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What are the rules for travel between Spain and France this autumn?

What are Spanish and French authorities’ requirements for people travelling between the two countries at this stage of the pandemic? Do the rules change on either side and does it make a difference if you’re in transit or driving rather than flying?

Spanish police check travellers' coronavirus documents before allowing them to continue their journeys into Spain. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP
Spanish police check travellers' coronavirus documents before allowing them to continue their journeys into Spain. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

As things stand in mid October 2021, Spain and France’s epidemiological situation have greatly improved when compared to earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In Spain, 90 percent of people aged over 12 have at least one dose (37 million out of the country’s 47 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated) and the fortnightly infection rate is below 50 cases per 100,000 people.

In France, 67 percent of the country’s 64.8 million people have completed their Covid vaccination, and although cases are rising over the past month, the infection rate isn’t as bad as during previous coronavirus waves.

With these figures in mind, what does it mean for travel between the neighbouring countries?

What are the rules for travelling from Spain to France?

According to the Spanish foreign ministry’s latest update on October 15th 2021, all travellers over 12 years of age who enter France from Spain by any means of travel must show a Covid health pass or certificate proving one of the following:

  • You’ve been fully vaccinated (more details below)
  • You’ve tested negative for Covid-19 on a PCR or antigen test carried out in the 24 hours prior to the trip
  • You’ve recovered from Covid-19 in the last 6 months (more than 11 days and less than 6 months ago)

The Covid health pass, also referred to as the Digital Covid Certificate, is issued by the health authorities of each region in Spain and is the most commonly used and easiest means of displaying one of the three conditions above.

READ MORE:

France’s vaccine requirements for entry

French authorities consider travellers to be fully vaccinated if they’ve received vaccine doses approved by the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA): Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). 

For travellers vaccinated with Pfizer/Comirnaty, Moderna, or AstraZeneca/Vaxzevria /Covishield, the vaccination programme is considered complete if the second dose was administered at least 7 days before the trip. 

For those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson inoculation, 28 days must have passed before travel from Spain to France. 

In the case of people who have received the required doses of a vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but not the EMA, it’s a bit more complicated. This is the case currently for those vaccinated with Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. 

France will consider their vaccination schedule complete 7 days after receiving an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine recognised by the EMA. 

For people who’ve had Covid vaccines not recognised by the WHO or the EMA, the vaccination schedule will not be considered complete until two doses of an mRNA vaccine have been received.

France considers people who recovered from Covid-19 and received one vaccine dose afterwards to be fully vaccinated/immunised.

Flying from Spain to France

Before boarding the plane or during the flight to France, each passenger must fill out an affidavit certifying that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms and haven’t been in contact with a positive case of Covid-19 in the last 14 days.

If required by French border officials, they will have to undergo a PCR or antigen test upon arrival at the airport of entry into France. 

The form is provided by the airline. 

Many airlines only accept surgical face masks and not cloth masks, so keep that in mind as well.

Driving from Spain to France 

The same rules about being fully vaccinated, tested or having recovered from Covid-19 apply if you’re crossing the French border by land (see more above under requirements). 

However, there are some exceptions for which having to show a Covid health pass does not apply:

  • Crossings by land for less than 24 hours and within a radius of 30 km from the place of residence. 
  • Crossings by land for professional reasons of an urgent or frequent nature which makes it impossible to get tested. 
  • Travel by road transport professionals carrying out work duties ie. lorry drivers.

In all cases, compliance with these conditions has to be proven with documentation.

France’s affidavit of being Covid-free is required for all entries, not just by air, although in practice this may not always be requested at the land border between Spain and France.

READ ALSO:

Road transit through France

If you’re setting off from Spain and driving through France in order to get to the United Kingdom or another country in Europe, you will still have to meet France’s general entry requirements from Spain.  

This means you have to show either proof of full vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test from the past 24 hours or proof that you’ve recovered in the last 6 months.

Other points to keep in mind before travelling from Spain to France 

Since July 7th, PCR and antigen tests are no longer free for foreign tourists, except for non-residents who require a test by medical prescription, those who’ve been identified as a “contact case”.

It’s important to travel with your Spanish public health card and your European Health Insurance Card. 

If you develop Covid-19 symptoms while in France, call the 24h helpline 0 800 130 000 and only in cases of extreme urgency call 15 (SAMU) or 112.

People in France need to show a health pass to enjoy usually routine activities such as sipping a coffee in a café or travelling on an intercity train.

You can use your Spanish QR code to upload to France’s TousAntiCovid app which acts as the health pass.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Covid-19 health passes in France

A man displays smartphones showing the AOK pass app at the arrivals area of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport
Travellers flying from Spain to France will have to show proof of their Covid-19 health status. Photo: ERIC PIERMONT/AFP

What are the rules for travelling from France to Spain?

Spain’s entry rules are similar to those France currently has in place – to enter the Spanish territory travellers have to present either proof of full vaccination, Covid testing or recovery.

However, Spanish health authorities don’t classify whole EU countries as being “at risk” for Covid infections but rather regions, which means that people travelling from areas that are considered low risk in France don’t technically have to show a Covid health pass or certificate reflecting the above conditions. 

Currently, Spain’s Health Ministry classifies Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Corse, Guadeloupe, Ile-de-France, Occitanie, Pays de la Loire and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur as being “at risk”. (list updated weekly can be checked here).

The exception to Spain’s Covid-19 travel requirements are children under 12 years of age, travellers in airport transit, transport workers, cross-border workers and residents of the Spain-France border area for journeys not exceeding a radius of 30 km from their place of residence.

In any case, all passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea, including those arriving in transit to other countries, must complete a Health Control Form before departure and obtain their QR code to present it at boarding and at health controls on arrival in Spain.

It’s called Spain Travel Health and it can be accessed on this website or on their app.

READ ALSO: The most common problems with the Spain Travel Health app and some potential solutions

What if I’m travelling to Spain from France on land?

If you’re crossing the border by car, train or bus, the same rules apply as for travel by air or sea.

If the area which you’re travelling from in France to Spain is classified as “at risk”, if you’re stopped by Spanish border authorities, they may expect you to produce a Covid health pass or certification.   

As stated earlier the health control form is for arrivals by air or sea, which means that people who drive from France to Spain do not have to complete the health control form.

What are Spain’s vaccine, testing and recovery requirements for arrivals from France?

For travellers who have been fully vaccinated, the inoculation must have been completed at least 14 days before their entry to Spain, with no time distinction made between vaccines.

Whether you use a Covid health pass or another form of vaccination certificate, it must mention the date of vaccination carried out, the vaccine administered and the country of vaccination.

Spain accepts EMA-approved or WHO vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Janssen / Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and Sinopharm.

For travellers who haven’t been fully vaccinated and need to get tested, they must present a negative result for an antigen test (within 48 hours before travel) or a PCR test (within 72 hours). Saliva and rapid tests do not count. 

The testing certificate must include the identity or travel document number of the person tested.

If the traveller entering Spain from France has recovered from Covid-19 recently, they’ll have to present a certificate of recovery, valid from the 11th day after the first positive diagnostic test for a total period of 180 days (6 months). 

It’s key that the document includes the date of the first positive test, the type of test carried out and the country where this certificate was issued.

Spanish authorities consider that those under the age of 65 who recovered from Covid-19 and had one vaccine dose are fully immunised and therefore get a vaccination certification, whereas those over 65 who had Covid must have had two vaccine doses or one-dose of the Johnson & Johnson inoculation to receive full vaccination status.

However, there is no evidence that Spanish airport authorities will apply this criteria to foreign visitors in possession of a valid EU Digital Covid Certificate who are over the age of 65 and only received one vaccine dose, especially if the document is authorised by another EU/EEA country.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate can serve as proof of vaccination, a negative test result or proof of recovery for Spanish authorities. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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