Spanish citizenship test handbook riddled with ‘unfortunate’ errors

The preparation handbook for the 2022 Spanish citizenship exam listed Mariano Rajoy as still being prime minister and that the death penalty is part of Spanish law.

Spanish citizenship test handbook riddled with 'unfortunate' errors
The CCSE test, which costs 85€, consists of 25 multiple choice questions which must be answered within a set time limit of 45 minutes to test your knowledge of Spain. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The Cervantes Institute, the public cultural institution that organises language and citizenship exams, said the errors in the preparation handbook published on November 29th were due to a “computer glitch”, El País reported. The Institute said it had since corrected the mistakes.

Rajoy hasn’t been prime minister of Spain since 2018, and the death penalty was banned in 1978.

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The handbook is given to applicants who prepare for the citizenship test (known as CCSE), which they must pass, along with a language test, in order to qualify for Spanish nationality.

The CCSE test, which costs 85€, consists of 25 multiple choice questions which must be answered within a set time limit of 45 minutes to test your knowledge of Spain.

Fifteen of the questions are designed to test your knowledge of Spain’s government, legislation and rights of the citizen while the remaining ten are concerned with Spanish culture, history and society. 

Some questions are multiple-choice with three possible answers, while others must be answered with true or false. 

Twelve of the 300 questions in the preparation handbook had errors, many of which anyone with a basic knowledge of Spanish society would detect. It included falsely indicating that public education is not free, and that driving licences are issued by the police and not issued by the traffic authority, Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT), as is the case.

Among the most shocking errors was a question indicating that the right answer to “The current prime minister is…”, was  “Mariano Rajoy”, instead of “Pedro Sánchez”.

Another multiple-choice question indicated that the right answer to “The Spanish Constitution is…” was “a secondary law”, instead of “an essential law”.

The Cervantes Institute told El País that errors were caused by the fact that the questions were changed, but the computer programme failed to change the answers from the previous test.

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The Cervantes Institute described it as “an unfortunate mistake”, and admitted that it might affect people who have taken the test recently. The test is corrected automatically, which means it could penalise applicants who checked the “right” answer according to the handbook.

A group called Legalteam based in Barcelona that provides advice on citizenship issues noticed the mistakes and posted several examples of the errors on its website.

“We have observed that many questions have the wrong answers and at Legalteam we have corrected them because the answers that appear in the official manual are incorrect,” Legalteam wrote on its website on December 2nd.

“If you notice any wrong answers, please tell us so we can correct the manual and let the Institute Cervantes know.”

According to El País, the Institute said the errors had been fixed by experts who checked the handbook’s answers “one by one”.

However, it has raised questions about how such obvious errors were able to go unnoticed before the handbook was published.

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Far-right Vox aims to toughen Spanish citizenship laws

Spain's far-right Vox party has proposed a bill in the Spanish Congress that would see citizenship through residency take 15 years instead of ten, a move reportedly targeting North African migrants but which would affect other foreigners.

Far-right Vox aims to toughen Spanish citizenship laws
Leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal (2L) want to make it harder for some foreigners to get Spanish nationality. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Far-right party Vox are trying to make the process of acquiring Spanish nationality more difficult. 

In a bill presented to the Congress of Deputies this week, Vox leader Santiago Abascal claimed that the proposals are intended to guard Spanish nationality like a “treasure”,  in response to an increase in nationalised citizens in recent years.

The proposals include increasing the required period of residency from ten to 15 years, banning nationality applications from those with criminal records either in Spain or their country of origin, expect higher language standards proven through official certificates, and ensuring that people give up their other nationalities. 

Spain already doesn’t allow dual nationality in most cases but Vox wants to make it compulsory for citizenship applicants to “present a public document issued by the authorities of their country of origin that certifies the loss of the previous nationality”.

There’s also already the requirement of sitting a language exam but to pass only an A2 is needed, the second lowest level in the DELE Spanish language classification.

In addition, Abascal’s party wants it to be possible to revoke the Spanish nationality of those who have it by birth but not blood (currently not possible according to the constitution) if they commit any number of crimes.

It takes most foreigners in Spain on average twice as long to be eligible for Spanish nationality through residency than in other EU countries (ten years as opposed to five), the application process is long and arduous (it can take up to two years) and for the majority of foreign nationals it means having to theoretically give up their own nationality to become only Spanish. 

However, this ten-year period is reduced to five for refugees, and two years for nationals from the Ibero-American space: Portugal, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and twelve Latin American nations: Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Colombia.

Overall, Vox’s aim is to ensure the ius sanguinis (“right of blood”) is always greater than the ius solis (“right of land”), so that lineage prevails over the place of birth when obtaining nationality.

Yet Vox’s proposals do not intend to alter the arrangements for Latin Americans and these other nationals of the Ibero-American space, something which has led El País and other Spanish media to suggest the proposed bill is in fact directed at migrants from North Africa, in particular Morocco and Algeria. 

In his speech in Spain’s lower house, Abascal claimed the bill aims to eradicate “fraudulent practices of acquisition of Spanish nationality” and comes in response, he claimed, to an increase in nationalised foreigners in recent years. “Spain is a country with an open immigration policy,” he said. 

According to statistics cited in the bill, since 2017 there has been a 53 percent increase in the number of foreign residents who have acquired Spanish nationality.

The bill will particularly affect those of Moroccan origin, who made up 25.6 percent of the 455,132 foreigners who obtained Spanish nationality by residence between 2016-2020. 60 percent of successful citizenship applications during this period were from EU or Latin American nationals.

If the proposals pass consideration in the Congress, North Africans and other non-EU nationals could face a wait of up to 17 years to obtain nationality, as the naturalisation process often takes two or three years to complete.

Abascal’s language in Congress implicitly suggested as much, and was tinged with racial undertones. The reforms to nationality law would, he said, ensure that Spain doesn’t “give it [nationality] away to just anyone.”

But the employment of such language – subtle or otherwise – is nothing new for Vox. In the Murcia regional Parliament  (the southern region where Vox had its national breakthrough in the November 2019 general election) Vox recently passed legislation to sanction officials who use so-called ‘inclusive language’ that isn’t considered in line with Spanish grammatical norms. 

Supported by the Partido Popular, the sanctions are, according to Vox member Juan José Liarte, necessary because “the language that they insist on calling inclusive should be called manipulative and revolutionary,” but has been described as an attack on LGBTQ+ and minority groups.

This comes as regional governments in Murcia, Andalucía and Madrid hope to legislate against the use of inclusive language in school textbooks from September. 


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