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BREXIT

Will Spain follow in Portugal’s footsteps and fast-track UK travellers?

Portugal’s decision to open e-gates to British nationals to help them avoid non-EU passport control queues at Portuguese airports is being lauded as a tourism draw, so will Spain follow suit?

Will Spain follow in Portugal's footsteps and fast-track UK travellers?
Unless something is done about it, you can expect non-EU passport control queues at Spanish airports such as Barcelona's El Prat to be very long this summer. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

One of the consequences of Brexit that British travellers have become most aware of since 2021 is how upon arrival in Spain or another EU/Schengen Area country from the UK, they now have to stand in the queue for third-country nationals.

This can hardly be considered the worst Brexit setback, but it has meant plenty of waiting around at passport control for British nationals (EU residents and tourists alike), in some cases resulting in flights being missed. 

Portugal has recently made headlines by becoming the first EU nation to fast-track British travellers despite their new third-country status, opening e-gates to them at airports in Faro, Lisbon, Porto and Madeira where they can scan their passports more swiftly. Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan are also reported to be able to enjoy this travel perk in Portugal.

By contrast, doubts about entry rules for UK tourists arriving in Spain post-Brexit have been revived by what’s been happening in Gibraltar in April.

Border officials have reportedly tightened checks on some Brits entering Spain via The Rock to require proof of accommodation and enough money to pay for their stay. 

These are pre-existing EU regulations which are potentially applicable to any third-country national arriving in Spain or other EU/EEA/Schengen countries, and whilst such requirements are usually down to an individual border officer’s judgement, there are no reports of it happening as frequently at Spanish airports as at the Gibraltar border.

READ ALSO: What are the reasons for being denied entry into Spain?

With this in mind, are Spanish authorities likely to soon adopt a similar system to Portugal’s to allow British nationals through more easily and with fewer checks?

There is no official comment on this on the part of the Spanish government. 

However, as Spain is currently seeing a huge resurgence of its tourism numbers to pre-pandemic levels, Spain’s Airlines Association (ALA) has called for more police officers to be deployed before the summer to prevent some of the travel chaos seen at airports’ passport and security controls over the Easter holidays. 

More than 3,000 passengers are believed to have missed their flights at Madrid’s Barajas airport over Holy Week as a result of the holdups at third-country nationals’ passport queues.

For ALA’s president Javier Gándara, the main issue to be resolved is that of British nationals, as “this will be the first summer with the requirement to check UK passports and the first period of normalised air traffic after the British Government eliminated all Covid restrictions”.

There is no talk yet of Britons being able to use e-gates at Spanish airports, which suggests that Spain will not be willing to contravene EU/Schengen rules, at the very least until the new entry-exit EES system that will replace passport stamping with scanning is implemented (among other changes), perhaps in late 2022.

READ MORE: Passport stamp or scan? What foreigners at Spain’s borders should expect

But an increase in the border workforce will no doubt help relieve waiting times.

The number of British tourists visiting Spain has been increasing over the previous months and despite Brexit and Covid restrictions, the United Kingdom remains the main tourism market for the Spanish economy in 2022.

If Spain allows entry to unvaccinated UK tourists in the coming months, by the summer even more will be willing to come, slowly edging closer to the 18 million British holidaymakers the country welcomed in 2019. 

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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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