Saturday, April 4, 2009

True stories of Americans being deported from Spain

A lot of my friends -- especially my Spanish ones -- thought I was being paranoid when I made the decision to leave Madrid last fall. They didn't believe it was possible for a North American to be deported, despite the growing crackdown on sin papeles in Spain. I understood where they were coming from, since none of us had ever known an American who was sent home by the police in Spain (though I did know an Australian and an American who were caught in other EU countries). But since I was living in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood, I witnessed first-hand the increased pressure on immigrants in Madrid. There were random ID checks, usually as people came out of the Metro station at night, and several of the immigrant families in my own building had mysteriously disappeared. While I also believed it was unlikely I would ever really have problems, I knew that the possibility did exist, and the consequences were far too great to ignore.

It now seems my paranoia was justified. In February, there were reports that the police in certain parts of Madrid had to meet a weekly quota for the detention of illegal immigrants. Around the same time, they reported that the number of illegal immigrants thrown out of Valencia had doubled in the past year. My Spanish friend told me there was also talk of fining any legal residents of Spain who lived with or rented flats to illegals. And yet, we always believed that the illegal Americans, Canadians, etc. would probably not be affected by any of this. For the most part, it's probably true, and it's unlikely that a clean-cut English teacher is going to be asked for ID on the streets of Madrid. But one wrong move, or one unlucky circumstance that draws attention to you from the authorities, and it could be game over...

If you're not convinced, check out this recent article from European Vibe:

Of particular importance is the end of the second-to-last paragraph, where it states:
"If the [deportation] papers are processed however, then he’s banished from the European continent for six to nine years!"

Think about it. That's a VERY long time. Anyone who's willing to take the risk to live illegally in Spain must have some sort of strong attachment to the place, or to someone who lives there, or to Europe in general. So imagine not being able to visit that person or that place for six to nine years. It's incomprehensible. And that's why I decided to follow the old mantra of "Better safe than sorry". I miss Spain. A lot. And at times I have the urge to hop on a plane and go back there and give it another go. But the thought that I could be banned from the country and continent I love so much -- and of which I still have much to explore -- is what keeps me grounded. I'll get back there someday -- but not unless I can be legal.


Yasmine said...


I appreciate you writing this entry. I was just deported from Spain a few days ago and I didn't think that was possible since I'm an American citizen. Right now I have an appointment with the Spanish embassy in San Francisco on January 6th. I'm not sure if I was technically deported or if I wasn't admitted entry or if it means the same thing. I had 11 days left on my tourist visa but since I didn't have a return ticket they decided to deport me. I can't imagine being banned from Spain for that long. I really fell in love with that country. Are you sure about that banishment rule??


musica said...

Hi Yasmine,

Thanks for sharing. I'm so sorry to hear that this happened. I completely understand falling in love with Spain and wanting to stay there. I think it's important, however, for people to see that it's a very real threat for Americans to be deported or rejected entry into Spain and other EU countries.

My understanding about the 5-year ban is that it applies to people who are forced to leave the country. From what I've read, an illegal immigrant, if caught, is given the chance to voluntarily leave the country. If they refuse, they can be detained and then forced to leave (i.e., put on a plane by the police/government). My guess is that since you left "voluntarily", you won't have any problems. Did they put any sort of stamp in your passport?

At any rate, the Spanish Embassy should be able to help you clear this up. Please keep us updated on what happens.

Good luck!

Amma said...

I have a question for the author of this blog. You said you were leaving Madrid but I am confused because you said you were deported by the police. What happened? Were you just reprimanded by the border people or found on a Madrid street an detained for deportation? I am trying to help my friend here who overstayed his tourist visa welcome and is leaving Spain soon. Not sure what will happen to him when he shows his passport. Dude had stayed in Spain for 5 extra months.

musica said...

Hi Amma,

First, let me clarify. I was not deported - I left Spain on my own. One of the other commenters on the blog was denied entry back into Spain because she didn't have a return ticket, but that's not the same as deportation.

I did have a similar situation to your friend once - in my case, I had been in Spain for several months past my 90-day tourist visa. When I caught my return flight home, I was questioned at the airport, but since I was leaving Spain, and I hadn't been working at the time, they just let me go.

My guess is that your friend will be fine if he has his ticket to leave Spain. A lot of Americans are unclear on the rules - I thought for my first couple years that I could keep renewing my 90 days by leaving Spain for a day, because that's what others told me. The truth was I had to leave for 90 days! But so many people are unclear about it that I'm sure they see plenty of Americans leaving a few months late....

littleBritMore said...

How about you research the rules of the country before you go. Merely assuming that because you love the place and wish to stay, is not how it works....also assuming that because you are American/ educated/have a job or finances means the laws don't apply to you, is naive at best.