SPAIN has announced that British citizens will be able to use the Automated Border Control eGates at certain airports, a measure introduced in a bid to avoid lengthy queues at the start of the busy summer season.
After Easter saw lengthy queues built up at airports across Spain causing thousands to miss flights, Spain has taken measures to rectify the problem.
Adding to a general staffing shortage at airports in Spain is the fact that as a result of Brexit, British travellers have had to join the non-EU queue at airports to have their passport stamped.
Some 18 million British tourists arrived in Spain in the year before the Covid hit and put a stop to international travel but with restrictions lifted again, Spain is hoping for a return to pre-pandemic numbers.
However, this is adding to the huge strain on the skeleton staff at its borders.
On Thursday, Spain announced that it would reopen its eGates for British travellers at its busiest airports, although they will still require a stamp from border guards recording their arrival or exit.
Spain’s Tourist Board in Britain announced the welcome news on Twitter.
“British Citizens can now use the Automated Border Control eGates for Schengen passport holders at select Spanish Airports: Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Girona, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Madrid, Málaga, Mallorca, Menorca, Valencia, Fuerteventura, Sevilla, Tenerife Sur.”
This follows a similar move by Portugal who introduced eGates for Brits at select airports in April.
The UK Foreign Office advised: “On arrival or departure, check you are eligible to use the e-gates and that you are in the right queue. When using an e-gate, your entry/exit is recorded on the computer system.
“A border officer may also stamp your passport after you have passed through the e-gate; this is for airport operational reasons. If you use a manned booth, check that your passport is stamped by the border officer when you enter or exit as a visitor.”
This appears to be an interim measure until an EU wide automated system (EES) is introduced across the Schengen zone.
This was scheduled to have become fully functional in May, but has been hit by delays and is now not expected to be up-and-running until later this year or early next.
When it is operational it will register entry and exit data and refusal of entry data to any non-EU nationals – making the need for a passport stamp obsolete.
The European Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs notes: “EES will replace the current system of manual stamping of passports, which is time-consuming, does not provide reliable data on border crossings and does not allow a systematic detection of over-stayers (travellers who have exceeded the maximum duration of their authorised stay).”
British citizens who are resident in Spain or elsewhere in the EU have to follow the same entry procedure as visiting holidaymakers, although they will not have their passport stamped on entry or exit if they produce a valid residency card.
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