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FACT CHECK: Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?

Spain has dropped most Covid-19 restrictions, but do foreign residents in Spain travelling back to the Spanish territory from an EU or non-EU country still need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery in September and October 2022?

Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?
A woman shows her Digital Covid certificate at Barcelona's El Prat airport. Find out if foreign residents in Spain still need to show Covid-19 documents when flying back to Spain. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

The Covid-19 pandemic no longer dominates daily life or travel in Spain.

In recent days, the Spanish government has scrapped the Spth health control form for all travellers and soon it will stop carrying out temperature and visual checks on non-EU arrivals

That’s not to say that all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted. Non-EU tourists still need to show Covid-19 documents to be allowed into Spain, and on planes that are bound for Spain passengers must wear face masks

But how about for foreign residents in Spain who are travelling back to the Spanish territory after a holiday abroad or a visit to their country of origin? 

For example, would a UK or US national who legally resides in Spain and who has just spent a couple of weeks back in their country of origin need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery when they arrived back in Spain?

The question is not so much whether you’re a resident in Spain, but rather which country you’re travelling to Spain from. 

If it’s a non-EU/Schengen country, then you technically have to show Covid documents. If you’re completely unvaccinated or more than 270 days have passed since your last Covid-19 vaccine, you’ll need to present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test. That’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national or foreign resident in Spain. 

Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated UK national who is resident in Spain needs to get a Covid test before arrival in Spain if travelling from a non-EU country such as the United Kingdom.

If on the other hand you’re returning to Spain from another EU/Schengen country, then you will not have to show a Covid-19 certificate or equivalent document. Again, that’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national, a resident of Spain (EU or non-EU national) or even a non-EU tourist who was already in the EU/Schengen Area before visiting Spain.

do residents need covid documents to travel back to spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated US national who is resident in Spain doesn’t need to show Covid documents or get tested before arrival in Spain if travelling from another EU country.
 

This is according to Spain’s travelsafe.spain.info website, where on its homepage section there is a section which allows you to choose “origin” (city/country you’re travelling from), your nationality and your vaccination status. 

When you fill in the categories and click through, it tells you whether or not you need to get a Covid-19 test. 

It also states your country of residence, even though you’re not given the option of filling this in (although, we reiterate, residence isn’t what counts). 

Are Spanish airport officials still rigorously checking the Covid documents of arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area? No. 

Whether or not you get asked is up to chance. Some travellers have said they have been asked to show proof, whereas others have not.

“I went to the United Kingdom, vaccinated with the third dose more than 290 days ago (20 days over), so I needed a negative diagnostic test to return to Spain. I got a PCR in London, it cost me €80, and in Barcelona I didn’t even get asked for it”, one Spanish national wrote on Twitter.

Keep in mind as well that if you’re travelling back to Spain from a non-EU country, but you have a layover in another EU/Schengen country first before reaching Spain, it will be that country’s rules that apply in terms having to show Covid-19 documents. You will already have entered the EU/Schengen Area before reaching your final destination (Spain), so you will not be asked to provide proof of Covid certificates when you land in Spain.

Is there a risk of being refused entry as a resident if you don’t have any Covid-19 documents upon arrival in Spain and you get asked to provide them? 

The worst-case scenario is that you will be required to take a Covid test there and then at the airport. Spain has allowed legal Spanish residents (whether they’re EU or non-EU nationals) to return home to Spain even at the worst stages of the pandemic when travel was heavily restricted.

So, if you’re travelling back to Spain as a resident from a non-EU country, what Covid proof do you technically have to be able to show? Only one of the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate – Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • A recovery certificate – This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status. 

You can prove the above by showing a digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authorities of the country in which you were vaccinated. If you were vaccinated in Spain, this can be Spain’s EU Digital COVID Certificate.

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TRAVEL NEWS

10 percent of Spain’s free train travel tickets are used fraudulently

Spain's state-owned railway has offered free train travel on certain lines but some commuters are taking advantage of the rules.

10 percent of Spain's free train travel tickets are used fraudulently

Around a tenth of the free Media Distancia train tickets offered by Spain’s state-owned rail operator Renfe are being used fraudulently, according to Raquel Sánchez, Spain’s Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda.

Speaking at the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels, Sánchez explained that some cheeky travellers are reserving a place that they then do not use, filling up carriages, reducing the number of available seats and leaving other commuters without a way of travelling. In total, the Minister suggested that this fraudulent practice has only affected 3 percent of the total 2.2 million free tickets issued so far (including all the different lines) because Cercanías trains don’t require specific seat reservations.

Spain’s free train travel offer came into force on September 1st and was originally due to end on December 31st 2022, but it has now been confirmed it will be extended until at least December 2023 when the measure’s economic and environmental impact will be evaluated. 

The offer is available on trains operated by the state-owned train network Renfe, including Cercanías, Rodalies (in Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys).

Crucially, it’s only offered on special multi-journey tickets, not on single journeys or high-speed AVE trains. 

GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

But according to Sánchez around 640,000 Media Distancia free passes have been issued so far, which means around 64,000 people have been reserving seats that they ultimately do not use, and some even do it on several trains to give themselves greater travel flexibility.

READ ALSO: Spain’s free train tickets to continue throughout 2023

Now, it seems, the Spanish government have had enough of commuters taking advantage of their kindness and are introducing sanctions for fraudulent use of their free tickets. Punishments, something Sánchez told her European colleagues were a “necessary measure,” will now be levied against repeat offenders.

Sanctions

Crafty commuters who are caught making multiple reservations and not using them could have their free travel withdrawn or their deposit taken.

These punishments have been brought in, according to the Spanish government’s Official State Gazette, to discourage certain users who on “at least three occasions have not cancelled the formalised trip at least two hours in advance and do not make the trip.”

Standing room only?

As you might expect, the offer of free train travel has proven extremely popular across Spain, and in order to keep up with demand, Renfe are set to introduce limited standing space quotas of 10 percent on high-demand routes where specific seat reservations will not be available.

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