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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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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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