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How long are waiting times for the Spanish citizenship process?

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How long are waiting times for the Spanish citizenship process?
As is often the case with official processes in Spain, the time a citizenship application should theoretically take to be processed takes much longer in practice. Photo: Astrid Schmid/Pixabay

What are the average waiting times for Spanish citizenship applications to be processed in 2022 and how many years overall does it take for foreigners to get Spanish nationality through residency?


So you’re considering becoming a Spanish citizen, but before you embark on this bureaucratic mission, you’d like to know how long you have to live in Spain before you can apply, and how long you will have to wait for the application to be processed.

There are several different ways you can apply for Spanish citizenship by residency, but the amount of time you have to wait before you apply for Spanish citizenship may vary depending on where you’re from and other circumstances.


The legal continuous residency requirements for Spanish Spanish citizenship are:

  • 10 years as the general rule
  • 5 years of if you are a refugee
  • 2 years if you are from a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking Latin American country, Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines or Portugal.
  • 1 year for those married to a Spanish national or children/grandchildren of Spanish citizens born in Spain. 

For more details on the requirements and how to apply for Spanish citizenship as well as other related citizenship articles, the following links will help. But in this article we will continue to focus on the ‘how long’ question. 



How long does the Spanish citizenship process take?

As so often happens with official matters, there is no exact answer. Or rather, the difference between what processes should take in theory and how long they really take in practice is different. 

For citizenship applications submitted online, Spain’s Justice Ministry should give a response within a year, according to a 2015 Spanish law

In reality, waiting times for Spanish citizenship applications in recent years are reportedly between one and three years. 

This is according to a number of legal firms in Spain specialising on Spanish citizenship applications, from Balcells Group, to and Legalteam. 

In 2021, almost 140,000 Spanish citizenship applications were submitted, and in 2020 the total was just under 88,000. 

The huge number of applications is given as the main reason why the waiting periods for Spanish citizenship are so long, although it’s well reported that most Spanish departments struggle to meet official processing times, from foreign qualification recognition to driving licences. 


As of September 2022, there were 350,000 pending Spanish citizenship applications.

The Spanish government has hired an extra 295 civil servants to help resolve the bottleneck and has introduced an app to automate the stages in the application process that aren’t decisive and don't need to be checked by a person.

This comes preceded by ‘action plans’ launched by Spain’s Ministry of Justice in 2019 and 2021 which also saw extra funcionarios (civil servants) hired to unclog the system.

Have any of these measures helped to reduce waiting times and fast-track the application process in 2022?

The 2021 ‘action plan’ saw almost 164,000 favourable citizenship applications completed partly thanks to the 166 extra workers added to the team. 

2022’s measures have helped to resolve 30,000 pending applications in the month of August alone, but this still only represents 10 percent of a total that keeps growing.  

According to, there were a number of citizenship applications in 2019 that took only a few months rather than a few years to be processed because of the ‘action plan’ implemented that year.

“It is technically feasible for it to happen again but I don’t think this will be the theme in 2022/2023, and it will only be very few isolated cases if at all,” the firm’s lead lawyer Vicente Marín said in early 2022. 


“In 2020/2021, very few citizenship files were resolved in less than a year, most took a year to a year and a half”.

Spanish law firm Bufete Neila estimates it is taking a bit longer in 2022, from a year and a half to two years.

Legalteam also estimates one to two years in 2022 and Balcells has stuck to its wider bracket of between one and three years, which although less optimistic may well factor in that some applications are taking longer than two years to process.

The citizenship approval process goes through different stages, some take longer than others, with the obligatory study (informes preceptivos) estimated to last three to seven months and the under review stage (en estudio o en calificación) approximately taking three to six months.

All in all, it does seem that the extra personnel hired by Spain’s Ministry of Justice is helping to speed up the process somewhat, although it seems counterproductive that these ‘action plans’ are only temporary and that more civil servants aren’t hired on a permanent basis.

If it’s any consolation, the waiting time in other European countries such as Germany and France can be just as long - two years - but at least in those countries foreigners can apply for citizenship after five years of residency. 

In reality, a foreigner who wants to get Spanish nationality can expect to have to live continuously in Spain (short spells outside the country are permitted) for 12 or 13 years before they finally get their hands on a Spanish passport and Spanish ID.


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