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What are the reasons for being denied entry to Spain?

International travellers arriving in Spain should be aware of what border officials may want to check before granting them access to the country. 

A Spanish civil guard helps with security checks at Barcelona's El Prat airport
Spanish border officials do not tend to ask questions or scrutinise non-EU travellers who have the correct visa. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

As you probably know already, Spain is part of the EU, the EEA and the Schengen Area. 

That means that nationals and residents of other Member States can by and large travel to and from Spain without Spanish border officials checking anything other than their passports. 

In many cases, these travellers can scan their passports themselves using the machines at border control and not have to show any other paperwork. 

This is therefore an article which is geared primarily at third-country nationals who may or may not need a visa to visit Spain, but who have to abide by Spain’s other entry rules.  

The following information is taken from Spain’s Interior Ministry. 

However, it’s important to remember that in practice the decision to request extra documentation from international arrivals is usually down to the individual border officer’s judgement. 

Unlike in the US or the UK, Spanish border officials do not tend to ask questions or scrutinise non-EU travellers who have the correct visa.

In essence, it’s a case of being aware that there is a chance, in most cases slim, that you will be asked to prove certain criteria, and thus it makes sense to have certain paperwork handy when you travel.

Not having a Schengen visa when you should

Travellers from some non-EU countries are exempt from the visa requirement to enter Spain and the Schengen area.

These are Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Republic of North Macedonia, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile , Colombia, South Korea, Costa Rica, Commonwealth of Dominica, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, United States, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova , Nicaragua, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Santa Sede, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, East Timor, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and, last but not least, the United Kingdom. 

If you’re from a third country that isn’t on the list above and you fail to show the correct visa, you will not be granted access to Spain. Unlike other documentation mentioned in this article, the visa requirement will always apply. However, you are likely to be made aware of this problem before embarking on your trip to Spain. Always check Spain’s visa requirements for your country before booking any flights.

Citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Ireland are part of the EU but not Schengen so therefore must show their passports.

Not having sufficient funds

As is common in many countries, one way to get turned around at border control is by not being able to prove you have funds sufficient to support your stay in the country. 

According to advice from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, €95 per day is the amount deemed sufficient to support yourself in Spain, regardless of whether you intend to stay with friends or family or in a hotel.

Lack of accommodation

Not being able to prove that you have a place to stay is technically another reason for entry denial. Whether with friends and family or in a hotel, you must be able to demonstrate – if requested – that you have accommodation for every day of your stay in Spain. 

Not long after Brexit came into force, this apparent requirement was the subject of rumours and reports which suggested that Britons who were staying with friends or family in Spain would require a carta de invitación (invitation letter) beforehand, with the host having to apply for it at their local Spanish police station.

“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,” wrote the UK Embassy in Madrid at the time. 

However, there have been no reports to suggest that this proof of accommodation has been requested recently, at least from UK nationals.

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

Not proving your reason for travel 

Although unlikely, Spanish border officials may also ask arrivals to give their reason for travel. If this were to happen, it would probably be necessary to back it up with documentation.

For a tourist, proof of accommodation as mentioned earlier will generally suffice, whereas for a business traveller an invitation to a trade fair or convention may be needed, and international students could be required to show proof of enrolment in a course in Spain.  

Not having health insurance

You could be asked to prove you have medical insurance to cover the duration of your stay in Spain. 

This should at least cover emergency treatment and hospitalisation. Many airlines offer this as part of their travel insurance offers. 

Again, it is unlikely you would be asked to demonstrate this, but it’s advisable that you take out health insurance anyway as there have been cases of uninsured foreigners being denied treatment, even though in emergencies public health is likely to assist.

Not having a valid passport or ID 

It might seem an obvious one but make sure you have a valid passport or travel document. 

Passports must be valid for at least three months after you leave the country, and must have been issued within the last ten years. EU member states – and a handful of others including Switzerland and Liechtenstein – only need their national ID although Irish travellers will need a passport.

Being subject to ban

This could be for several reasons, and not all criminal or related to Spain. Spanish border officials can check travel bans on the S.I.S: the shared, Schengen wide information system that covers most of the EU/EEA and Switzerland.

  1. You will be rejected if you have previously been returned and/or expelled by any Schengen state.
  2. If you have been denied entry previously, especially for any criminal links, activities that contravene human rights, or the interests of Spain.
  3. Being subject to an international arrest warrant.
  4. This was true in pre-Covid times, but is especially relevant now: you can be denied entry to Spain if you are deemed a threat to public health. Other reasons include threatening public order and national security.
  5. You can be denied entry if you’re a non-EU/EEA/Swiss visitor in Spain who has stayed for longer than 90 out of 180 days in Spain or the Schengen area. As the recent case of a UK national who was denied entry to Spain over a missing passport stamp suggests, it’s important to make sure you get an entry and exit stamp for every visit to Spain. 


According to article 53.1.a of Spain’s Immigration Bill, surpassing the 90 days could be considered a serious violation in the eyes of the law, with fines going from €501 to €10,000, a possible expulsion from Spain as well as a potential ban from the Schengen area for six months to five years. 

We reiterate that this is for a serious offence. Minor wrongdoings can result in fines under €501. Very serious breaches can lead to penalties of €10,000 to €100,000.

Not having a return ticket

Again, another technicality but you could be asked for proof of a return ticket. It’s named by Spain’s Interior Ministry as one of the documents that tourists and travellers visiting Spain for private reasons may be asked for. 

Unless you really need to keep your travel flexible, having a return ticket is one of the safest ways of convincing border officials that you don’t intend to stay. 

Not having the right Covid-19 paperwork

Although total travel bans have been lifted by Spanish authorities, there are still reasons for international travellers to be denied entry during the pandemic. 

All international arrivals by air or sea have to fill in a Covid-19 health control form before arriving in Spain, regardless of their nationality or the country they’re travelling from. 

If you don’t complete the form, you may not necessarily be denied entry if you can prove your Covid-19 health status otherwise, but it is one of Spain’s health control requirements, 

As things stand, most non-EU travellers can only visit Spain if they are fully vaccinated (with the exception of a few countries). 

They are likely to be asked for proof of vaccination before departing for Spain but if unvaccinated travellers from these countries did somehow manage to reach Spain, they would have to undergo testing, quarantine and possibly be subject to a fine. 

For EU travellers, providing a negative Covid-19 test, showing proof of recovery or vaccination are the available options, but failure to prove any of these also constitutes a reason to be denied immediate entry to Spain. 

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For members


What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.


For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each.