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SPANISH CITIZENSHIP

Seven reasons to get Spanish nationality (and four not to)

If you’re a long-term resident in Spain, the question of taking Spanish nationality might have crossed your mind. So what are the pros and cons of acquiring Spanish citizenship through residency according to a foreign resident who has done just that?

Seven reasons to get Spanish nationality (and four not to)
Overall, the pros of becoming Spanish outweigh the cons, but you will have to live in Spain a long time before you can get citizenship. Photo: Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The real and complete answer is extremely personal and complex. Nothing is certain in today’s roller-coaster times. And changing your nationality isn’t a step to take lightly.

It also takes time to obtain. However, to help you make a considered decision and to provide food for thought, Costa del Sol resident Joanna Styles outlines seven reasons why it’s worth taking Spanish nationality and four why it may not be.

Seven reasons FOR taking Spanish nationality:

1. You want freedom of movement

An advantage that many non-resident UK nationals in Spain are well aware of is that since Brexit they no longer enjoy the freedom of movement to live and work across the EU/EEA, having lost their EU citizenship.

Gaining Spanish nationality will give you plenty of choice and freedom in this regard, as becoming Spanish also means enjoying greater rights to live, work and travel where you please across 27 Member States, without having to worry about overstaying under the 90 in 180 days Schengen rule.

The Spanish passport is also one of the most ‘powerful’ in the word, allowing for visa-free travel to 190 different countries.

2. You don’t want to worry about time spent outside Spain

If you’re a naturalised Spanish citizen with a Spanish passport and ID, border officials are not going to keep tabs on your absences from Spain. 

Logically, if you’re thinking of applying for Spanish nationality, the idea is that you do so because you’re going to be in Spain long term. But at least you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t lose the right to return if you have to leave Spain for some time.

Only foreigners who are not of Spanish origin but achieve nationality through naturalisation and who for a period of three years use their previous nationality (which they were supposed to have given up) risk losing their Spanish nationality.

 3. Spanish nationality is cheap and easy to renew

The price for applying for Spanish nationality is 104.05 € in 2022.

Spanish nationality documents (ID card and passport) do need renewal every 10 years, which on paper sounds time-consuming. But all you do is book an appointment at your nearest National Police station (and the online booking service works a treat), go along at your designated time and your documents are renewed in a few minutes. And it’s cheap – €12 for an ID card and €30 for a passport.

4. You want to vote

A sometimes inevitable part of a foreigner’s life in Spain is no participation or say in who governs your adopted country. Foreigners often find themselves in a voting limbo – how many Britons in Spain who had been living here for more than 15 years found they weren’t allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum? And they can’t vote in general elections in Spain either.   

This voting limbo changes when you take Spanish nationality and are permitted to vote in all the elections held in Spain. There is a disadvantage to this – Spanish nationals are obliged by law to do electoral duty if they’re picked in the random draw.

Electoral duty involves spending the entire Sunday at the voting station and staying for hours afterwards while you count the votes. It’s hugely difficult to get out of as well – barring death or very advanced pregnancy, it’s compulsory unless you pay a large fine (think several thousand euros). I’ve done my bit once and I have my fingers well crossed not to be called again.

5. You want easier paperwork

As any foreign resident in Spain will tell you, Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously fussy and time-consuming. While it has improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, becoming Spanish and having a Spanish ID card complete with microchip can make a difference, especially when it comes to legal processes. This means that if you get into trouble with the law, there’s no risk of you being kicked out of the country.

It’s also worth noting that you won’t have to go to the trouble of renewing your residency documents, proving earnings, time spent in Spain or any other requirement that foreigners can be asked for.

6. You want to give Spanish nationality and residency to family

If you’re a Spanish national your children under 18 have the option of obtaining Spanish nationality through patria potestad (parental rights), which isn’t subject to the same long periods of residency in Spain that most foreigners have to abide by for nationality through naturalisation.

If your spouse is not an EU citizen, they can also obtain residency in Spain easily because they’re married to a Spanish citizen and they won’t have to meet other stricter work or visa requirements. After a year, they can also apply for Spanish nationality.

It can also prove easier to grant Spanish residency to other family members such as parents or parents in law. 

7. You want to be a proper part of it

One of the main drawbacks of the life of a foreigner in Spain is that you’re a little bit out on a limb in terms of taking a full part in life in your chosen country. There’s definitely a sort of temporary status to being a so-called ‘expat’ and one way of making this more permanent is to adopt the country’s nationality.

After taking Spanish nationality and going ‘truly native’, I certainly feel more part of it, although at the same time, there are things about life here that I will never quite get or agree with. But maybe that’s because despite your new passport, deep down you’re always foreign.

On a light-hearted note, an additional advantage is that you’re more justified than ever to complain about life in Spain without getting disapproving looks from Spaniards. Once you’re Spanish, you have a legitimate excuse!

Four reasons for NOT taking Spanish nationality:

1. You don’t speak Spanish or know the culture

To obtain Spanish nationality you need to have a good level of the language and a pretty comprehensive understanding of Spanish culture. You need both of these because the process of becoming Spanish involves a formal exam with 25 multiple-choice questions on a wide range of aspects of Spanish life.

Expect to be asked about Spanish law, geography, history, institutional roles, climate and the obligations and rights of Spanish citizens. Some of these questions are challenging and obviously, they’re all in Spanish. And in true exam style, some of them are a little bit tricky (double-negatives, very similar answers etc).

There also a language exam you’ll have to sit, but this is a beginners A2 level Cervantes test.

2. You don’t want to renounce your own nationality

Maybe you feel you’re not ready to give up your passport. Obtaining Spanish nationality means giving up your own nationality unless you’re a citizen from most Latin American countries, Portugal, the Philippines, Andorra and more recently France, all of whom are allowed dual nationality. 

You don’t have to hand over your old passport when you obtain your Spanish ID papers – no one asked me for my British passport – but by law, you’re not allowed double nationality.

3. You don’t have the patience

Apart from the ten years of almost continuous residency in Spain that you have to prove (it’s five years in most European countries) keep in mind that it takes on average one to three years to obtain Spanish nationality after applying. 

If you don’t hand in the right documents, it could hold up the application even longer.

In Belgium, it takes four months to get a decision on your file on average and less than a year in the Netherlands but admittedly in other countries such as France and Italy it takes as long as in Spain. 

Either way, waiting up to 13 years to achieve Spanish nationality through residency is a very long time. 

4. You’re not ready to be a Spaniard

Becoming Spanish does involve an element of ‘playing the part’ so if you’re not prepared to jump in and become a true native, then it may not be worth taking Spanish nationality.

I took Spanish nationality over 15 years ago. My main reason for this was that I knew I was in Spain to stay. I also wanted to ‘join’ my husband and daughters who are all Spanish. I have never once regretted my decision and in the light of Brexit, I am very glad to have taken the step.

Joanna Styles is a freelance journalist and copywriter, based on the Costa del Sol where she arrived in 1989. She lives in Malaga, a city she is more than happy to call home. You can find out more about her work on www.joannastyles.com. Joanna is also the author of The 5 Best of Everything in Malaga, a comprehensive guide to Malaga with over 240 listings, and its sister website, Guide to Malaga.

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

July sees the start of the summer holidays in Spain and brings with it new crisis handouts, VAT cuts on energy bills, travel chaos and a possible deal on UK driving licences. Join The Local Spain as a member to find out about this and plenty more.

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

€200 crisis payment available in July 

As part of their new draft of measures to help those struggling with the rising cost of living, the Spanish government announced they would give a one-off €200 handout to the most vulnerable individuals.

The payment plan is set to be activated this month and you can find out who is eligible and how to apply for it here.

According to Spain’s Tax Minister María Jesús Montero, approximately 2.7 million people in Spain will be able to benefit from the scheme. Individuals can request the €200 payment, as can families, but only one payment per household is allowed.

VAT on electricity bills cut by half 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recently announced that the government would apply a further reduction in VAT on electricity bills, which has now been approved by the cabinet. This means that a VAT reduction, from 10 to five percent, will be applied to electricity bills from July onwards.  

Find out how much you could save on your electricity bill with the new VAT discount here

Travel chaos continues

In the lead-up to the summer holidays, there has been travel chaos across Europe, including in Spain, due to flight cancellations, staff shortages and strikes. Unfortunately, the travel misery is only set to continue into July as several Spain-based cabin crew, including those from easyJet, Ryanair and Lufthansa have announced strikes.

EasyJet staff are scheduled to go on a nine-day strike on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 15th, 16th, 17th, 29th, 30th and 31st. Meanwhile, the Ryanair strike, which started on June 24th will continue on July 1st and 2nd. Over 54 flights have already been cancelled by the low-cost airline and more than 300 have been delayed.

German carrier Lufthansa and its budget airline brand, Eurowings are also planning to cancel more than 3,000 flights this summer due to both staff shortages and strikes. This is expected to affect flights from the hubs of Frankfurt and Munich to Spain, among others. 

Could there finally be a deal on UK driving licences?

The British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott recently shared his latest update on the driving licence negotiations between the UK and Spain, indicating a possible agreement to have affected drivers back on the road by the end of July 2022.

“The UK and Spain are now in agreement on the core issues that have been problematic and we’re now very close to finalising the actual text of the agreement,” he explained.

This will be a great relief for many British residents in Spain who were unable to exchange their licence for a Spanish one and haven’t been allowed on the roads since May 1st 2022.

Scorching weather returns to Spain in July

After a brief respite from the mid-June heatwaves, the hot weather is set to return in July. According to the weather site Meteored, the first week of July will see storms and unpredictable weather in the north of the country, while temperatures could reach over 40°C in the south of the country around Córdoba and Seville.

The middle of the month from July 11th to 17th is set to see temperatures rise again. It’s likely that much of Extremadura and Andalusia will experience temperatures around 40°C, while it could also reach 38°C in Bilbao and Madrid.

The last two weeks of July will get even hotter with Meteored predicting the hottest temperatures of the whole year. Temperatures are expected to be above normal in all regions apart from along the Cantabrian coast and in the Canary Islands.

Summer sales go into full throttle

July 1st sees the official start of the summer sales throughout much of Spain, although many stores have started even earlier. With rising costs due to inflation, this is the time of year to benefit from some of the biggest discounts.

Amazon has two days scheduled for its sales from July 12th-13th, while H&M and all the retail stores belonging to Spanish clothing giant Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius) are also due to have their sales this month.

After the start of the sales, you’ll see signs for “segundas rebajas” (second sales), then “terceras rebajas” and finally “remate final” (final push), where discounts progressively go from 30 percent to 40, then 50 and finally down to an incredible 70 percent price reduction. 

Imserso holiday scheme for pensioners kicks off 

Imserso is a social scheme offering holidays to the elderly, which aim to offer subsidised trips to pensioners. Applications for the vacation scheme this year are open from June 27th to July 19th and usually run during the low season from October. Find out how to apply here.

Depending on the dates you go and the type of accommodation you stay in, you will usually have to pay between €115 and €405 for the trip.

Vehicles in Spain need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance

New cars sold in Spain and across the EU must have automatic Intelligent Speed Assistance technology from July 6th as part of the General Safety Regulation.

All newly launched models will need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance systems installed as standard. The idea is to limit speeds and warn drivers to slow down if they’re over the legal speed limit.

Festivals in Spain in July

July sees a whole host of festivals and celebrations across the country. Most famous are the San Fermín Running of the Bulls, held in Pamplona from July 6th – 14th and the Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, held in the Galician city on July 25th.

Other festivities taking place in July include Bilbao’s BBK music festival from the 7th to the 9th and the Moors and Christians parades in Villajoyosa from the 23rd to 24th, commemorating the battle of 1538.

Pride celebrations are also set to return in July. Madrid’s LGBTIQ+ festival will take place from July 1st to 10th throughout many areas of the city but concentrated around Chueca.

New law to improve rights of domestic workers

A new law could be approved this month to improve the rights of domestic workers so that they have the same rights as other workers, such as the right to unemployment benefits and proper wages.

A third of the 536,100 domestics (mostly women) who work in Spain are not signed up to Spain’s social security system, according to the country’s Labour Force Survey. Two out of every three have earnings around the minimum wage bracket.

Early last year the Spanish government sent out letters to Spanish households who employ workers to warn them of their obligations.

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