Updated 31 March: Many will now have seen reports from the Olive Press in Spain, repeated almost verbatim in the Daily Mail today and so presumably appearing in other tabloids as well, about the 40 or so British nationals turned back at Alicante airport as a result of the new rules in place concerning eligibility to enter Spain. As described fully in updates below, the rules for entering Spain are those that were in place last year allowing only Spaniards, foreigners who are legal residents, and those with essential reasons to enter the country. As I’ve said many a time too, interpretation of rules is all down to the official you’re dealing with in any transaction so regardless of what the law is, it’s pointless shouting at someone who interprets it differently to you, especially when they have all the power and you none! If a border control official says no, then it’s not a maybe …
I’m not commenting in any depth on the pushback to this particular story. Some have claimed to have had all paperwork needed but this is now strongly disputed by officials involved; they’ve been described as deported but technically that’s not what is happening when someone’s refused entry; and the claim of “armed police” has been dismissed as a blatant attempt to talk up an experience as frightening, implying weapons drawn when, in fact, airports are routinely policed by official police forces in support of border control, and Spanish police are universally armed. I did, though, ask the FCDO for an official response to the specific incident, and a British Embassy spokesperson said:
We are aware that a number of UK Nationals were turned back from Alicante airport at the weekend and we have been in touch with the authorities. If a UK National has been prevented from entering Spain and wishes to make a complaint they should contact The Spanish Ministry of Interior or the Spanish National Ombudsman. If you are a UK National who has been turned away and you hold sufficient documentary evidence to prove you have legal residency in Spain – as per our Travel Advice – we stand ready to take this up with the Spanish authorities. You can get in touch with the Embassy here.
It is crucial that when making plans to travel from the UK to Spain, a UK National must make sure that they meet both the requirements to leave the UK and those to enter Spain, bearing in mind that they are not the same. Spanish rules set out that entry to Spain will currently only be granted to those passengers who can demonstrate that their journey falls under one of the allowed exemptions, as well as to those who are already legally resident in Spain. Prior to 30 March only those who were legally resident were permitted to enter. Ultimately, the decision on whether to grant entry into Spain is made by Spanish border officials. For the latest information and links to the restrictions on leaving the UK and entering Spain, we advise people to visit our Travel Advice page on gov.uk and sign up for alerts, so that they are notified of any changes: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain
Updated 30 March: I’ve said it myself until I’m blue in the face and now the UK Government has said it too. I’ve posted it HERE because it’s part of a statement about the 90 day expiry tomorrow, but it is of significance for anyone thinking of travelling to Spain. The bits that I think are relevant, that echo what I’ve said myself, I’ve put in bold:
If you are in the UK and considering travelling to Spain or are in Spain and have friends or family wanting to visit, you should be aware of the continuing travel restrictions on both leaving the UK and entering Spain. UK Nationals must make sure that they meet both the requirements to leave the UK and those to enter Spain, bearing in mind that they are not the same. From 30 March, entry to Spain will only be granted to those passengers who can demonstrate that their journey is essential, as well as to those who are already legally resident in Spain. Entering merely to visit, even if you have a second home here, is not a justified reason for entry. You may be questioned on arrival by Spanish border authorities to ensure you meet the entry requirements and they will only grant entry if they are satisfied that your journey to Spain is essential and reserve the right to deny passage. Ultimately, the decision on whether to grant entry into Spain is made by Spanish border officials as set out in our Travel Advice. For the latest information and links to the restrictions on leaving the UK and entering Spain, we advise people to visit our Travel Advice page on gov.uk and sign up for alerts, so that they are notified of any changes: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain
Updated 29 March: HERE is Spain’s official announcement, published today in the BOE, that the ban on direct arrivals by air and sea from the UK is not to be extended beyond Wednesday. The same announcement also officially confirms the extension of another set of rules by which third-country nationals may enter the EU/Schengen (which includes Spain). Those rules are HERE – the order from July last year which has now been extended to 24.00h 30 April this year, with the possibility of further extensions beyond that. Please note that although the UK will apparently let British nationals out even to view a property somewhere else, Spain won’t let them in for that purpose … probably other places won’t either. British nationals, and most other third country nationals, will be allowed in under one of the following conditions:
- returning home with evidence of registration or living here
- with a visa
- health professionals
- diplomatic/military/humanitarian corps
- students for purposes of study
- essential/highly skilled workers
- imperative family reasons
- situation of force majeure or humanitarian necessity
Updated 27 March: Yes they have changed again. They will continue to change while covid is still with us, and especially while people will seemingly only consider complying with measures brought in for their own safety if there are rules with serious penalties policed fully by armed security services … and sometimes won’t consider complying even then. So be it, covid will remain, and the rules will just keep getting more restrictive.
Spain has announced today that its border controls will now be applied to restrict visitors arriving by land from risk areas in France. They must have a PCR test (RT-PCR), a TMA test, or another type of diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 based on equivalent molecular techniques, with a negative result, carried out within 72 hours prior to arrival. The Order will take effect three days after publication in the BOE and will apply until the end of the health emergency to all over six years of age who are coming from the areas in France classified by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as having a risk level of dark red, red, orange or grey (the levels are based on combined indicators set out in EU Council Recommendation this February). Road transport professionals are exempted in the exercise of their professional activity, as are workers and residents in the French-Spanish border area.
Updated 26 March: Good grief. Yes, Spain has not extended the ban on UK arrivals. This means that there is nothing to ban UK arrivals specifically because of the state of the outbreak in the UK. Meanwhile, however, Spain has introduced other measures specifically because of the covid outbreak throughout Europe and, particularly, Easter. These affect the entire country and mean that British nationals still cannot come in even though the ban has not been extended because there are now different measures in place, and these measures generally prevent arrivals from outside the EU and Schengen areas.
The bottom line is that both British and Spanish Governments say that third-country nationals cannot enter Spain unless they are resident or need to travel for reasons deemed essential as per the list given. In such cases they must bring a passenger location form, have a negative test (even if vaccinated at present because there’s no digital vac cert in place yet). There’s no contradiction, just different rules. And to the “oh so they’ve changed the rules again have they” mob the answer is yes, because there’s a pandemic and it’s constantly evolving so the rules do too. And no, I don’t care what “source” you can find that says otherwise when it’s different to what the two national Governments specifically involved both say …
In my opinion, any misunderstanding or misreading of this situation is due to the overwhelming desire to travel that so many have regardless of any legal or health considerations. When it’s reported, whether here or elsewhere, that the “ban on UK arrivals remains in place until 5pm, 30 March but if nothing changes between now and then, British visitors will be able to enter Spain with the regulations in force for all visitors at that point” this doesn’t mean (never did mean) that “holidaymakers can return with no restrictions”, it means that British nationals will be able to come “with the regulations in force for all visitors at that point”. These regulations currently require you to have a reason for travel that Spain deems “essential” or to be a legal resident of the country.
Updated 25 March: The FCDO has updated its travel advice for Spain following the announcement that the ban on arrivals direct from the UK will not be extended past 30 March. Since the announcement came around the same time that the UK updated its own travel rules, it’s important to note that whatever the UK allows, it has no power to grant anyone entry to another country: all it can do is legislate the reasons for which one can leave the UK. As third-country nationals, British visitors may still not just turn up in Spain, however many appointments, real or spurious, they’ve arranged with gestors, estate agents, banks, etc., to comply with British rules because there are travel restrictions in place as far as Spain is concerned, particularly for the fortnight surrounding Easter.
It’s obviously necessary given the queries I’m receiving to explain that the UK and Spain are different nation states. it’s like having two doors – one out of the UK and another second door into Spain: the UK opening one doesn’t mean that Spain automatically opens the other because each is a separate country with its own independent powers … you’ll have heard the word “sovereignty”, this is what it means. Whatever allowance the UK makes for leaving that country, Spain itself won’t allow entry for just any purpose: HERE is confirmation from the Spanish Embassy in the UK. The main points from today’s full FCDO statement (which is HERE) are:
Spain’s borders are open to European Union and Schengen-area countries.
On 22 December 2020, Spain introduced travel restrictions on passenger travel from the UK by air and sea, with the exception of Spanish or Andorran nationals and those legally resident in Spain or Andorra. The Spanish government has confirmed that these measures will be in place until 6pm (GMT+1) on 30 March 2021 (5pm / GMT in the Canary Islands).
After 6pm (GMT+1) on 30 March 2021 (5pm / GMT in the Canary Islands), while passenger travel from the UK to Spain will resume, entry to Spain will only be granted to those passengers who can demonstrate that their journey is essential. For further information on the permitted reasons to enter Spain and necessary documentation see [the list below of] permitted reasons to enter Spain after 30 March 2021. …
Travellers arriving from the United Kingdom are not required to self-isolate on arrival in Spain. However, from the 23 November 2020, there are some requirements for testing on arrival for those travelling by air and sea. Spot checks may be carried out on arrival to confirm travellers have undergone a COVID-19 PCR, TMA or LAMP test and have tested negative. A minimum fine of €3000 may be issued to anyone who does not comply. …
If you are travelling by air or sea to Spain, you must declare on the mandatory ‘Health Control Form’ listed below, that you have undertaken a PCR, TMA or LAMP test within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, have tested negative for COVID-19, and can show on request evidence certifying your results. …
Permitted reasons to enter Spain after 30 march 2021
From 6pm (GMT+1) on 30 March 2021 (5pm / GMT in the Canary Islands), passenger travel between the UK and Spain will resume, however entry restrictions and testing requirements will remain in force. Only Spanish citizens, those who are legally resident in Spain or those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be allowed to enter the country. Permitted circumstances include:
- Holders of a long-stay visa issued by a Member State or Schengen Associated State, who are travelling onto said country.
- Health professionals, including health researchers, and elderly care professionals who are going to or returning from essential work.
- Transport personnel, seafarers and aeronautical personnel.
- Diplomatic, consular, international organizations, military, civil protection and members of humanitarian organizations.
- Students who carry out their studies in the Member States or Schengen Associated States and who have the corresponding permit or visa and medical insurance, provided that they are travelling to the country where they are studying, and that entry occurs during the academic year or 15 days previous.
- Highly skilled essential workers whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely, including participants in high-level sports events due to take place in Spain.
- People traveling for imperative family reasons who can demonstrate an essential need to travel.
All of the circumstances above must be justified by documentary evidence. You should be aware that you may be questioned on arrival by Spanish border authorities to ensure you meet the entry requirements. Spanish border authorities will only grant entry if they are satisfied that your journey to Spain is essential and reserve the right to deny passage.
Updated 23 March: Spain has extended the ban on South African and Brazilian arrivals until 13 April but not the ban on British visitors arriving direct by air or sea from the UK. The ban on UK arrivals remains in place until 5pm, 30 March but if nothing changes between now and then, British visitors will be able to enter Spain with the regulations in force for all visitors at that point. These include a passenger location form and, if the UK is still identified as a high risk country, a negative PCR/TMA/LAMP test (see HERE). Obviously this is the situation as far as Spain is concerned: the UK has its own ban on people travelling for leisure purposes.
Updated 9 March: Spain has extended its ban on non-residents or non-Spanish nationals arriving direct from the UK by air or sea. The extension is the fifth such, and is now in place to 5pm, 30 March, but could be extended again, naturally. The measures now also include a ban on air arrivals from Brazil and South Africa. There are details in previous updates just below on how residents can demonstrate their entitlement to return home to border control officials.
Updated 23 February: Spain has extended its ban on non-resident or non-Spanish national arrivals from the UK for the fourth time to 5pm, 16 March, hardly a surprise, really. Such arrivals from Brasil and South Africa are also banned because of the variants associated with those countries but they, unlike British arrivals, are required to undergo a compulsory ten day quarantine after arrival. (published in the BOE 26 Feb)
Updated 20 February: I hadn’t quite appreciated how determined some people are to travel even where it would break two countries’ laws and risk any number of lives in a global pandemic but hey ho, such is human nature.
An escritura is only accepted as proof of residence in the absence of other documents proving residence, and by simple definition it must anyway prove residence. This is not a loophole for non-residents to enter the country for the simple reason that an escritura doesn’t only show ownership of the Spanish property but the habitual address of the owner! Anyone resident in the UK is going to have that British address on full view when inspected by border control here who will be on the lookout because the person presenting it will only be doing so because they can’t produce an actual residence document. The address of the person claiming residence is not going to be something they consider irrelevant, and so it won’t escape their notice!
Please note the use of the word “credibly” in the item: “any other documents that credibly evidence legal residence before 1 January 2021 such as an Empadronamiento, contract of employment, rental contract or Escritura”. An address in the UK is not going to offer credible evidence of legal residence in Spain since it expressly says the person is resident in the UK. And to repeat, it is currently illegal for British residents to leave the UK to go on holiday as well as illegal for non-resident arrivals direct from the UK to enter Spain.
Updated 17 February: Spain has confirmed to the British government that UK nationals legally residing in Spain before the start of this year can again enter the country even if they didn’t have a Registro and don’t yet have a final TIE. You will recall that between 4 and 11 January Spain gave a window to enter for those who’d started the process of registration but had not yet received their final card. Now, residents can enter Spain with any of the following documents to prove their residence status:
- receipt of application for the TIE (Resguardo de presentación de la solicitud de la tarjeta de residencia)
- confirmation of acceptance of residence registration (Resolución favorable por la que se concede la tarjeta de residencia)
- any other documents that credibly evidence legal residence before 1 January 2021 such as an Empadronamiento, contract of employment, rental contract or Escritura
- for students, documentation that shows enrolment in an on-site or presencial course plus proof of accommodation
GovUK has updated its information today, please see HERE for full details, but do note that this is merely a change to the documentation required to prove residence. Everything else remains the same – you still need a passport, negative COVID-19 PCR, TMA or LAMP test, passenger location form etc. Do also note that there is a ban by the UK on travel for holiday or leisure purposes, and Spain itself bans entries by sea and air direct from the UK to all non-residents, so non-residents using Escritura of ownership to enter are arriving by making a fraudulent statement to a foreign country’s immigration authorities, not the safest situation to be in when passports are being stamped and lies can easily be exposed.
Updated 9 February: Spain’s ban on non-resident or non-Spanish national arrivals from the UK has been extended to 2 March. As before, those who are legally resident in Spain need to be able to prove it by means of a legal residence document, which is either a Registro (A4 or credit card size) or the new TIE.
Updated 26 January: Spain’s ban on non-resident or non-Spanish national arrivals from the UK has been extended for a third time to 16 February. It will make little to no difference for British travellers since the UK’s own lockdown prohibits international travel except for essential reasons which it expressly states do not include holidays, but the ban is extended all the same. As before, those who are legally resident in Spain need to be able to prove it by means of a legal residence document, which is either a Registro (A4 or credit card size) or the new TIE – both of which should be accepted now after initial teething problems with those trying to return with a Registro. There is no longer a window of return for those who’ve started the process but don’t yet have a TIE.
Updated 12 January: Spain has already extended its ban on non-resident arrivals from the UK once, and it’s now done so again, for a further fortnight to 5pm on 2 February. Only those residents who can prove their status as residents through a Registro or TIE may enter Spain – proof of starting the process with an official receipt is no longer sufficient because that period of grace was only between 4 and 11 January. The Spanish Government has explained that the extension of the ban is because of uncertainties over the extent of the new UK strain which has now been registered around 70 times in Spain and because the UK’s epidemiological situation has progressively worsened.
Updated 11 January: The grace period provided by Spain for new residents who have started the registration period but do not have the final TIE has now ended. Following FCDO requests for some flexibility, Spain allowed new registrants to return between 4 and 11 January provided they could show the official receipt to prove the request for a TIE. Now, again, only those with a TIE or a Registro can enter … and the problem with the Registro seems to have been resolved, as anticipated.
Updated 3 January: The controversy over residents with Registros being refused permission to board to return home to Spain continues, with incidents now recorded on Alitalia and Iberia flights from the UK. Yesterday, the FCDO had asked the Spanish Government to be a bit more flexible when it came to those
And so, Spain has today responded to the problems being faced by these two groups – residents with Registros and new residents who’ve not yet got their TIE. The response is below, in English, and confirms that Registros are valid and that those who’ve started the process should be allowed to board the flight and enter Spain within the window of grace 4-10 January inclusive provided they can show the official receipt to prove the request for a TIE. I would print this confirmation out and carry it with me if I were travelling (click the image to see it full size). It is also confirmed by the Spanish Embassy in the UK HERE.
Updated 2 January 2021: Spain has extended its ban on non-resident arrivals until 19 January. The FCDO has also confirmed HERE that only those residents who can prove their status as residents through a Registro or TIE may enter Spain – proof of starting the process, and even acceptance, is not sufficient without the final document.
Updated 28 December: Spain’s ban on non-resident arrivals from the UK ends, as things currently stand, at 5pm on 5 January, but can be extended: only residents and Spanish nationals can enter, and British nationals presently have two means of showing legal residence, both equally and completely valid – the new TIE and the old Registro. HMA Hugh Elliott has said this afternoon, however, that he understands that Ryanair has refused to allow some British nationals to board their flights despite being legally resident in Spain.
The reason is unconfirmed but appears to be because the proof they were offering for residency was the green Certificado de Registro which, Spanish authorities have confirmed, remains valid whether A4 or credit-card sized. The Ambassador asks anyone so affected to let him know directly through his twitter handle @HughElliottUK or, naturally, the information can be passed to him by whichever means you use to follow official FCDO information, whether through the Embassy in Madrid’s wide range of social media, or the Consulate here in Tenerife.
Updated 23 December: HERE is the legislation restricting all arrivals by air or sea from the UK to legal residents and Spanish nationals. The law came into force, the decree says, at 5pm (6pm mainland) yesterday and will be in place until the same time on 5 January. Unfortunately there is no clarity for those who have applied for the new TIE but who don’t yet have their application approved or who aren’t in possession of their card: presumably anyone who’s applied for the TIE at this stage on the grounds of permanent residence is expected to be in Spain already anyway.
Updated 6pm: Yes this includes the Canaries because the Canaries are part of Spain. Yes the fact that the Canaries are part of Spain comes as a surprise to many tourists. Yes this means British nationals cannot enter unless residents. Yes the UK Government has updated its travel advice. Yes the UK Government still excludes the Canaries … from its travel advice not to come to Spain. The UK Government still thinks it’s fine for people to come to the Canaries. Unfortunately for visitors coming from the UK, Spain does not agree and has banned their arrival from tomorrow, unless resident with proof of residence, and the ONLY legal proof of residence is a Certificado de Registro (green NIE) or a TIE.
Original post 21 December: The Spanish Government has announced this afternoon that from tomorrow (presumably midnight tonight), in coordination with Portugal, arrivals from the UK are suspended from entry to the country. Spanish nationals or residents will be allowed to return home, so flights continue but only Spaniards and residents will be able to enter the country. Spain says that border controls in Gibraltar will also be strengthened. The decision has been taken, the Government says, “following today’s EU crisis meeting which analysed the effects of the new strain of covid19 detected in the UK.” Spain says that it again stressed the need to take coordinated measures throughout the EU, but as it warned, it was prepared to take independent measures to protect itself if necessary. It has now done so.