Travel and Leave Spain if You are Under an Irregular Status

traveling outside Spain under an illegal status

Many foreigners are in Spain in an irregular situation, without a valid residence and work permit. Whether it is because their residence permit expired and they could not renew it, or because they entered as tourists and are waiting for the arraigo, that is for sure a common situation.

And most of them ask themselves the same questions about the possibility of traveling outside Spain while they are in an illegal situation. Is it possible to do it? Is there any risk or sanction associated? Will I be able to return to Spain in the future? Can I travel within the Spanish territory?

In this article, you will find all the answers you need. Make sure to read to the very end, as leaving Spain if you are in an irregular situation may involve important risks that you should be aware of (and that you will discover in detail here).

The first thing we must clearly state is that you will not encounter any kind of problem if you decide to leave Spain while in an irregular situation (for example to return to your country of origin).

That is a voluntary departure, and the police will not stop you at the airport.

That is to say, leaving Spanish territory to return to your country of origin when you are in an irregular situation does NOT imply any fine or sanction. Nor does it imply a prohibition of entry.

You can do it freely.

Whether you can travel or not will depend on the rules of the destination country, since Spain will not obstruct your exit in any way.

Returning to your country of origin, therefore, would never be a problem (since you are a national of that country).

But to travel to any other country you must check the requirements of that country (unless it is a country of the Schengen Area, which later in this post we will expand more on how the situation changes).

In that sense, if the country you are traveling to requires a visa, your application will most likely be denied because you are in an irregular situation in Spain.

But be very careful.

On the other hand, it is true that on certain occasions your passport may be stamped as you have been illegally in Spain. This is not very common, but it can happen from time to time.

And if that happens, you will possibly face certain problems when trying to re-enter Spain, and that is what we analyze in the following section.

Can I come back to Spain if I left under an illegal status?

As we have already mentioned, you will not have any problem leaving Spain while in an irregular situation. No fines or sanctions.

But in cases where your passport is stamped as you have been in an irregular situation, you could have problems when trying to enter back.

Because the authorities are aware of your irregular status (thanks to the stamp), it is possible that you will have a much more difficult time re-entering or requesting a short-stay visa (Schengen visa as a tourist).

That is to say, on the one hand, it could be that your application for a tourist visa to Spain is rejected because there is a risk that you will again remain in an irregular situation.

And, on the other hand, if your country does not require a visa to enter Spanish territory, you could be denied entry once you arrive at the Spanish borders because of this stamp in your passport.

Therefore, if you are waiting to get your arraigo, our recommendation is that you do not leave the country; since this departure could make it impossible for you to re-enter.

Logically, in order to be able to come back if you have left Spain in an irregular situation, applying for a regular residence permit from your country of origin would be the solution.

And this would not be possible if you have an expulsion order or entry ban.

Can you travel within Spain without a valid residence permit?

We have already seen that although it is possible to leave Spain, doing so could compromise a possible return to the country in the future.

But, what about traveling WITHIN the Spanish territory, is there any risk in doing so if I am in an irregular situation?

If we analyze what the law says, you are actually NOT allowed to move within Spain, since the right to free movement within Spanish borders is just granted to Spanish nationals and foreigners with a valid residence permit.

However, the reality is quite different, and as you may already know, moving within Spain is something quite simple for which you will not encounter any border control.

Whether by bus, plane, or car, you will be able to move and travel within Spain even if you are in an irregular situation.

However, what you should be careful with is a possible police control that asks for your documents (something often independent of the crossing from one region to another).

As we saw in this post about the expulsion criteria of foreigners in Spain, if the police stop you and you can’t demonstrate you possess valid documents, that could be one of the reasons for an expulsion order and sanction.

Therefore, our recommendation if you are in an irregular situation is to try to control your movements as much as possible and try to get residency in the country.

Can I travel through Europe if I don't have a valid permit in Spain?

As you may already know, Spain is one of the countries within the Schengen area, formed by most of the European countries.

One of the advantages of this large territory is the free movement or circulation of people between the countries that are part of it. That is to say, to go from Spain to France, for example, there are no border controls.

In fact, when you apply for a tourist visa to enter Spain (also known as a Schengen visa) you are applying for a visa that allows you to enter this area in general (although more specifically you enter through Spain).

What does this mean?

First of all, while being in an irregular situation you can travel in Europe, as you will most likely not find any control that asks you to be documented or requires residency in Spain.

However, you must be very careful with this. Because the immigration laws of each country are different, and in some countries, the corresponding authorities CAN issue an expulsion order if when you leave the country they detect that you were in an irregular situation (or even stop you more frequently to do a routinary control).

Therefore, our recommendation is that you avoid traveling in Europe if you are in an irregular situation to steer clear of any kind of problem.

If you have any doubts or would like to receive personalized advice from our expert immigration lawyers, please contact us below.

Get in touch with our lawyers and let us guide you step by step:

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traveling outside Spain under an illegal status

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