A Military Permit for UK Property Buyers

17 February 2021 | Tags: , , ,

The United Kingdom left the EU on 31st January 2020. The transition period in the Withdrawal Agreement ended on 31st December 2020, and therefore EU Treaties, EU free movement rights and the general principles of EU law now no longer apply in relation to the UK. In addition, benefits included in Spanish legislation for EU citizens are no longer applicable.

One of the consequences from Brexit is the application to UK Nationals of an old Spanish law for Non EU buyers: Royal Decree 689/1978, of February 10, which approved the Regulation of areas and facilities of interest for National Defense, developed by the Law 8/1975, of March 12, on areas and facilities of interest to National Defense. This regulation has been in place for more than 40 years and originally applied to all foreign buyers. When Spain joined the EU in 1986, citizens from EU and Schengen area were exempted. Due to Brexit, it now may affect UK Nationals interested in buying in some areas classified as restricted, regardless if they are already resident in Spain.

It is a bureaucratic process that could delay completion of Spanish property purchases in some areas. This regulation requires a special permit from the Ministry of Defense for non-EU citizens who intend to buy a property near areas considered as strategic points for the military defense of the territory. The regulation affects about 1,560 towns throughout Spain, including territories of Gibraltar, the Bay of Cádiz, Murcia, southern Alicante, the Galician coast, Spanish islands, and the borders with France and Portugal.

What do I need for my application?

To obtain the permit, non-EU prospective property buyers must submit to the military authority a criminal records certificate, a photocopy of their passport and residence card if they have one, a detailed sketch of the floor of the house at a scale of no less 1/500 and a location map of the property to determine its relationship with the nearby urban center.
The information required is:

  1. A letter requesting the authorisation from the Ministry of Defense (MD).
  2. A notarised copy of your passport.
  3. Your Criminal records certificate stamped with the apostille of the Hague and valid within 3 months. This document will also require a sworn translation.
  4. Map of the area where the property is located and plans of the same.

When do I need the approval?

According to Article 40. 1.

“For the purposes established in the previous articles, Notaries and Land Registries must request from the buyer proof of the appropriate military authorization, prior to granting or registering a property in the buyer´s name”.

This means the authorization is required prior to completion.

If you do not have your authorization issued by the Ministry of Defence but need to complete the property purchase, you can remedy the situation and obtain the authorization within 18 months from the dated of completion date which can be extended to 24 months. In the unlikely event that authorization is not granted, you would not be able to register the property in your name.

Where do I start the application?

The Spanish Minister of Defense as the competent authority, has established a period of two months (Article 81) from the time the request is presented to the General Captaincy, so that it can refer the matter to the Minister of Defense through the Chief Army General Staff. The Minister then has a period of another two months to resolve.

However, the Minister may delegate (Article 81) to the General Captaincy the granting of authorizations for the acquisition of land or farms that do not exceed 2000 square meters of surface, so it seems that the term maybe reduced by two months. In general, it may take between 2 to 6 months for approval to be obtained.

Bear in mind if you are in the process of inheriting a Spanish property in one of the areas affected you may also need the authorization.

Areas affected

The coast of Galicia, the borders with France and Portugal, the coast of Cadiz, Murcia and southern Alicante are the places where a non-EU citizens must get the authorization to purchase. There are more than 1,500 towns affected. Contact us to confirm if your area is one of those.


These restrictions do not apply in consolidated urban áreas (nucleos urbanos consolidados) although the definition of this is not clear. Certainly most part rural areas are likely to be affected. Confirmation of the land being affected is included the in the local Land Registry search.

This regulation also establishes limits on the number of properties that can be acquired by non-EU citizens.


This could affect the interests of Britons buying properties in the affected areas and who may change their minds and viewings in order to purchase properties in other areas of Spain which are not affected by these out of date regulations.

In essence, it may be the time to review the current regulation. Life has changed dramatically since the approval of the law in 1975. Spain and the UK are both members of NATO and Spain wishes to continue to welcome foreign buyers to its shores. Without a doubt it is time to adapt this law to the reality we are living in!

Contact us for more information and support.

Patricia Ruiz

Written by:
Patricia Ruiz

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Paul Cooper says:

    Your article is very informative. Thank you. We have owned an apartment in Playa Flamenca for nearly 20 years and have recently added a house albeit we are yet to complete due to the requirements of a Military Certificate. However, how does one identify whether the property in question is within an area where the “Exception” you refer to applies and further, because we already own a property elsewhere, should we not be exempt from having to produce a Military Certificate ?. Lastly, I don’t suppose there is any suggestion that the old law could either be reformed or scrapped entirely for British Subjects anytime soon ?, afterall, and as you correctly state the UK and Spain remain members of the common alliance of NATO !. Many thanks.

    • Alex Radford Alex Radford says:

      Thanks for your comment. Your lawyer should be able to ascertain if the permit is necessary or not, once you find the property you wish to purchase.

      Since Brexit, British nationals are no longer subject to the exemption of this rule and therefore if you want to purchase a property located in one of the areas affected you will need to have the permission, regardless if that would be your second purchase in Spain.

      We understand it is time for this law to be adapted to current times but at the moment we do not know if the law will be revoked or modified. Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with Spanish Legal news.

  2. Avatar Gordon William Skingle says:

    What does the seller have to do? All answers seem to be about the purchaser.
    Thank you.

    • Alex Radford Alex Radford says:

      Thanks for your comment. The seller has to provide a plan to scale of between 1/5000 y 1/25000 from the property to the coast indicating the distance. Please contact us at enquiries (at) mylawyerinspain.com for any further clarification

  3. Avatar Joanne Walker says:

    If I am moving to Spain permanently and applying for residency does this mean I do not need the military permit to buy property?

    • Alex Radford Alex Radford says:

      Hi Joanne
      Many thanks for your question. In order to move to Spain now, British people now need either a non lucrative visa or a Golden Visa to live here for more than 90 days in a 180 day period. You will only need a military authorisation if you buy a property in an area that is affected by the law. Let us know if we can help further.
      Alex Radford

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