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Brits applying for Spanish citizenship face agonizing wait

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Brits applying for Spanish citizenship face agonizing wait
Photo: alfonsodetomas/Depositphotos
12:59 CEST+02:00
Since the Brexit vote, more and more Britons resident in Spain have taken the decision to apply for Spanish citizenship, to secure their rights as a European and guarantee their future in Spain.

A new survey by EuroCitizens, an association formed by a group of UK citizens living, working and studying in Spain, questioned more than 500 British residents in Spain about their views on applying for Spanish citizenship.

Data from Spain’s Ministry of Justice, which deals with citizenship applications reveals that the number of Brits who have applied for Spanish nationality has multiplied six-fold since the June 2016 referendum.

During the whole of 2018, the ministry registered 209 applications from Britons, a huge rise on the 50 that made the application in 2015 and  it seems even more have applied during 2019. 

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Eurocitizens discovered that the main reason cited by those considering taking Spanish nationality was uncertainty over their future status in Spain after Brexit.

Some 73 percent of those respondents who have applied for Spanish nationality said they “did so to protect their rights as European and Spanish citizens”.

Half of them expressed a desire to continue working and/or studying in Spain or other EU countries, while 20 percent said they were looking for a general safeguard of their rights.

But the process of applying for Spanish citizenship is so long and drawn-out and requires renouncing British citizenship, at least symbolically, as Spain will not allow dual citizenship for Brits, that many people have been put off the idea.

For starters, Spain requires permanent residency for a minimum of ten years before Britons are eligible for Spanish citizenship, double the length of time needed for Brits living in France or EU citizens to gain settled status in the UK. 

Then even for those who qualify, the process is slow.

"Candidates have to take two exams (on  the Spanish language and general and constitutional knowledge of Spain) and complete administrative procedures in both countries, which means that it takes approximately 9 months to get the required documentation ready before making the official application," according to a statement from Eurocitizens. 

The survey revealed that 32 percent of respondents had been put off applying for Spanish nationality because they didn’t want to renounce their British citizenship and provoke “an unnecessary crisis of identity”.

For those that have applied, 40 percent who answered the survey said they had put in the application this year.

People also complained that the process seemed to grant citizenship to some applicants quicker than others, with no regard for when the application was made.

A whopping 77 percent of those who have applied in the last three years admit that they have no news as to the state of their application and when or even if it will be granted.

Camilla Hillier-Fry, Vicepresident of EuroCitizens, said Brexit and the application process had forced some people into a terrible limbo, citing the experience of her daughter.

“Isabel was born in Spain, has been educated here and has applied for Spanish nationality. When the Brexit referendum took place, she was just about to start university in Spain, and this year she will complete her degree," explains Hillier-Fry.

"She wants to do a Master’s degree in northern Europe, but has not yet been granted Spanish nationality. When she applies for the Masters course, she may have fewer chances because she is not a European citizen and if she stays out of Spain for longer than a year, she could lose her status of long-term resident. She may have to choose between her future and the country where she has made her home; it is both absurd and unjust.”

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