British woman refused entry to Spain due to Brexit passport stamp rule

Stamp issue could affect British travellers who regularly visit the country

Lucy Thackray
Monday 01 November 2021 10:59
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Related video: Post-Brexit rules: European travellers now have to show valid passport at UK borders

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A British tourist was denied entry to Spain when she could not show a particular passport stamp that is now required post-Brexit.

The woman, known only as Linda, told expat publication The Local that she had been travelling to visit her son, who lives in Spain, from Gibraltar when she was refused entry by border control.

The issue was that she had taken a recent trip to Spain this summer - and Spanish officials had not given her an “exit stamp” when she left the country.

“I was denied entry to Spain on 26 September due to my passport not being stamped on exit on a previous one-week visit to Spain, which started on 4 June,” said the 72-year-old.

“The guards initially stamped my passport to enter, then they noticed I had no exit stamp from that one-week visit in June, thereby classing me as an overstayer and subsequently marked the entry stamp with the letter F and two lines.”

The lack of an exit stamp from the June trip meant that Linda was turned away at the border and forced to return to Gibraltar for two days before flying home to the UK.

Her daughter, who was travelling with her, had not visited Spain during the summer and was allowed to enter the country.

Linda says that even though she had evidence she had indeed left the country and returned to the UK in June, Spanish airport officials would not allow entry without the exit stamp.

“Even though I have proof of returning to the UK via banking activity as well as the test and trace Covid app, the border guards would not accept or look at any proof nor let me speak to anyone that could help,” she says.

“My son, who speaks Spanish, tried to explain that I had other proof of returning to the UK but the guards would not accept or even consider looking at it; they just kept insisting that I had no stamp, that I had overstayed and would be arrested as illegal.”

Since Brexit, Britons who don’t have the right to residence in an EU country can only spend up to 90 days out of every 180 within the Schengen Area - the zone of 26 EU countries where free movement has been agreed, including Spain.

Linda’s missing passport stamp made it look like she had stayed in Spain since June, exceeding the maximum amount of time permitted in the region.

If - as Linda was incorrectly presumed to have done - you exhaust the 90-day limit all in one go, you must then stay outside the Schengen Area for 90 days afterwards.

The relatively recent rule change means it’s possible that airport staff may forget to stamp British passports each time their holders enter and leave the country - and travellers may forget to check theirs have been stamped in both directions.

More than a month after Linda experienced the travel snag, the passport stamp headache lingers on.

“It would seem there is no solution, the Spanish consulate in the UK will only accept my original boarding cards as proof of exit, and as flights were booked online I obviously don’t have them,” she says.

“They will not accept screenshots or copies of any other proof I have.

“I have contacted my MP but was just directed back to the consulate thereby going round in circles.”

She fears that the issue will persist indefinitely, since she still doesn’t have a passport stamp proving that she left Spain for the UK back in June.

“It’s frustrating as I feel I’m being held responsible for something I had no jurisdiction over, in other words the guard’s failure to stamp my passport,” she said.

Spain’s Interior Ministry told The Local that their department cannot comment on individual cases but said that Spanish border officials were aware of the current legislation relating to British nationals, resident and non-resident.

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