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‘Carta de invitación’: Why you may need to pay to have British friends and family stay with you

As Spain reopens its borders to all UK nationals on May 24th, reports and rumours about the need for an invitation letter for those visiting friends and relatives have been awash in both the press and forums. Here’s what Britons need to know about the carta de invitación and how to get it.

'Carta de invitación': Why you may need to pay to have British friends and family stay with you
Will Brits visiting friends and family in Spain have to show an invitation letter?Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

What is la carta de invitación?

It’s a document which can be asked for from non-EU nationals when entering Spain as a way of proving to Spanish border officers that they have a legitimate place to stay at in Spain and an address on record.

Non-EU nationals who either need or don’t need a visa to enter Spain may be expected to produce it. It is not a requirement per se for non-EU nationals who don’t have a hotel booking or other accredited accommodation, nor a replacement for any other required documents for entry, but according to Spain’s Foreign Office “police controls can deny entry” for those on private or tourist trips if they can’t produce “proof of lodgings or an invitation letter from an individual, if you’re staying at their address”.

Which UK nationals could this affect?

This could affect British nationals coming to Spain for a visit of fewer than 90 days who are staying with friends and family, not second homeowners and not those who are staying in hotels or other rented accommodation. It is however advisable to carry with you proof of address depending on your situation (rental contract, property deeds, hotel booking). 

The carta de invitación also does not affect those with:

  • Dual nationality with an EU country
  • Residency status in Spain (TIE or green residency certificate)
  • A visa

Is the carta de invitación just for Britons?

No, Spanish border officials can ask all non-EU citizens for this invitation letter and it’s been like that for some time. It’s just new for British people because they are no longer citizens of an EU country. Spain has no official list of non-EU nationals who may asked to produce this invitation letter, it can apply to anyone from outside the EU who is expected to prove their accommodation in Spain. 

The same applies to having to show a return ticket or prove sufficient financial means, which for non-EU nationals is currently €95 for every day they are in Spain.

A British government spokesperson told the Guardian that British travellers to Spain “should be prepared to show proof of return or onward journey, sufficient funds for their visit and proof of accommodation, such as a hotel booking confirmation, proof of address if visiting a second home or an invitation from a host, at the border”.

Will it really be necessary for British residents in Spain to apply for one every time a friend or family member from the UK comes to visit?

Following the recent announcement that Britons will be welcomed back to Spain from May 24th without restrictions, Spain’s Foreign Affairs Office clarified what the requirements for entry were, with the main point to highlight being the need to fill in a health control form. No specific mention was made of the need to produce a carta de invitación in certain cases.

However, the UK Embassy has since written on Facebook that “At Spanish border control, visitors may need to:

· show a return or onward ticket
· show you have enough money for your stay
· show proof of accommodation for example, a hotel booking confirmation, proof of address if visiting your own property (e.g. second home), or an invitation from your host or proof of their address if staying with a third party, friends or family.

“The Spanish Government has clarified that the carta de invitación is one of the options available to prove that you have accommodation if staying with friends or family”.

“We’ve reached out to Spanish and British authorities but we simply don’t know yet if it will always be required,” Richard Hill, vice president of citizen support group Brexpats in Spain, told The Local. 

In the current climate, with the UK making headlines for holding EU nationals with the wrong paperwork in detention centres, while Spain looks to do all it can to boost it’s all-important UK tourism market, it’s hard to know how things will pan out.

This may not be the conclusive answer that Britons looking to visit friends and family in Spain were after, but unless Spanish authorities explicitly state that the carta de invitación will never be necessary for UK nationals, the best advice for now is to assume that it will be required for those staying with relatives and friends in Spain. 

How do I apply for a carta de invitación?

It’s actually the host that needs to apply for this, not the guest, and they must be a resident in Spain. 

If a British guest is coming to stay with you, you may need to apply in advance at your local police station. Once it’s been approved, you can send a copy to your guests for them to show at the border if necessary.

Because it needs to be done in advance, spontaneous visits from family members may not be possible anymore.

To apply for it you will need:

  • ID – Passport, TIE or similar
  • Your address
  • Your willingness to invite your guest into your home
  • Your property deeds or rental lease for where your guest will be staying
  • Your relationship with the guest
  • Name, place and date of birth, nationality and passport number of your guest
  • To specify the dates of your guest’s stay

You will need this information for each one of your guests, if more than one is staying with you.

You can find the form you need here.

To process the form it will cost you €74, then it will be a further €6.48 for the actual invitation letter, plus €1.08 for each extra document related to the application process.

The whole process could take up to one month, so you need to make sure you do this well in advance of your guests’ visit. They will need the original carta de invitación, not a copy, so you have to make sure they receive it in time. 

You can find full details on the process here

The certificate relates to only one visit, so you will need to do this every time you have guests.

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BREXIT: Spain and EU suggest removing Gibraltar border

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain's top diplomat said Friday.

BREXIT: Spain and EU suggest removing Gibraltar border

“The text presented to the United Kingdom is a comprehensive proposal that includes provisions on mobility with the aim of removing the border fence and guaranteeing freedom of movement,” Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said, according to a ministry statement.

Such a move would make Spain, as representative of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, “responsible for controlling Gibraltar’s external borders”, it said.

The Schengen Area allows people to move freely across the internal borders of 26 member states, four of which are not part of the EU.

There was no immediate response from London.

A tiny British enclave at Spain’s southern tip, Gibraltar’s economy provides a lifeline for some 15,000 people who cross in and out to work every day.

Most are Spanish and live in the impoverished neighbouring city of La Línea.

Although Brexit threw Gibraltar’s future into question, raising fears it would create a new “hard border” with the EU, negotiators reached a landmark deal for it to benefit from the rules of the Schengen zone just hours before Britain’s departure on January 1, 2021.

Details of the agreement have yet to be settled.

With a land area of just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles), Gibraltar is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents and the deal was crucial to avoid slowing cross-border goods trade with new customs procedures.

Albares said the proposal would mean Madrid “taking on a monitoring and protection role on behalf of the EU with regards to the internal market with the removal of the customs border control” between Spain and Gibraltar.

The deal would “guarantee the free movement of goods between the EU and Gibraltar” while guaranteeing respect for fair competition, meaning businesses in the enclave would “compete under similar conditions to those of other EU operators, notably those in the surrounding area”.

Although Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713, Madrid has long wanted it back in a thorny dispute that has for decades involved pressure on the frontier.

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