A British student is spending the festive season in Spain rather than with family – because Spanish red tape combined with Brexit means she cannot leave the country while her visa is being processed.
Lucy Taylor, 21, from East Sussex, is a student at the University of Warwick in her year abroad. Until 2021 she would have been able to spend the school year in Spain without formalities.
But since the Brexit transition ended a year ago, British students need visas to study in any of the 27 EU countries.
Ms Taylor applied for a visa to Spain in June – one of the mountains of applications from British students, workers and landlords. She was allowed to enter the country and begin her studies in Madrid in September.
If she is to leave Spain before the visa is processed, she will not be allowed to return – due to the long-standing rule, non-EU citizens may not stay for more than 90 days in any 180 days.
“I can’t leave Spain until I get my visa, so I haven’t been able to go back to the UK for the Christmas holidays.
“Because of obligations and responsibilities at home, my family was unable to come to see me either.”
She spent her 21st birthday – which fell on Christmas Day – in the Spanish capital. With no prospect of returning to the UK for New Years Eve, a British friend visits instead.
Taylor was too young to vote in the 2016 European Union referendum – which Takhtar won by more than a million votes.
Speaking from her apartment in Madrid, she said: “There is no guarantee when I can get my visa, and with the re-start of the semester on January 5, I’ve had full lectures, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see them – it might be Easter.”
She said the Spanish bureaucracy appears to be less efficient than other countries. “I know some Brits who study in other countries and they don’t seem to have the same problems as I do.
“I know people in France who have managed to get a French visa, so it may be in part because Spain is slow – and the Madrid administration is the slowest to process these things.
“But the bottom line is: If we don’t leave the EU, I don’t have to worry about any of this.”
The United Kingdom has withdrawn from the Erasmus programme, which began life as a European Community Action Scheme for the mobility of university students.
“We are developing a new Turing Scheme to support thousands of students to study and work abroad,” the government says.