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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

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)

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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