I'm a United States citizen who returned from a trip to Spain this summer. The purpose of my trip was to take a Spanish course in Malaga. Allow me to explain my circumstances.

When I arrived at Madrid Bajaras on May 30, I mistakenly exited the airport security zone and had to re-enter. I was looking for a hotel and accidentally left the zone of the airport where my connecting flight to Malaga would depart from. When I attempted to enter the security zone again, the IO asked why I had an entry and exit stamp from the same day. I explained that I was lost in the airport looking for the Air Room Madrid Hotel. He reluctantly stamped my passport and allowed me to enter. From there I went to the hotel to sleep for a few hours before my connecting flight to Malaga, and I arrived safely and remained in Malaga without any issues.

The problem occurred when I left Spain from Malaga airport on July 14. The IO examined my passport and asked why I had two stamps from the same day, and I tried my best to explain in Spanish that I got lost in the Bajaras Airport looking for the hotel. (It's located in the basement.) He proceeded to question me about the purpose of my trip. I explained I was a student at a school in Malaga, and he asked me for a student identification card. I told him that I did not have an identification card because the Spanish Consulate website said U.S. citizens are not required to obtain a student visa or an identification card to study for fewer than 90 days. He insisted that schools give cards to foreign students.

The entire process was a nightmare because I was trying my best to speak to the IO in Spanish as best as I could because he didn't speak English, but his accent and rate of speech made me uncomfortable. After the line of questioning, the IO told me that I could not return to Spain until I bring him proof that I was a student, and he was insistent on an identification card. However, the only documents I possess from the school are a certificate of completion from the director, an attendance sheet with my grades for the class, coursework and a textbook from the class. The only thing I had in my hand luggage was the textbook, and I understand why that is insufficient proof. The good thing is I don't have a giant X or other mark on my passport.

I've contacted the Spanish Embassy in Houston through e-mail and explained all of this, and they simply told me that if it's true that I stayed fewer than 90 days in Spain, I could return to the country without a problem. However, their response didn't reassure me about returning to Spain because I'm afraid I've been banned from the country. The reason I'm asking is because one day I would like to continue traveling to Europe, and I'm nervous that I've been placed in the Schengen Information System for a violation. I'm planning a trip to Italy next summer as a tourist, and I'm afraid that I'll be denied entry at the border for what happened to me in Spain.

Based on this information, I hope someone would be willing to provide an educated guess to the following questions:

  1. Are certificates of completion, attendance, and coursework enough to prove I was a student at a language school in Malaga to Spanish authorities?

  2. Would I have difficulties entering another Schengen country because of my experience in Spain?

Thank you.

  • 1
    As far as I understand you don't even have to prove that you were a student at a language school. As a US citizen you are allowed to visit any EU country/-ies for whatever reason for no longer than 90 days in any 180 consecutive days. So it doesn't matter whether you studied at language school or just relaxed on a sand beach drinking sangria.
    – Neusser
    Dec 28, 2017 at 23:26
  • 7
    Unrelated, I'm not quite sure I understand your itinerary at Madrid airport. You should have seen an IO (and thus be stamped) only once, when getting out of the international arrivals zone and entering the Schengen area. Flying to Malaga, you would have only entered the secure zone (so security checks), but not the international departures zone, so no immigration/passport control. The hotel is landside. I understand that some Schengen countries have additional passport controls these days, but they're usually on arrivals only, so I'm a bit puzzled.
    – jcaron
    Dec 28, 2017 at 23:43

1 Answer 1

  1. More than probably, yes. A certificate of completion with a stamped date will for sure be enough information to prove you were there, and you took a course there. They will only have to call, at best, to make sure the certificate is legit.

  2. Request your summer Schengen tourist visa as soon as you can. if you receive it, it means you're clear to enter the country, and any other Schengen country. You might be in the SIS and be questioned on the prior issues if they're registered, but you can't be denied entry with a valid visa.

  3. Learn enough Italian / Spanish to request an English speaking border agent if things get complicated.If both countries operate the same way (I'm from Spain, been to Italy thrice), they'll both be slightly reluctant to do so, but will comply in the end.


Unlike the USA and Russia, whom I know provide no data on it, not even to their own citizens, European countries must adhere to the European General Data Protection Act. It basically means you, as citizen, whether EU or not, have some rights in terms of accessing your information (and correcting it if necessary). Long story short, you can contact a SIS official representative on your country and request him to notify you of your status. It would be very strange that they would refuse to do it.

The only big downside is the possibility of them sending every document they have on you, and that means you could get a 200-page .pdf or printed folder. (If you request your Facebook data under the act, for example, you can get up to 10 A4 paper boxes of printed documents).

What is the procedure for requesting access to personal data in the SIS? If you believe your personal information has been misused, needs to be corrected or deleted, you can request access to and rectification of your data. If you are a third-country national you can address your request to the consulate of any Schengen State. If you are a citizen of a Schengen State you can either address your request directly to the competent national authority responsible for the issuance of the alert or indirectly to the national Data Protection Authority.

Guidelines on the national procedures for access requests have been compiled by the national Data Protection Authorities.

Although it directly refers to any Schengen consulate, if the Spanish or Italian consulates don't answer you, you also have the SIS data protection Third country (non EU; non Candidate) contacts:


  • Can US citizens get Schengen tourist visas? My understanding is that if you're eligible to enter Schengen visa-free then you're ineligible for a visa. This is unlike, for example, the UK, where you might want to apply for one in this sort of situation.
    – Joe Malt
    Dec 18, 2019 at 21:49
  • @JoeMalt: You'd still need a visa if you wanted to tourist for longer than the time limit for visa-free trips.
    – Vikki
    Mar 6, 2022 at 3:44
  • @Vikki That's not true. There's no such thing as a long-term Schengen tourist visa and no way of getting around the 90/180 rule if you're just a tourist. If you want to stay longer in the Schengen Area than 90/180 days, you must have a study visa, work visa, permanent residence or similar. Jan 31 at 12:15

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