Living In Spain For Members

What changes for me in Spain if I get an Irish passport?

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
What changes for me in Spain if I get an Irish passport?
What changes for you in Spain if you get an Irish passport? Photo: Esme Fox

What happens if you're a non-EU national who has successfully applied for Irish nationality? What changes for you in Spain and do you need to tell the Spanish authorities about your new passport?


According UK authorities, some 420,000 people applied for Irish nationality since the Brexit vote and around 25,000 of these were British nationals living in Spain in just 2018. 


Ireland’s generous approach to citizenship through ancestry means that it’s relatively easy for non-EU nationals such as Brits, Americans or Australians, who have Irish family connections, to get nationality.

But what changes if you want to move to Spain with your new nationality or if you're already here?

Moving to Spain

If you want to move to Spain and you have recently gained Irish nationality you can do so just like the British did before Brexit, without any need to apply for a visa. You have the same freedom of movement rights as the rest of the EU citizens. 

Within the first three months of living in Spain however, you must apply for your green residency card and NIE number. To do this, you will need to show a reason for wanting to get your card, such as a job offer, buying a house or a car or proving that you have enough savings to support yourself, as well as private health insurance.

If you have a spouse or registered partner who is a non-EU citizen, then they are entitled to apply for a residence card of a family member of a European Union citizen or tarjeta de residencia de familiar comunitario.

READ ALSO - Q&A: Can EU nationals bring non-EU family members over to Spain?


If you just want to visit Spain with your new Irish nationality then you can do so with no need to limit your stays to 90 days in every 180 – as non-EU citizens must. There is no need for a visa for travel either. 

If you wish to work in Spain as an Irish citizen, you can simply move here and start looking for jobs, there’s no need to apply for a work permit. However, you will still need to apply for your green residency card as mentioned above. 

If you get a job in Spain or you become self-employed, you will start paying into the Spanish social security system. Among other benefits, this will entitle you to Spain’s public healthcare system. All you need to do to be able to access is to apply for your public health card and register with your local clinic. Here's how you apply for your card in each region in Spain. 

If you’re an Irish citizen who lives to Spain for more than 183 you are considered a tax resident and must file an annual tax declaration (Declaración de la Renta), even if you do not have any income in Spain. This rule is the same for EU and non-EU nationals. 


As an EU national you are entitled to vote in local and European elections, but not in general or national elections. Find out about your voting rights here


What if you already live in Spain?

If you already live in Spain and then gain your Irish citizenship, you will still be registered under your first and original nationality.

Therefore, if you change nationalities or gain an extra one, you should inform the authorities. This will make your situation in Spain easier and give you several benefits, as you can see above. It could also mean extra advantages for your spouse and kids through the residence card of a family member of a European Union citizen.

If you are British and you previously had your green residency card, which states your nationality on it, you will need to exchange it for a new one stating your Irish nationality on it instead.

If for example you are British and have now become an EU citizen again because of your Irish nationality, you should be able to exchange your old green residency card at your local national police station for a new one stating your new nationality. If you were already a non-EU citizen, such as an American, you should be able to exchange your TIE for an EU green residency certificate instead. 

Your NIE number on the card is for life, so should stay exactly the same, even if you’ve changed your nationality, so you shouldn’t need to go around changing this with all the companies you’ve given it to.

However, you will need to get a new padrón certificate from your local town hall or ayuntamiento, as this also states your nationality.

Any other official documents involved with residency in Spain that mention your non-EU citizenship will also need to be changed by informing each individual authority.

One of the main ones, if you drive, will be the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT), if you haven’t already exchanged your licence for a Spanish one. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way of informing them all at once.

Each body is likely to want proof of your new citizenship before they make changes on their systems, so there’s likely to be lots of paperwork, plus countless photocopies of your new Irish passport.

If you are working you should also inform your company’s HR department of the change, so that you are not incorrectly asked for proof of residency at any time in the future.



It may sound obvious, but if you want to benefit from European freedom of movement, you need to make sure you are using your Irish passport at the border to travel onwards.

You will also want to ensure you are using your Irish passport every time you leave and re-enter Spain, so that the authorities are not counting the days on your British or other non-EU passport instead.

Remember though, when you go back to your home country, you’re going to want to show your original passport upon arrival. If you're from the US for example, you can leave Spain on your Irish passport and re-enter the US on your American one. If you're from the UK it's not necessary to enter the UK on your British passport, you can simply enter on your Irish one, however, it's completely up to you. 


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Anonymous 2022/07/09 18:40
Hi Esme and thank you for you piece in ‘The Local es’ re: What changes for me in Spain if I get an Irish passport? Whilst the article is very good at pointing out the ‘advantages’ of an Irish Passport for a British Passport holder, there is one caveat I should add. As a UK born person, in my case with an Indian born father and an English born mother with Irish parents, and a house in Sanlucar de Barrameda I have bought with my brother some 7 years ago, I am applying for an ‘Irish’ passport though my ‘Grandparents’ born in Ireland route, given that my late mother never sought ‘Irish Nationality’, and had a British Passport. In principle there is no problem with that. However, the unfortunate reality, in my opinion, of Brexit was compounded by the Covid-19 reality. My brother and I jointly submitted our applications for the ‘Foreign Birth Registration’, phase 1 of the application process, in mid-December 2020. On the 23rd of December 2020, the Irish Government closed the office in Dublin for any further applications, announcing that Covid-19 was the reason, and that the office would not open till June/July 2021. The ‘Office’ did not open until November 2021! In December 2020 there was already a backlog of over 60,000 applications. To make matters more complicated the printing of ‘Passports’ department of the Irish Government could not cope with the backlog, further compounding ‘difficulties.’ I do not think that we will get our ‘Foreign Births Registration’ document until the end of this year at the very earliest, some two years or more after our submission, and at a cost of €270 each. On top of that there were additional costs of obtaining birth, marriage, and death certificates for several generations of our family, and the time involved. So, the real cost was approximately €370 each, and I am not including our personal time involved! Once obtaining a ‘Foreign Births Registration’, phase 2 is the Passport application. The cost is €80 (+€9.50 postage fee) per individual passport to process the application by Passport Express. I guess the whole process for ‘Foreign Births Registration’, phase 1, took some 5-6 moths to assemble given that both my parents had recently passed away before my application was submitted. In summary, ‘one has to be in this’ for the ‘long haul’ given the Brexit and Covid-19 realities. With the intention of opening-up a small Boutique B&B in Sanlucar de Barrameda, an Irish Passport will, in the long term, ease the stark realities resulting from BREXIT. On top of that both my brother and I have worked in Holland and Belgium, have friends and have travelled extensively throughout Europe, and we feel very European! Irrespective of what some may say, Britain has always been a part of Europe! Kind Regards, Andy Husain

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