Every few months, it seems that there are reports of hold-ups and stricter checks at the border between Gibraltar and Spain, with the latest case involving around 35 people being denied entry to Spain when attempting to cross into the country from Gibraltar.
Many people travelling to the south of Spain from the UK choose to fly to Gibraltar International Airport and cross the border to enter Spain, while others may work in Gibraltar and want to cross the border into Spain for leisure reasons, or vice versa – in any case, if travellers cannot provide the requested documents or information at the border, they will not be allowed passage.
Most non-EU travellers entering Spain must comply with the Schengen Borders Code, which requires them to provide valid documents proving their identity, purpose of travel, and the conditions of their stay – which cannot exceed 90 days out of every 180 days. This includes Brits, who are considered ‘third-country’ nationals after leaving the EU.
Since more thorough checks can cause delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border, if you intend to travel between Gibraltar and Spain, it’s essential to ensure that you have all the right documents and allow enough time to cross in your travel plans.
Whether you are a tourist, Gibraltar resident, or Spanish resident, here’s what you should know about crossing the border between Spain and Gibraltar.
Do you need a passport to cross into Spain from Gibraltar?
All visitors to Gibraltar must have a valid passport, except EU nationals with a valid national identity card. If you will be entering Gibraltar and Spain as a tourist, your passport must have been issued within the last 10 years and have a minimum of 3 months left before its expiry date (from the date you’ll be leaving, not the day of entry).
Your passport will be checked and stamped by a border officer, who may ask you to provide additional documentation relating to your visit. UK nationals do not currently need a visa to enter Gibraltar or Spain, but border officers may ask to see proof of:
- A valid return ticket or ticket for onward travel from Spain
- Accommodation (e.g. a hotel booking, an invitation from a third party you will be staying with, or ownership of a secondary residence if visiting your own property)
- Sufficient funds to support yourself for the duration of your stay
The Spanish authorities have stated that the reason for dozens of people being turned away at the border is usually due to lack of documentation proving their reasons for travelling to Spain from Gibraltar, so it is best to be prepared with everything you might need.
It is also important to comply with customs rules when travelling into and out of Gibraltar, remembering to declare any duty-free goods to customs officers – and bearing in mind that duty-free allowances in Gibraltar are only applicable for one visit per month.
What if you are a resident in Gibraltar?
Residents in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar are issued with Gibraltar Civilian Registration Cards in different colours – blue cards for EU nationals, green cards for non-EU nationals, and magenta cards for British nationals.
It is typically magenta card holders who are most likely to be denied entry to Spain, but all of these residents must also present their passport to be stamped and answer any questions about their travel from border officers.
Meanwhile, citizens of Gibraltar are issued with red ID cards, which allow them to cross into Spain without requiring their passport to be stamped or having to provide further evidence of their reasons for travel – a benefit of the territory’s close relationship with Spain.
However, this is a transitional measure while negotiations regarding Gibraltar continue between the EU and the UK, which could go on for many more years. It remains to be seen whether any special arrangements will be granted to ease access between Gibraltar and the Schengen Area.
What if you are a resident in Spain?
As you are probably aware, foreigners who are residents in Spain will either have a green residency card if they are an EU national (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión Europea) or a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) card if they are a non-EU national.
There are also thousands of UK nationals who had Spanish residency status before Brexit, and have not exchanged their green residency cards for TIE cards.
While TIE cards prove that the holder is a valid resident of Spain, they are not valid for border crossings – meaning TIE holders still need to present their passports alongside their residency documents when crossing between Gibraltar and Spain.
Meanwhile, Spanish nationals can use their DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) card and EU nationals may use their national identity card if they do not have their passport or it has expired.
Spanish residents should not have their passports stamped when entering or leaving Spain via Gibraltar. This includes UK nationals, but there are many reports of Brits who are residents in Spain still having their British passports stamped by border officials.
You should avoid getting a stamp, if possible, as inconsistent stamps from previous visits can cause problems if you cannot prove that you have not overstayed in the Schengen Area.
If you need advice on travel between Gibraltar and Spain, or how Spanish residency status can affect your travel requirements, it is a good idea to consult Spain immigration lawyers. Being experts in many areas of Spanish law, they do not just provide professional legal guidance, but can also help you to apply for any visas or residency documents you may need in Spain.