Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

All passengers arriving from China must now show a valid Covid-19 certificate or negative test to enter Spain, and third-country nationals without one could be denied entry.

Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China
Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP

Spain has beefed up its border rules to combat the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in China this week.

After initially saying it wouldn’t require a negative test, then quickly backtracking on that pledge and introducing visual and temperature checks on December 31st, then a negative test, it has now been confirmed that Covid-19 certificates will be required for all arrivals from the Chinese mainland and that Spanish border guards will have the right to deny entry to third-party nationals without one.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: How Spain is reacting to China’s Covid-19 spike

Since China dropped its strict zero-Covid policy three weeks ago after almost three years in place, the number of infections in the Asian superpower has spiked, with experts in the UK estimating 9,000 deaths per day as of December 30th.

The Chinese government has since allowed Chinese nationals to travel overseas, and countries around the world are concerned about the prospect of a new variant spreading and reigniting a pandemic many epidemiologists considered to be over.

According to the official state bulletin (BOE) released by the government on Wednesday, the measures are being introduced due to “a significant deterioration in the epidemiological situation regarding COVID-19 in the People’s Republic of China that coincides with the elimination of travel restrictions in this country [China], as of January 8th, 2023, and the celebration of its new year, on January 22nd.”

The period around Chinese New Year is a traditionally travel-intensive time.

“This scenario constitutes a serious epidemiological risk that makes it advisable to be extremely vigilant and to adopt preventive measures to avoid, in particular, the potential spread of possible new variants,” the BOE adds.

Given these recent developments, the Spanish Ministry of Health has decided to adopt urgent measures to keep on top of the situation.

Covid certificate checks

In a resolution established on December 30th, 2022, sanitary controls were established at the border for passengers arriving from China, consisting of “documentary, visual and temperature controls and the performance of a diagnostic test for active infections at the point of entry.”

Now, in addition, Covid certificates will be checked for “any third-country national arriving at any airport located in the Kingdom of Spain on direct flights from airports located in China,” according to the BOE.

Certificates will first be checked at the point of origin, that is, in China, and then again at the Spanish border by health workers. Certificates must include the complete EU vaccination series, or a recognised equivalent, or the negative result of a recently taken test.

Third-country nationals without either will be refused entry into Spain, with a few exceptions.


According to the BOE, “people belonging to one of the following categories will be exempted from the refusal of entry measure.”

  • Residents of the European Union; Schengen associated states; Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican, or San Marino who are en route to that country, with documentary proof.
  • Holders of a long-stay visa issued by a EU member state or a Schengen associated state travelling to that country.
  • Crews of national and international transport teams.
  • Travellers with documentary proof of force majeure or distress, or whose entry is permitted on other humanitarian grounds.
  • Minors under 12 years of age.


In terms of which vaccination certificates will be accepted, Spain is following the guidelines established in its broader pre-exisiting vaccination strategy, so: AstraZeneca/Oxford, SanofiGSK, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Pfizer/BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna/Lonza.


In the case of a diagnostic test certificates, the tests must be (NAAT), including PCR, whose sample has been obtained within 72 hours prior to departure, or antigen tests approved by the EU and obtained within 24 hours prior to departure.

Recovery certificates 

In terms of recovery certificates, Spain’s pre-existing guidelines are also being followed. A recognised certificate issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or antigen detection test, carried out by health professionals or qualified personnel, will be accepted. The certificate will then be valid for 180 days after the date of the first positive diagnostic test result, according to the guidelines.

These restrictions will be in place until February 15th, but as we’ve all learnt throughout the last few years of pandemic restricted travel, things can quickly change.

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Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

Those with Spanish citizenship are in luck because their passports are the third most powerful in the world, meaning they can travel to many different countries without the need for a visa.

Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

If you want to go on a last-minute break, it’s really only possible to countries that don’t require you to apply for a visa beforehand or issue you with a visa upon arrival. 

The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and each year it reveals the number of destinations that passport holders from around the world can access without a prior visa.

The index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations and offers all kinds of information on global mobility, ultimately revealing which passports are the most powerful. 

Each country is scored on the total number of destinations that a holder of its passport can access without a visa. For each travel destination, if a visa is not required, they receive a score of one. This also applies if holders are able to obtain a visa on arrival, visitor permit or electronic travel authorisation (ETA) upon entry.

The rankings for 2023 show that Spain, along with Germany, is in joint third place, meaning that Spanish passport holders can visit a total of 191 countries without needing a visa.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is second favourite country for Americans to move to

In joint first place are Japan and Singapore whose passport holders can visit a total of 193 countries without requiring a visa.

They are closely followed by South Korea in second place, whose passport holders can visit a total of 192 countries.

After Spain and Germany, there are several European countries on the list. Those from Finland, Italy and Luxembourg come in fourth place, able to visit 189 destinations, while those from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden come in fifth place able to visit 188 destinations.

These are followed by passports from France, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom in sixth place, allowing them to visit 188 countries without a visa.

According to the rankings, only 17 percent of countries give their passport holders access to more than 80 percent of the world without a visa.

The three countries with the least powerful passports are Afghanistan whose holders can only visit 27 countries without the need for a visa, Iraq with a score of 29 and Syria with a score of 30.