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How to travel to Spain if your residency document has expired

What happens if you want to travel, but your Spanish residency document has expired or you're waiting for it to be renewed? Will you still be allowed back into the country? Here's how to make sure you can return to Spain.

How to travel to Spain if your residency document has expired
An 'autorización de regreso' (return permit) may not be granted to foreigners who are subject to a ban on leaving Spain or a limitation on their freedom of movement. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

The short answer is yes, you can return to Spain. As long as you have a valid passport that is in date, you will still be able to travel out of Spain and return again.

However, you will need to apply for an autorización de regreso or re-entry permit.  

Non-EU citizens should get a TIE if they live in Spain. This will either be a temporary residence document valid for five years or a permanent one, valid for 10 years. When this document expires, you will have to renew it and if you have to travel during this time, you will need to apply for the autorización de regreso.

READ ALSO: Can I travel to Spain if my passport has expired?

What is an autorización de regreso?

According to the Spanish government the autorización de regreso is a document authorising foreign residents to be able to exit and return to Spain during a period of renewal or extension or their residence card such as a TIE.

It is generally needed when you want to return to Spain by plane or ferry, as residency documents are usually not checked at Spain’s land borders.

This is a document that only gives you the right to return to Spain, it doesn’t have anything to do with your permission to enter other EU countries.

In order to be eligible to apply for the autorización de regreso you must:

  • Be the holder of a residence document and have initiated the renewal or extension process of the authorisation that enables you to remain in Spain within the legal term.
  • Be the holder of a valid foreign identity card and have submitted a request for a duplicate card due to theft, loss, destruction or expiry.
  • Prove that the trip responds to a situation of need and there are exceptional reasons why you need to travel during this time.
  • Have your initial residence or authorisation favourably resolved.

You may also need to apply for a return permit if you’re newly arrived in Spain and haven’t received your TIE card yet, but need to return to your home country or travel while you’re waiting.

The Spanish government states that: “An autorización de regreso may not be granted to foreigners who are subject to a ban on leaving Spain or a limitation on their freedom of movement agreed by the Judicial Authority as a precautionary measure or in an extradition process, or as a result of a final judgment”. 

What is the application process?  

You can apply for the autorización de regreso at any public registry, immigration office (extranjería) or the police station corresponding to the province where you are registered.

You will usually need to get a prior appointment or cita previa beforehand, so make sure you do it as soon as possible as it may take longer than expected to get an appointment if you’re in a part of Spain with a large foreign population. When you get your appointment, you will need to take with you the following:

  • Application form – modelo EX-13 in duplicate, completed and signed.   
  • A copy of the complete passport or registration card or valid travel document.
  • A copy of the request for the renewal or extension of the foreign identity card, or proof of its presentation.
  • Supporting documentation to show that the trip responds to a situation of need and there are exceptional circumstances.

Remember that as well as the documents above, you will generally need photocopies as well as the originals.  You will also need to pay the associated fee of €10.30 and download the Modelo 790 in order for the fee to be processed.  

How long will the process take?

Usually, your authorisation will either be granted on the spot or within a few days, however when it comes to Spanish bureaucracy, there are often delays, so be aware that it could take up to two weeks if the police have many other applications to process at the same time.

How long is the authoristaion valid for?  

According to Spain’s National Police website, “it will be valid for no more than ninety days (3 months) from the expiration of the residence or stay permit, if requested prior to said expiration”.

The return authorisation may be used for all the departures and the subsequent returns that are required during its validity.

READ ALSO: Can I travel to Spain if my passport has expired?

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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.