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SPANISH CITIZENSHIP

Step by step: how to apply for Spanish nationality

There are many reasons to apply for Spanish citizenship: from getting the right to vote in elections to faster airport queues - but the process can sometimes be long and confusing. Here's a list of the requirements, and a step by step guide for the application process.

Step by step: how to apply for Spanish nationality
Here are the steps to follow if you want to apply for Spanish nationality. Photo: Spain's Foreign Ministry

There are various different ways you can apply for Spanish citizenship: by residency after living in Spain for a few years, by marrying a Spanish national, or through Spanish family members.

However, the main downside of applying for Spanish nationality and becoming a Spanish citizen is that you will need to renounce your original nationality in order to do so. If you don’t want to renounce your nationality, you can always apply for permanent residency instead, and renew it every 5 years.

READ ALSO: Seven reasons to get Spanish nationality (and four not to)

But if you want to get a Spanish passport or ID, there are different ways to do it. Below are the different requirements depending on your status, followed by a step by step guide on the application process.

Types of application

  • Citizenship by residency

The amount of time you have to wait before you apply for citizenship may vary depending on where you’re from and your family ties:

  • 10 years is the normal rule
  • 5 years if you are a refugee
  • 2 years if you are from a Latin American country, Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines or Portugal. In all of these cases, you will not need to give up your original nationality, and you will be granted dual citizenship.
  • 1 year for those married to a Spanish national or children/grandchildren of Spanish citizens born in Spain. 

Apart from living in Spain for the required amount of years, you must also make sure you meet the following requirements.

  • The year count starts from the validity of your first residence card.
  • Any time in Spain with a tourist or student visa won’t be taken into consideration, as these are considered stay periods.
  • You must have lived for the required amount of periods without interruption. This means that you can’t leave the country for long periods of time (more than 3 months), and you can’t leave too fequently either.
  • You must show good civic behaviour. Authorities will check your criminal background and police records. Things like having speeding tickets or having renewed your residence card late can work against you.
  • Citizenship by marriage

You can get citizenship by marriage if you are married to a Spanish citizen and have been a resident in Spain for 1 year. Civil partnerships or divorced couples are not valid.

Once you are married, you will be able to get a residence and work authorisation through the ‘family member of an EU’ visa.

You will need to submit your marriage certificate, which should show that the marriage is registered in Spain. So if you got married abroad, you’ll have to take this extra step.

  • Citizenship by option

Getting citizenship by option is when you get citizenship after one of your family members have already got theirs. For example, people who can benefit from citizenship by option are children of foreign citizens who were born in the Spanish territory, people over 18 years old who were adopted by Spanish nationals, or those who are or have been subjected to the custody of a Spaniard.

If you are a foreigner and your children were born in Spain, there is the possibility that they are directly considered Spanish (citizenship by presumption).

  • Citizenship by descent

Children of Spanish parents can get Spanish citizenship very easily. Until recently, grandchildren of Spanish citizens could not get Spanish nationality this way, but with the recent “Ley de nietos” (grandchildren law) has changed this.

The Application process

  • Study for and take the required exams

The application process includes two exams. You will have to take the DELE A2 language test as well as the CCSE, which tests your knowledge of Spain’s constitution, society and cultural heritage.

  • Prepare all the required documents

First of all, get your documents ready. Keep in mind that some may differ depending on the type of citizenship application:

  1. Passport and NIE number
  2. Current residence permit. 
  3. Birth certificate
  4. Criminal records. It’s important that you don’t have any criminal records, but you can get accepted if you had a minor issue.
  5. Marriage certificate (if applying for citizenship by marriage)
  6. Current census and padrón
  7. The certificates you will receive after passing the two required exams DELE A2 and CCSE
  8. If you want to give your children the possibility of getting citizenship by option, you should also include their birth certificates
  9. Proof of payment for the corresponding fee (around 100€)
  • Submit your application

Once you have all the paperwork ready, you have two ways of submitting your application. You can either submit it in person at the Civil Registry or you can do it online

  • Make your pledge of allegiance

Once it has been approved you have 6 months to get an appointment for the pledge of allegiance or jura de nacionalidad, which you can book with the Civil Registry. This is the last step in the process of obtaining nationality in Spain, in which you must swear to respect the Spanish constitution, the king, and the legal system in general. This is a formal obligatory act.

You can now also make an appointment for the oath with a notary (notario), an option that could significantly speed up the process. The vast majority of Civil Registries are very saturated, so getting an appointment can take months, especially in large cities like Madrid or Barcelona. The Spanish College of Notaries will assign you a notary on duty.

  • Get your new Spanish documents

Finally, you can go to your local police station with the documents you are given in previous steps, and get your Spanish passport and DNI.

  • Apply for a concordance certificate

You will also have to request a concordance certificate (certificado de concordancia), a document that allows you to certify that you are the same person who appears in records with your NIE number and your old passport. Depending on which region you live in, you will need to make an appointment before requesting this document at the police station. You can book an appointment here.

However, you can request this document the same day you get your DNI. If you do it later, you will have to wait 4 to 5 working days.

How long does it take to get Spanish nationality?

Getting Spanish nationality usually takes 2 to 3 years.

Once you submit your application, the Spanish government has a period of 1 year to legally submit their response. You can check the status of your application on the “cómo va lo mío” platform.

You are allowed to travel outside Spain while you wait for a resolution, but not for long periods of time. You must comply with certain requirements: you can’t lose your residence in Spain, and you need to attend the appointment to make your pledge of allegiance on time.

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For members

SPANISH CITIZENSHIP

Why Spain’s nationality deal with Romania is good for other foreigners

Spain has committed to allow Romanians to acquire dual citizenship a year after it reached the same deal with France, a sign that authorities are making it easier for more foreigners to hold onto their original nationality when becoming Spanish.

Why Spain's nationality deal with Romania is good for other foreigners

Obtaining Spanish citizenship is no easy task for foreigners living in Spain. 

It takes most extranjeros 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 two years) and for the majority of foreign nationals it means having to give up their own nationality for them to become only Spanish. 

READ ALSO: Do you really have to give up your original nationality if you become Spanish?

And still, citizenship remains an interesting option for many foreign residents who have made a life for themselves in Spain and wish to obtain greater rights in the country they call home. 

READ ALSO: Seven reasons to get Spanish nationality (and four not to)

Back in 2021, France became the first country with which Spain has signed a dual nationality deal outside the Ibero-American space, understood as being applicable to nations that have Spanish or Portuguese as one of their official languages. 

So far this has included agreements with 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.

The new Romanian deal and why it matters to the foreigners

On November 23rd, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca for bilateral discussions, during which they made a series of agreements ranging from employment law and nationality applications to creating partnerships on culture and language.

In terms of nationality, Spain and Romania have agreed to establish a working group “in order to analyse solutions for the dual-nationality of members of the Romanian community in Spain”.

Pedro Sánchez paid homage to the contribution of Spain’s Romanian community, adding that as many of them are now second and third generation the “possibility of acquiring Spanish nationality without having to renounce Romanian nationality” is of “great relevance” to many people.

READ ALSO: Quiz: Can you pass the Spanish citizenship test?

However, he did temper expectations somewhat, declining to commit to deadlines and emphasising that the decision is already in itself “an extraordinary political message” owing to the fact that Spain’s nationality rules are so strict and that Spain only has dual nationality agreements with France besides the several Ibero-American countries (including Portugal).

Though Sánchez was somewhat vague, stating “if it occurs and when it occurs… it will be the third country in Europe with which we have this type of alliances and recognition,” he added that the final agreement will be “something positive for both countries.”

A step in the right direction?

Although the Spanish rules on dual nationality are notoriously tough, and the process time consuming, the matter of dual nationality is also of interest to foreign parents whose child or children are born in Spain.

Spanish citizenship for the infant can be achieved after a year, but in many cases dual nationality won’t technically be possible, meaning that parents and children can end up with different nationalities. 

READ ALSO: How to apply for Spanish citizenship for a baby born in Spain

Yet despite the vague deadlines, the trend of Spain’s citizenship rules ‘opening up’ to other European countries is encouraging to other foreigners in Spain and could indicate a trend.

Margaret Hauschild Rey, an immigration lawyer whose English-speaking law firm Bennet & Rey in Madrid, told The Local in 2021 that she hoped the French dual-national agreement “will serve as a basis for effectively opening up the possibility of signing similar agreements with other countries of the European Union and the United Kingdom.”

With another deal made little over a year later, it seems she could be right, and the law that specifically deals with dual nationality, Article 11.3 of the Spanish Constitution, actually establishes that “the State may carry out dual nationality treaties with Ibero-American countries OR with those that have had or have a particular relationship with Spain”, which suggests that for some nationalities there’s room to be hopeful. 

UK nationals represent the largest European (non-Spanish) population group residing in Spain after Romanians, estimated at more than 407,000 in 2022, but the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union may well be a stumbling block in future negotiations on this front. 

READ ALSO:

It is worth also noting that although the bilateral agreements with France and Romania are undoubtedly a positive step, French and Romanians still have to reside in Spain for ten years before being able to apply for citizenship through residency, contrary to what it is for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or people of Sephardic origin, for whom it’s only two years.

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