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Can I travel to Spain if my passport has expired?

What happens when you want to travel to Spain, but your passport has expired? Are you still able to enter with an ID document or similar? We take a look at the situation for Spanish citizens, EU citizens, non-EU foreigners with residency in Spain and third-country tourists.

passport security
Passport checks at Spanish customs. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

Picture this, you plan to visit Spain or are returning home to Spain, but when you check your passport, you realise it’s out of date.

You don’t have time to renew it, so is there any way that you can still enter Spain on an expired passport? Is it possible to use an ID card or residency document instead? 

Read on to find out the rules, depending on your particular situation. 

Spanish nationals

If you are a Spanish national and want to come back home, but your passport has expired, you may still be able to do so by entering with your DNI card instead.

The Spanish government website states that: “A Spanish citizen may enter Spain with an expired passport or ID card once the border control authorities have checked the authenticity of the document and that the identity and nationality of the person match the data appearing on the document they are carrying”.

The Spanish government also stresses that for Spanish citizens under the Spanish legal system, entering Spain with an expired passport or ID card (DNI) is not an offence.

EU nationals (residents and visitors)

Let’s look at the situation for EU citizens, who are either residing in Spain or just visiting. 

The Spanish government states that in accordance with current legislation (Article 4 of RD 240/2007 on the entry, free movement and residence in Spain of citizens from EU Member States and EEA States), to enter Spanish territory, a valid passport or ID card is required”.

This means that EU citizens, as well as citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, may enter Spain with their national identity card if their passport has expired, as long as it is valid.

The Spanish government specifies that those with passports from Belgium, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Netherlands and Portugal can enter on their valid ID card if their passport expired up to five years ago. 

While those from Germany and Hungary can enter Spain with their ID card on a passport which expired up to one year ago. 

Non-EU nationals who are residents in Spain

But what if you’re not an EU or Spanish citizen, but you have Spanish residency? Is it then possible to enter with an expired passport and use your residency card such as a TIE instead?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Your TIE or other Spanish residency card is not valid for travel, it only serves as proof that you have the right to live in Spain. Therefore, if your passport is not in date, then you cannot use your residency card instead.

The same goes for family members who are not nationals of the EU or of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. They too may only enter on a valid passport.

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

Non-EU tourists

As a tourist from a non-EU country, you are not able to travel to Spain if your passport has expired.

The Spanish government says that you must provide a valid passport or travel document, such as an emergency travel document issued by your embassy or consulate abroad if your passport was lost or stolen. 

They state that “the document must be valid until three months after the planned date of departure from the Schengen territory, and must have been issued during the ten years immediately before the date of entry”.

Certain nationalities may also require a visa to enter Spain. Before travelling, it’s best to check with your local Spanish consulate to enquire whether you’ll need a visa or not.

British passports

Be aware that there has been a lot of confusion surrounding passport expiry dates for British people since Brexit. It particularly affects those who had renewed their passport early before it expired. Before Brexit, if you renewed your passport early, the authorities would simply add on the extra amount of time to your new passport. So, if you renewed it three months early, your new passport would be valid for 10 years and three months, but since Brexit, the UK government has been saying that this extra amount of time is no longer valid. 

There is even more confusion however because some EU countries are saying the extra time is still valid. 

The UK government state on their website: “We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule. Their guidance for Schengen border guards may not be updated until the spring of 2022. Until then, for some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the 3 months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date”. 
In a bid to resolve all the doubts, on April 26th the European Commission said that British holidaymakers in this situation should not be prevented from flying, adding that “based on the experience gathered in implementing these rules”, it is “now clear that a more generous interpretation of the rules is possible and we have therefore updated our advice”.
More recently on April 28th, the Spanish Embassy in Madrid posted further clarification saying: “If you are a British resident in Spain with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, you can enter and exit Spain with a valid UK passport. You do not need any additional validity on the passport beyond the dates on which you are travelling.

Otherwise, normal third country rules apply, so you will need to have a passport that is valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave the Schengen Area, and is less than 10 years old”.

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Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter ‘in matter of days’

Spain’s Tourism Minister on Thursday announced that “in a matter of days” unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Britons and Americans will be able to travel to Spain for a holiday with proof of a negative Covid-19 test. 

Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter 'in matter of days'

Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto on Thursday May 19th confirmed that it won’t be long before unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen nationals will be allowed to travel to Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism, visiting friends or family or spending time in a second home in Spain. 

“It’s a matter of days before we eliminate a restriction that could be discouraging tourists from outside the European Union from visiting us,” Reyes told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

“And that is that we are going to stop requiring the vaccination certificate and allow them to enter with a negative test”. 

Maroto then stated that this would have to be a PDIA test, which in Spain refers to both PCR and antigen tests. If it’s a negative PCR or similar test (NAAT-type test) it must have been issued less than 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain, or if it’s a negative antigen test, less than 24 hours before arriving in Spain.

The surprise announcement comes just days after Spanish health authorities decided to extend the ban on non-essential travel for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers until June 15th

Spain’s current Covid-19 travel restrictions only allow in third-country tourists such as Britons, Americans or Indians who have been fully vaccinated (including a booster shot if initial vaccination was more than nine months before travel) and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. 

But for practically the entirety of the pandemic, unvaccinated non-EU tourists have been unable to travel to Spain, with only exceptional reasons for travel allowed. 

Reyes’ comments came about when asked by the Onda Cero interviewer when all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions will be lifted, as there are still other measures in places such as mask wearing on public transport (including planes) and proof of vaccination, testing or recovery.

“There’s a degree of safety with travel that we have to preserve. We’re still co-existing with the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been gradually lifting restrictions,” Maroto argued.

The minister spoke of allowing unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers in soon as being another way of boosting the country’s recovering tourism industry, adding that her ministry was putting the finishing touches to the legislation, which will be approved in the coming days. 

A number of EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Greece and Austria most recently, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Other countries such as France and Italy, Spain’s competitors in the tourism stakes, have also already allowed unvaccinated third-country tourists in with proof of a negative Covid-19 test for more than a month now.