EU: Expert discusses coronavirus impact on Schengen area
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After the UK left the EU last year and the Brexit transition period ended, British nationals were regarded as third country citizens by Brussels. Britons saw their freedom of movement within the 27-member trading bloc come to an end. UK travellers may still visit the Schengen Area without a visa but are limited to stays of up to 90 days during a 180-day period. The Schengen Area is designed to do away with passport and border controls for the zone’s 26 member states.
The group of countries signed up to Schengen is slightly different to the EU’s 27 member states.
One of the Schengen countries where the 90-day rule now applies to Britons is Spain, which attracts millions of UK travellers each year.
Maura Hillen, a legal expert in the country, told Express.co.uk how the authorities there were implementing the EU’s 90-day rule.
The Irish expat, who has lived in Spain for 14 years, and has campaigned for the rights of British expats, is the spokesperson of the property association ‘Abusos Urbanísticos Andalucía No’.
She warned that Britons who don’t have Spanish residency who overstay their welcome could now be given “marching orders” to return to the UK because of the EU’s 90-day stay rule, and that repeat offenders can even be detained.
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In Spain, overstaying is considered a serious breach of the law, which can result in fines of up to €10,000 (£8,462), a ban from the Schengen Area for six months to five years, and even expulsion from the country.
Ms Hillen said the punishments were “dependent on the circumstances” of where and when Britons are found to have broken the 90-day limit.
She said: “It depends on if you’re in the airport or if they pick you up in a town where they know you can get a flight, they might give you 24 hours to get out of the country.
“But otherwise, if they know you need to travel to actually reach a port, they might give you three or four days to leave the country or if there’s extenuating circumstances, they can give you longer.
“But if you’re a repeat offender or if you’re not very compliant, I believe they do have the power to put you in a detention centre.”
As well as holidaymakers, the 90-day rule also affects Britons travelling to Spain with the intention of settling permanently in the country and obtaining residency.
Earlier this year it was reported that some Britons who had residency applications rejected had been given just 15 days to leave the country.
The Local Spain spoke to Anne Hérnandez, the head of citizen help group Brexpats in Spain about the issue.
At the time she said had not heard of the 15-day deadline, but that British expats had been in touch about the issue.
She added that she knew of “several cases” in the Málaga area on the Costa del Sol, but did not know the exact numbers.
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Ms Hillen told Express.co.uk: “It depends on your circumstances. It depends on the humour of the particular border official on the day.”
The expert said her friend, a retired border official, had also suggested the Spanish authorities may take a subjective approach in their application of the law.
She said: “If you have a legitimate reason for overstaying they might say ‘make sure you get back to your home country within the next three days’ and they may not put a note on your record.”
The expert added that, although the authorities have the power to detain Britons who overstay their welcome, it is “not really an option that they would go for”.
Britons can appeal against rejected residency applications via two avenues, each of which has to be completed within a month.
Ms Hillen said: “I have heard of instances where people were already residents here, but their residency applications were rejected when they applied for residency, perhaps because they lived so far under the radar, they couldn’t prove they’ve lived here.
“In those circumstances if you’re already in the country and your residency is turned down, you’re given a period of time to appeal.
“If the appeal is turned down, then I do understand that you’re given your marching orders to return to your own country within a particular time period.”
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