Briton denied entry to Spain over missing passport stamp

A UK national whose passport was not stamped by Spanish border officials has been denied entry when attempting to return to the country, highlighting the new issue of passport stamps for Brits travelling to the Schengen Area post-Brexit.  

people cross border between gibraltar and spain
A UK national was denied entry to Spain at the border with Gibraltar due to a missing passport stamp from her previous visit to the Spanish territory. File Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

Linda, a British citizen looking to visit her son in Spain, reached out to The Local to explain how she had recently been prevented from entering Spain from Gibraltar by border officials who suspected she had exhausted her 90 out of 180 days in Spain and the Schengen Area.

The reason for refusal? Her passport didn’t have a stamp showing that she had indeed left Spain and abided by the new rules for non-resident British visitors in Spain since Brexit came into force in 2021.  

“I was denied entry to Spain on September 26th due to my passport not being stamped on exit on a previous one-week visit to Spain which started on June 4th,” Linda, who is 72, told The Local.

“The guards initially stamped my passport to enter, then they noticed I had no exit stamp from that one-week visit in June, thereby classing me as an overstayer and subsequently marked the entry stamp with the letter F and two lines.

“Even though I have proof of returning to the UK via banking activity as well as the test and trace COVID app, the border guards would not accept or look at any proof nor let me speak to anyone that could help.

“My son, who speaks Spanish, tried to explain that I had other proof of returning to the UK but the guards would not accept or even consider looking at it; they just kept insisting that I had no stamp, that I had overstayed and would be arrested as illegal.”

Linda was attempting to travel over to Spain with her daughter, who was allowed into Spain as she hadn’t been on the previous June visit. Her mother on the other hand had to return to Gibraltar and spend two nights there before flying back to the UK.

As non-EU nationals, Britons who aren’t residents in Spain or another EU/EEA nation can spend a maximum of 90 out of 180 days in the Schengen Area. 

A Spanish civil guard (C) checks passengers as they pass the security control at Barcelona's El Prat airport on August 11, 2017. - Spain today called in police to help with security checks at Barcelona's busy airport as a strike continues at the peak of the holiday season, causing long queues and safety concerns. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
Not all border officials and airport staff fully understand the rules that now apply to Britons regarding passport stamps. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Passport stamps reflecting the date of entry and exit are a way for border officials to calculate that Brits and other non-EU nationals who aren’t Spanish residents haven’t overstayed, but the changing status of UK nationals means not all border officials and airport staff fully understand the new rules yet.

This is of particular concern for non-resident Britons who visit Spain regularly to spend time in their second homes or for an extended holiday, as they have to pay special attention that border officials DO stamp their passports when they fly between Spain and the UK, inbound and outbound.

READ ALSO: Passport stamps or scan? What foreigners at Spain’s borders should expect

UK residents in Spain are also getting their passports stamped by Spanish officials even though they should not be, as Spain’s Ministry of Interior confirmed via the UK Embassy back in July, but even if they do get only one stamp this should have no impact on their stays in Spain if they have the correct residency documentation.

Almost a month since the incident, the situation is still not resolved for Linda.

“It would seem there is no solution, the Spanish consulate in the UK will only accept my original boarding cards as proof of exit, and as flights were booked online I obviously don’t have them,” she told The Local.

“They will not accept screenshots or copies of any other proof I have. 

“I have contacted my MP but was just directed back to the consulate thereby going round in circles.”

As the EU states, the 180-day reference period is not fixed, it is a moving window, based on the approach of looking backwards.

But if you exhaust the 90 days in 180 day-period all in one go, you will have to spend 90 days outside of the Schengen Area. These rules have been in place long before Brexit.


As for the penalties or punishments for overstaying, Spain’s immigration bill has different fines ranging from €500 to €100,000 depending on the severity of the violation, although whether these are imposed in practice – along with temporary bans from visiting Spain as suggested by some sources – isn’t clear.  

A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry told The Local in March that British nationals who overstay and do not apply for residency in Spain will be “advised of the situation”. 

“We will act with proportionality,” he said.

READ ALSO: Can non-resident Brits in Spain get an extension on the 90-day rule and what happens if they overstay?

Linda’s concerns are that she still doesn’t have a stamp in her passport that proves when she actually left Spain in the first place. 

“It’s frustrating as I feel I’m being held responsible for something I had no jurisdiction over, in other words the guard’s failure to stamp my passport,” she told The Local Spain. 

“As I still have no exit stamp, I’m worried I will be denied entry again on further visits.

“My main concern is that as I cannot prove exit, I will be prevented from visiting my son indefinitely which is why I need to find any way I can resolve this”.

Spain’s Interior Ministry has since told The Local that their department cannot comment on individual cases but stressed that Spanish border officials were aware of the current legislation relating to British nationals, resident and non-resident.

READ ALSO: Brits rejected for residency in Spain given 15 days to leave country

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Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Spain's state train operator Renfe has tweaked the terms and conditions for its free train travel offer in order to avoid 'ghost reservations'. Here's everything you need to know.

Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Renfe has changed the terms and conditions of reservations on its free travel offer for regional Media Distancia services, valid until the end of 2022, in order to avoid ‘ghost reservations.’ 

Announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during the ‘State of the Nation’ debate in the Spanish Congress in August, the free multi-journey ticket scheme is an offer on some trains operated by the state-owned train network, Renfe, including Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys).

READ MORE: All you need to know about Spain’s plan for free train tickets

READ MORE: GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

But some passengers have been abusing the offer, it seems, by block booking tickets and never using them. In response, Renfe have tweaked their terms for taking up the offer on Media Distancia journeys.

Unlike on the Cercanías and Rodalies routes, which are also included in the free travel offer, on Media Distancia routes it is possible to reserve a seat, and some travellers have been making more than one reservation on the same route for different times through the day or week in order to secure a place, and then choosing the most convenient departure.

As a result, many services were fully booked with ‘ghost reservations’ days before their departure and preventing passengers who needed to buy a ticket from being able to do so.

This loophole was particularly widespread on regional routes in Galicia and Castilla-La Mancha, and from now on, Media Distancia customers can only buy tickets for a maximum of four daily trips (two return journeys) on Media Distancia trains, and can only buy the return journey when the initial journey has been made.

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

“It is a question of guaranteeing the good use of the free passes for recurrent travelers and that as many people as possible can benefit,” Renfe sources said in the Spanish media.

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

Renfe’s free train travel offer came into force on September 1st and will end at the end of the year, on December 31st. In order to obtain the offer, travelers must pay a €20 deposit that is returned at the end of the year if at least 16 trips have been made during the offer period.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, as of Monday September 12th, Renfe had already issued over 1 million free passes for Cercanías and Media Distancia trains.