Now that Brexit is a reality, how are movements from and to Gibraltar affected?
Spain was able to sign a last-minute agreement with Gibraltar, right before the Brexit transition period was over. The document settles the details concerning incoming and outgoing traffic to and from “the Rock”, as Gibraltar is commonly known. At last, it is clear what will happen to Gibraltar after Brexit, considering its status as a British overseas territory located on a narrow peninsula of Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast.
Even though the UK and the EU had reached an economic agreement earlier in December 2020, Gibraltar remained an open topic and its freedom of movement uncertain until the very last minute.
Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status and its relationship with Spain has been a complex issue ever since the announcement of the Brexit vote results. Gibraltar, being a British domain since 1713, has very strong ties with Spain due to its geographical location. Until the end of 2020, all citizens and visitors enjoyed free movement to and from the peninsula.
However, as Brexit is about to affect the way UK ID and passport holders visit Europe, the same concern applies to Gibraltarians and their travels to Spain.
The following topics will be discussed in this article:
- How can I enter Gibraltar from Spain post-Brexit?
- How to proceed at the Spain-Gibraltar borderline?
- Will British citizens and travelers need a Schengen visa or ETIAS Gibraltar to visit Spain and other EU countries?
What will happen at the Spain-Gibraltar border control now?
More than 10,000 Spanish residents commute to Gibraltar every day to work. As of recently, they had the option to cross the border line simply using their ID card. Until a few weeks ago, there was no clarity on how this process would change after the Brexit transition was over.
This issue has now been resolves as Spain and the UK have signed an agreement to keep free travel to and from Gibraltar while maintaining its status as a British Overseas Territory.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said, “The fence is taken down, Gibraltar is considered a Schengen zone now, thus allowing the lifting of controls among Gibraltar and Spain.”
The economic impact of the Spain-Gibraltar border control
The economic ecosystems of both Spain and Gibraltar depend on the fast and hassle-free travel through the common border.
Spanish residents make up almost half of Gibraltar’s workforce, working at positions that may be left unfilled. A large number of Spaniards living in the Campo de Gibraltar territory in the southern province of Cadiz depend on the income from these jobs.
In addition, Gibraltar has recently become an established and sought-after travel destination. More than 10 million tourists visit Gibraltar annually, many crossing the land border from Spain. Walking through a functioning airport runway is unique experience.
Is Gibraltar now part of the Schengen Area?
The new UK-Spanish agreement states that Gibraltar will join the Schengen Area for visa-free travel and will be added to the other 26 European nations.
All 271,000 citizens residing in Gibraltar’s eight districts will be able to travel freely to Spain and other Schengen nations, and all Schengen nationals could visit Gibraltar without going through border passport checks.
Still, as the UK is not part of the Schengen Area, British residents will have to pass through border checks in order to enter Gibraltar.
This agreement is temporary and will be valid for a maximum of 4 years, as the EU is about to set up Frontex border guards to ensure free and safe travel by applying ETIAS at Gibraltar’s borders.
The Gibraltar-Spain agreement treats the British colony in a similar way as Liechtenstein, which makes use of the advantages of visa-free travel to the Schengen Area while still not being a full member of the Schengen Information System, maintained by the European Commission.
Does the UK endorse Gibraltar becoming a Schengen member?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed on social media his excitement for the post-Brexit Gibraltar deal, and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appreciated it as a “political framework” to lead towards another agreement with the EU within a 6-month timeframe.
The arrangement still doesn’t solve the Gibraltar sovereignty topic as a British colony, as Raab expressed: “We declare our support for Gibraltar and its safeguarded sovereignty.”
The arrangement on Schengen visa to enter Gibraltar
The deal between the UK and Spain envisages removing Gibraltar’s current physical borderline, known as La Verja, between La Línea in Cadiz and the British Colony.
In addition, the agreement defines the process for Gibraltar’s Schengen-related procedures: Spanish consulates and embassies will issue Schengen visas valid up to 90 days to tourists willing to visit Gibraltar. A similar process will come into place in 2022 once the ETIAS visa waiver becomes operational: Spain will be accountable for the issue and management of ETIAS Gibraltar.
Post-Brexit rules for crossing the Spain-Gibraltar border
Since Gibraltar will act as a part of the Schengen Area, Gibraltarians will travel to Spain the same way after the end of the Brexit transition.
As visa-free travel is allowed between all Schengen nations, Gibraltarians can head out to Spain with only their ID card and won’t have to show their passports at border checks.
ETIAS might be needed to enter Spain from Gibraltar
British citizens will have to apply for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) prior to entering the Schengen Area.
ETIAS – the EU’s new visa waiver system is expected to go live before the end of 2022 and will be a mandatory prerequisite for third-country citizens traveling to any of the 26 ETIAS nations.
As Gibraltar will become a member of the Schengen Area, it is almost certain that, except for Gibraltarians, UK residents will need a Gibraltar ETIAS to make a trip to Gibraltar, even before the end of 2022.
Eligible travelers can apply online for their ETIAS, which will be valid for multiple trips during up to 90 days. The ETIAS visa waiver is valid for up to 3 years, with the exception of cases when there is a name change of a traveller or the associated passport expires. Otherwise, the traveller will not be required to re-apply again.