UK travelers to Spain offered alternatives to prove residency

After passengers were denied boarding in early January due to confusion at airlines, a new list of acceptable documents has just been released

UK travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after being refused boarding at London's Heathrow airport on January 2.
UK travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after being refused boarding at London's Heathrow airport on January 2.Max Duncan (AP)

The United Kingdom Embassy in Madrid has published an update on travel to Spain for British nationals who were already legal residents of the country before January 1, 2021, when the Brexit transition period came to an end and the UK definitively left the European Union.

“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 Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero - TIE),” said the embassy in a statement on its Facebook page.

The embassy has shared a list of alternative documents that UK nationals without either one of these two proofs of residency may 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,” notes 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 list of acceptable documents, which have reportedly been communicated to airlines and other operators, is as follows:

  • 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 work contract, a rental contract, or proof of 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 until 6pm mainland Spain time 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.

Diagnostic tests

The UK government has also reminded travelers 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.


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