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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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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.


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?