, according to the latest statement from the British Embassy, most Britons living in Spain have already received the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero), as they have given up the paper Green Certificate issued before Brexit.

Until now, the main reason for facilitating the exchange has been to avoid problems with border and airport authorities. This is due to cases where British travellers had Green Certificates that were not recognised as acceptable residency documents, resulting in them being denied boarding.

The Embassy explains that the biometric TIE serves as proof that the holder is a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement and has the legal right to live and work in Spain.

What factors are driving the urgency of the UK authorities?

The newly introduced EU Entry/Exit System has suffered significant problems and delays since its introduction.

The SES requires all non-EU short-term travellers to register through an automated system on arrival at the border. The British embassy in Madrid said on Monday that people entering Spain will have to provide their name, passport details, biometric data (including fingerprints and captured facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit.

To avoid the obligation to enrol in the EES, British citizens resident in the EU must be in possession of a valid biometric card in a uniform format, known in Spain as a TIE.


Essentially, as the EU moves towards a fully digital and biometric travel system, green certificates will no longer be valid.

According to the British Embassy, the non-biometric Green Certificate issued before the UK left the EU is considered a valid residence permit in Spain. However, it is not included in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement or Annex 22 of the Schengen Border Guard Manual.

"As a consequence, it is envisaged that natural persons holding Green Certificates may lose the opportunity to be exempted from the registration process."

"As a consequence, natural persons may encounter difficulties and disruptions at the border, in particular when entering other EU countries where the Green Certificate may not be recognised."

It is important to underline that the British Embassy has not stated that it is now mandatory for British citizens to exchange their Green Certificates for TIEs. However, they are strongly encouraged to do so.

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