Brits returning to Spain in New Year warned to carry residency proof

Travellers from the UK look set to be included in the EU's ban on non-essential travel after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st and those travelling ‘home’ for Christmas been advised to carry proof of residency in Spain to ensure a smooth return in the New Year.

Brits returning to Spain in New Year warned to carry residency proof
Photo: AFP

At present the EU's external borders are closed to non-essential travel for all countries apart from those on the short list of 'safe' countries but travel within EU however, is allowed for any reason – taking into account individual countries' lockdowns and rules on quarantine/testing for new arrivals.

However, once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, the UK will become a 'third country', not part of the EU or the Schengen zone, and its citizens will not be automatically entitled to enter the EU.

It will mean that only those travelling for essential journeys, which includes returning to your place of habitual residence, or work reasons will be allowed to enter the EU unless the UK’s coronavirus infection rates drop to below a certain level and can be added to the safe list.

There is a chance that the EU could make a concession and allow the UK as an exception but no decision has yet been taken to do so.

As a precaution the British Embassy in Madrid posted a notice on its Facebook page urging those living in Spain who may be returning to the UK over Christmas to ensure they carry residency documents to ensure they can get back in Spain.

“As some of you will be travelling to the UK for Christmas, we wanted to advise anyone who is travelling to prepare for your return to Spain by carrying your residency documents (the green certificate or the new TIE card) with you, which accredit your residency in Spain,” it said.

And for those who don’t yet have those certificates or TIE card and maybe in the process of applying, the message continued:

“If you live in Spain, but do not yet have these documents, we advise you to travel with any documentation demonstrating that you are a resident, for example: the positive outcome of your residency application, the demonstration that you have applied for residency or any other documentation with you that shows that you are a resident in Spain such as a work contract, tenancy agreement or padron certificate.”

As some of you will be travelling to the UK for Christmas, we wanted to advise anyone who is travelling to prepare for…

Posted by Brits in Spain on Monday, 14 December 2020

British travellers have also been warned to ensure that they have adequate health insurance for trips after January 1st as the EHIC card which guaranteed health care across the EU will no longer be valid.



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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?