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BREXIT

Everything you need to know about getting Spanish citizenship

As Brexit edges closer has more and more British nationals are considering the option of Spanish nationality. Here is how to do it.

Everything you need to know about getting Spanish citizenship
Photo: CoffeTableArtStuff/Flickr

Becoming a Spanish citizen currently requires giving up your nationality and passport unless you are from a nation recognized as a former colony of Spain. (Although if, for example, you are British, the UK authorities allow dual nationality so will still consider you a British subject).

If you are considering Spanish citizenship, here's how to do it.

Nationality via residence 

This form of requiring nationality requires the person concerned to have been a legal resident of Spain for an uninterrupted period of ten years immediately prior to the application.

An application for Spanish citizenship must be made to the Ministry of Justice, who can refuse it on grounds of public order or national interest.

To apply for Spanish nationality you require your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), a certificate of good conduct from the police in your country of origin, all of which must be officially translated into Spanish.

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Once you have been approved, you have to swear your loyalty to the King and promise to obey the Spanish constitution and laws. 

You will also have to present certificates from the Cervantes Institute proving you have passed a language test (DELE) and a cultural knowledge multiple choice exam (CCSE). Of which more later.

Marriage


Photo: Alagich Katya/Flickr.

One way to drastically shorten the waiting time to gain Spanish nationality is to be married to a Spaniard.

If you have been married to a Spaniard for at least one year, you can apply for Spanish nationality, also via the Ministry of Justice.

You have to still be married to a Spaniard upon application, no separated or divorced people need apply. 

Widows and widowers of Spaniards can also immediately apply for Spanish citizenship. 

Spanish parents 

You can apply for Spanish nationality if one or both of your parents or grandparents is Spanish, even if they were born outside of Spain. 

Conversely you can also apply for citizenship if you were born in Spain to foreign parents. 

Again, you need to apply through the Justice ministry.

Sephardic Jewish?

If you happen to be able to prove that you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry, then you can apply for Spanish citizenship, even if you are not a resident in Spain. The law approved in 2015 is open to Jewish and non-Jewish people of Sephardic origin, provided that they can prove their Sephardic origin and a special connection with Spain. 

More details on how to apply can be found here.

Pass the citizenship test

Since October 2015, those applying for citizenship in Spain are required to pass a test to prove their Spanish language skills and how well they have integrated into Spain – an issue that has caused its fair share of controversy. 

More information on the test can be found here.

Take our test to see if you know enough to gain Spanish citizenship. 

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All official information on applying for Spanish citizenship can be found on Spain's Justice Ministry website.

Dual Nationality

Spain doesn't recognise dual nationality (unless you are from a Spanish-American country, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal, or are of Sephardic Jewish origins).

All others will have to renounce your previous nationality. In practice this means signing a form rather than physically handing over your old passport. 

But you will lose your Spanish citizenship if you reside abroad and take up another nationality (or use your old nationality) for more than three years, unless within that three-year period you declare to the Civil Registry your will to keep Spanish nationality.

How much does it cost? 

Spain charges a non-refundable fee to process your citizenship application, which varies and can range from €60–€100 even if your application is rejected.

Fees may also apply to issue certificates and documents required for your application.

Add to that the cost of the Cervantes test (€125) the citizenship test (€85) and the cost of translating your documents and you are looking at well over €300.

How long will it take?

The process is handled by the Justice Ministry which is notoriously backed up. Recent data showed that there was huge backlog of citizenship applications waiting to be processed, more than 400,000 according to El Pais.

People who applied in 2017 are still waiting…

For more information: 

Are you thinking about becoming a Spanish citizen? We want to hear your views. Send us an email, comment below or join the discussion on our facebook page.

Quiz: Can you pass the Spanish citizenship test?

 

 

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For members

SPANISH CITIZENSHIP

Descendants of International Brigades can get fast-track Spanish nationality

Spain will give the descendants of International Brigade fighters who fought fascism during the Civil War an expressway to Spanish citizenship and dual nationality, with people from the UK, the US and many other countries eligible.

Descendants of International Brigades can get fast-track Spanish nationality

Descendants

The children and grandchildren of fighters who fought for the International Brigades during Spain’s Civil War will be able to acquire Spanish citizenship – and won’t have to give up their other nationality in order to do so.

The fighters themselves have been able to apply for Spanish citizenship since 1996, though they were required to drop their other nationality. Spain’s 2007 Historical Memory Law removed that requirement, though the offer of citizenship was not extended to their descendants.

There was confusion in 2020 when Spain’s then deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias tweeted that descendants of International Brigade fighters would be included in legislation, but when the final legal text appeared, it confirmed that the proposal did not stretch to descendants and only included the International Brigade veterans themselves. 

Now Spain’s new Democratic Memory Law, which passed the Spanish Senate on October 5th and officially became law on October 21st, finally extends the citizenship offer to descendants who can get Spanish nationality without losing theirs.

They will even be able to do it through the fast-tracked naturalisation process – seen as the expressway to Spanish citizenship and used by public figures such as Barcelona footballer Ansu Fati and actress Imperio Argentina.

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According to the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI), a group involved with drafts of the legislation, there are at least one hundred known descendants that have been identified so far. They come from around the world, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Cuba, the former Yugoslavia, Argentina, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

As there are so few descendants of international brigade fighters, however, many view their inclusion in the citizenship legislation as a symbolic gesture that is part of the Democratic Memory Law’s efforts to settle historical debts with the past.

Though the legislation does extend citizenship, it’s not thought that a flood of applications will follow. “There will be no avalanche, it is a symbolic measure that has a purely sentimental importance for the relatives of the fighters,” the AABI explained to Spanish news website Newtral.es.

Participants wave republican flags during a 2015 march called by the Friends of International Brigades Association to commemorate the involvement of the International Brigades in the Battle of Jarama during the Spanish Civil War. (Photo by CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP)

The International Brigades

Between 1936 and 1939 at least 35,000 international volunteers from around 50 countries, including around 2,500 Brits, fought against Francisco Franco’s fascist troops in the International Brigade during the Civil War. An estimated 10,000 foreign volunteers died in Spain, according to the Spanish Civil War Museum. 

The British novelist George Orwell, who fought with a Communist regiment of the Republican army during the war, described in gory detail the sacrifices of the International Brigades in his seminal work ‘Homage to Catalonia’.

READ ALSO: Remembering the Battle of Jarama and the role of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War

citizenship international brigades spain

Anti-fascist demonstration in London reported on the front page of Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia on September 11, 1936. Photo: Dorieus/ Wikipedia (CC BY SA 4.0)

What is Spain’s Democratic Memory Law?

The citizenship offer is part of the broader Democratic Memory Law that aims to “settle Spanish democracy’s debt to its past” and deal with the legacy of its Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship.

READ ALSO: Spain’s new ‘grandchildren’ citizenship law: What you need to know

In recent weeks, the Spanish government confirmed that as many as 700,000 foreigners with Spanish lineage are eligible Spanish citizenship without having ever lived in the country, including those with ancestors who fled Spain for fear of persecution during Franco’s dictatorship.

Between the end of the Civil War in 1939, and 1978, when Spain’s new constitution was approved as part of its transition to democracy, an estimated 2 million Spaniards fled the Franco regime.

Controversy

Legislation concerning Spain’s dictatorial past is always controversial, and this law was no different – it passed the Spanish Senate earlier in October with 128 votes in favour, 113 against, and 18 abstentions.

The Spanish right have long been opposed to any kind of historical memory legislation, claiming that it digs up old rivalries and causes political tension. Spain’s centre-right party, the PP, have promised to overturn the law if it wins the next general election.

READ ALSO: Spain’s lawmakers pass bill honouring Franco-era victims

Other aspects of the law include the establishment of a DNA register to help families identify the remains of the tens of thousands of Spaniards were buried in unmarked graves; the repurposing of the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, where Francisco Franco was buried until his exhumation in 2019; and a ban on groups that glorify the Franco regime.

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