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BREXIT: Spain stresses TIE card will help resident Brits with border crossings

Although Spanish authorities still say the TIE card isn’t compulsory for British holders of green residence certificates, a new joint message with the British Embassy suggests that the new biometric card could prove more useful than ever.

BREXIT: Spain stresses TIE card will help resident Brits with border crossings
Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration Hana Jalloul. Photo: Screenshot

Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration Hana Jalloul and British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on Wednesday shared a video with words of reassurance and advice for Britons in Spain, with just a week left until Brexit. 

“I know that many of you have built your homes here and we want you to stay. You are part of the Spanish family. You are part of us,” Jalloul said.

“As I said in July, this is, and will always be, your home… my key message is, as long as you were legally living here before December 31st your rights will be protected, and recognised in Spain”.

The video message also touched on the matter of the ‘Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero’ (TIE), the new biometric residency card which Brits who haven’t registered in Spain before July 6th 2020 have to apply for before December 31st 2020, a card for whom holders of the two old green residency documents (A4 sheet or card-sized) is currently optional.

“More than 50,000 British citizens have applied for the new TIE card,” Jalloul stated.

READ MORE: How many Brits have left Spain and how many are staying?

“The Spanish Government would like to keep on encouraging British Nationals to exchange their green residency document for the new biometric TIE card as it may speed up administrative processes and, especially in the current situation regarding border crossings.”

Previously the emphasis on the advantages of exchanging the documents had been primarily its practicality: a hard, laminated, credit card-sized biometric document which is more robust than the green ‘residencia’ paper certificates that used to be issued.

Earlier messages by the British Embassy had discouraged green certificate holders from applying for the new TIE in order to allow more application spots for Britons who hadn’t registered before, especially at times and in places where there were holdups.

But with travel between the UK and Europe now seeming more difficult than ever, Spanish and British authorities have wanted to highlight how a biometric document that’s scannable by border officials and serves as photo ID could save time and trouble, especially as not all authorities outside of Spain are necessarily familiar with the old, green residency documents.

The UK is after all having to juggle two travel bans from Europe: one due to the new Covid strain that’s developed in the British Isles and the next one once 2021 comes along and under EU Covid restrictions non-resident UK nationals cease to be allowed easy entry as third-country nationals.

READ MORE: 

It’s not the first time British consular authorities point out the advantages of the TIE, but with the bulk of the applications by previously non-residents presumably now registered, the shift seems to be to get as much protection as possible for Brits in Spain during these uncertain times.

“It’s important to be very clear – if you already have a green residency certificate this document remains valid proof of your residency and of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement,” British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott stressed.

“It is not obligatory to exchange it. There is no hard deadline to exchange it either”.

“I know that some people have had challenges using their green certificate, for example when going to the bank. So, the Spanish government are creating a document that they will share with the relevant authorities and that UK nationals will be able to download.

This is clearly good news for green certificate holders, with one person commenting below the video that even immigration staff at their local extranjería office had wrongly told them the green document would no longer be valid come 2021.

Receiving different information and requirements depending on the immigration office that you deal with in Spain is a recurring problem according to the large number of Britons who highlight this issue on forums. 

“This will clarify the continued validity of the green residency document,” Elliott stated.  

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TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

In welcome news for tourists and travellers in Spain, holidaymakers will be eligible to take advantage of Spain's 100% discounts on train travel later in the year.

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

Tourists will be eligible for Spain’s free train ticket scheme that will be phased in later on this year, as confirmed to the Spanish press by sources in Spain’s Ministry of Transport this week.

“If a foreign tourist is a frequent user of the [train] network, he can make use of this subscription. If they want to complete the trips, they will not be asked for any type of card,” the source said.

Additionally, in further news of particular interest for British and American travellers, no differentiation will be made between tourists nor between EU and non-EU nationals for the discounts. Free train travel will be available to all tourists, regardless of where they’re from.

It is hoped that the free train travel will entice more visitors to Spain and continue the sector’s post-pandemic recovery, which for the first six months of the year exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 1.1 percent, according to figures from the association of Spanish tourism companies, Exceltur.

Tourism experts expect Spain to surpass the number of foreign visitors in the last four months of 2019 – over 20 million tourists – despite upwards inflationary pressures on the cost of flights and accommodation.

But like everything in life, there are terms and conditions. You won’t be able to waltz on any train in Spain for free, and it isn’t year-round.

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Free train travel

The 100 percent discount scheme, which will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, will only be valid on certain lines and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said when announcing the scheme in the Spanish Congress.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

The Spanish government are yet to announce in detail how exactly the discounts will work, or how to apply for them.

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