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How to prove residency? Confusion reigns over Spain’s restrictions on travellers from UK

From Tuesday December 22, Spain has banned travellers flying in from the UK except those who are resident in Spain, due to fears over the new Covid-19 strain. But the move has left travellers confused.

How to prove residency? Confusion reigns over Spain’s restrictions on travellers from UK
Photo: AFP

In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Spanish government announced its decision to restrict flights from the UK.

Flights were restricted from Tuesday, December 22nd with only Spanish citizens and those resident in Spain allowed to board a plane fly back to Spain.

The UK's FCDO published in their advice that the restrictions on flights would begin at 6pm (Spanish time) on Tuesday December 22nd.

This inevitably means dozens of flight cancellations but it appears there are still a limited number of flights operating for those who meet residency requirements and passengers should be alerted by their airlines as to whether their flight is cancelled and offered alternatives.

Charter flights for package holidays at Spanish destinations have been cancelled although those currently on holiday in Spain have been told to continue with their holiday and return as planned – although be advised there may be delays and cancellations to their return flights.

Arrivals boards at Spanish airports showed flights from various UK destinations were scheduled to land on Tuesday.

Passengers arriving in Spanish airports are already required to have taken a PCR or LAMP test or equivalent within 72 hours prior to arrival and Spanish authorities confirmed they would be stepping up those checks on flights from the UK.

So for those trying to reach Spain, how do you prove residency?

It’s easy enough if you have a Spanish passport and are returning to your country over Christmas but for those with British (or other passports) travelling from UK airports to anywhere Spain you must show other proof.

You can prove residency in Spain by presenting your TIE card (the new biometric cards issued to British residents in Spain since July) or either of the green certificates (A4 size or credit card size) that show you are a resident in Spain as well as a valid passport when you travel.

But for those who are in the process of applying for residency but have not yet received the actual document, it becomes a bit more vague.

The FCDO travel advice for Spain issued by the UK government states: “If you have applied but not yet received your document, carry proof you have started the registration process.”

But it was unclear exactly what documents would be accept as proof of starting the process. Does this mean you qualify if you can prove you have successfully secured a rare appointment at the comisaria or extranjeria (Police HQ or Foreigners’ Office) to apply for residency?

Or do you have to have already had your residency application accepted even though you may not be in receipt of the document itself? In which case is a screenshot of the page showing approval sufficient? Or must it be the stamped letter from the comisaria providing a date for collection?

Back in March when Spain's borders locked down and only those citizens or residents in Spain were allowed into the country,  it was reported that people were turned away unless they could show the original documents rather than a photocopy (green certificates A4 sized or credit card sized certificates).

The UK authorities are clear about what was NOT accepted as proof:

It warned that “padron certificates, utility bills and property deeds will not be accepted by Spanish authorities as proof of residency.”

Individual airlines have confirmed that passengers from the UK who are transiting through Spain to a third country will be allowed to make the journey as long as there are no restrictions imposed by their final destination country on travellers from the UK.

 

 

Other questions that were raised were for couples or families travelling to Spain from the UK when one had a Spanish citizenship but the others did not.

And from those who were poised to move to Spain and had either employment contracts or signed a lease on a property but had not started the residency process.

It is also as yet unclear how stringent individual airlines are in checking passengers residency status ahead of boarding and what exact guidelines they have been given or whether the checks would be made on arrival in Spain itself but there are already reports of passengers being denied boarding because they couldn't prove residency.

 

The details will hopefully made clearer when Spain's government publishes the regulations in the Official State Gazette (BOE) a measure which is expected to happen later on Wednesday.

If you have travelled from the UK to the Spain since the new restrictions were brought in, tell us about it! Email [email protected] and share your experience.

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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