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COVID-19 RULES

What are the penalties in Spain for having a fake Covid-19 certificate?

As the EU Digital Covid Certificate and other forms of proof of Covid-19 status are likely to be in use in Spain for all of 2022, we take a look at the fines and prison sentences that Spanish authorities can hand out to those with forged documents.

fake covid pass spain
What happens if you are caught in possession of a fake Covid-19 certificate in Spain? Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

The Covid-19 pass or certificate has been divisive since it was introduced in 2021, with some seeing it as the most straightforward tool to find out one’s vaccination, testing or recovery status, and others considering it discriminatory and ineffective. 

Whatever your opinion of it, an official Covid-19 certificate – which usually includes a QR Code – will continue being required for travel to and from Spain in 2022. In fact, the European Commission has recently proposed that EU Covid Digital Certificates should be in use until at least June 30th 2023. 

The requirement of a Covid pass for domestic affairs in Spain such as going into a restaurant or a museum is decided by local governments, and although more and more regions are getting rid of its usage, it may not be completely scrapped for domestic matters altogether. 

So what happens if you are caught in possession of a fake Covid-19 certificate in Spain?

According to Article 392 of Spain’s Penal Code, forging official documents can result in prison sentences of between six months and three years. In some cases, sentences under two years don’t result in actual jail time, but not always.  

Crucially, Spanish law will treat the person who forged the document equally to the person who commissioned it or used it, resulting in the same punishment. 

Being caught in possession of a forged Covid-19 pass can also carry fines that vary depending on the person’s available savings and the length of the penalty, making it hard to give exact amounts. 

It can start from €6 a day, which is multiplied by the number of days of the financial sentence, which is usually from six to twelve months. Therefore the minimum fine could be around €1,095.

Forging the result of Covid-19 on a medical certificate carries different penalties as it does not constitute the forgery of an official state document but rather a privately issued one, and is therefore regulated under Article 399 of Spain’s Criminal Code. 

A potential prison sentence wouldn’t be possible in this case but a substantial fine similar to that for falsifying Covid-19 certificates could apply.

In both cases, regional high courts and governments may apply their own regional legislation, which can be more or less punitive, especially in financial terms. 

Spanish police have recently been carrying out arrests of criminal gangs that were selling fake Covid passports online for as much as €200 or €300. 

There are no recently reported cases of foreign tourists being arrested or fined in Spain for arriving with a fake Covid-19 certificate or test, but failing to meet Spain’s entry requirements can result in a minimum fine of €3,000.

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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