The British Embassy in Madrid have announced an update on travelling to Spain for U.K. nationals who are legally resident in Spain.

The move came following reports of post Brexit chaos and confusion as Britons who were legally entitled to return to Spain, having become residents before the  January 1st 2021 deadline, were being refused permission to travel at their departure airport.

Services Refused

The confusion has also been experienced within Spain with multiple reports of individuals being refused various public services on the grounds that they do not hold the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) and also in the private sector, one example coming to our desk was of a Balearic resident being refused the island  travel discount due to not holding the TIE, despite being able to show the Town Hall issued certificate of eligibility. 

How to Get Home. New Travel Documents for British Residents in Spain.
How to Get Home. New Travel Documents for British Residents in Spain.

Embassy Statement

“We are aware that some of you who were legally living in Spain before January 1, 2021 have faced difficulty returning to Spain from the UK, as you don’t yet have a residence document (green certificate or TIE),” said a spokesperson for the Embassy via their social media.

The message came along with a list of alternative documents that UK nationals can use instead.

“If you are resident in Spain, you should carry your residence document (the green paper EU residence certificate or the new TIE), as well as your valid passport when you travel,” said the embassy. “If you are not in possession of a residence document, the Spanish government has formally confirmed to the UK government that UK nationals who were legally residing in Spain before January 1, 2021, and as such are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement, can present other documents to prove their residence status when entering Spain.”

The embassy confirmed that the list of accepted documents has been issued to all travel operators.

Accepted Documents

The acceptable documents are:-

  • The NIE card or document. This is the existing confirmation of residency held by all residents up to the end of December 2020. It comes as a green paper document in A4 or green card in credit card size.
  • The TIE residence card issued under Article 18.4 of the Withdrawal Agreement (the TIE – Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero)
  • Temporary or permanent EU residence certificate (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadanos de la Unión)
  • Receipt of application for the TIE (Resguardo de presentación de la solicitud de la tarjeta de residencia)
  • Confirmation of the positive outcome of your residence application (Resolución favorable por la que se concede la tarjeta de residencia)

In the absence of any of the above documents, other documents that credibly evidence your legal residence in Spain before January 1, 2021 , such as :-

  • A Padrón Certificate (issued by your town hall),
  • A contract of Employment
  • A property rental Contract
  • Proof of a Property Purchase

In the case of students, documentation that demonstrates enrolment in an on-site or in-person course and proof of accommodation

In addition, travelers must show a valid passport and comply with the other documentation requirements, such as a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival.

Restrictions extended to March 2

On December 22, Spain introduced travel restrictions on passenger travel from the UK by air and sea, after a new and apparently more contagious strain of the coronavirus was identified in the UK. These measures have been extended repeatedly, and are now set to last until 6pm on March 2.

But Spanish nationals and legal residents may still travel to Spain. For the latter, the challenge remains proving their legal residency if they lack the new TIE biometric identity card, despite the fact that this card is not currently mandatory.

In early January, there were numerous reports of UK nationals who were prevented from boarding flights bound for Spain after airlines such as British Airways and Iberia refused to accept their green paper identity cards as proof that they resided in the country. Instead, airlines demanded to see the TIE.

The embassy said that the new list of acceptable documents has been sent to airlines and other travel operators to ensure that passengers are not denied boarding due to confusion over this issue.

The UK government has also reminded travellers that international transit through Spanish airports by passengers on flights departing from the UK is permitted on presentation of a negative PCR, TNA or LAMP test taken within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival into Spain.

“Additionally, all passengers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) travelling to Spanish airports from ”risk” countries, as determined by the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control, are required to present a negative PCR, TNA or LAMP test taken within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, in order to enter the country,” adds the government’s travel advice, noting that the UK is currently on the “risk” countries list and passengers arriving from the UK are therefore subject to this requirement.

Overland travellers to Spain are exempt from these entry requirements and are therefore not currently required to present a PCR, TMA or LAMP test, or Health Control Form on entry by road or rail.

Editor’s Note: Despite some reports of problems relating to confusion over use of the TIE in travel and other scenarios, these must be considered very much in the minority and usually due to a lack of understanding by front line staff. Whether you are likely to be affected is down to little more than luck of the draw.