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How do rules on getting Spanish citizenship compare to rest of Europe?

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How do rules on getting Spanish citizenship compare to rest of Europe?

Being a citizen of your country of long-term residence brings a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to peace of mind, but how do the rules on becoming Spanish compare to other countries in Europe?

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Gaining citizenship in another state is not a walk in the park. Beyond the bureaucratic headache, and varying residency rules and exceptions, some countries may require to give up the nationality of origin as a result of the process.

Few countries in Europe require foreign nationals to do this, but some do. Here is an overview of how the countries covered by The Local deal with dual citizenship, starting with the ones with the strictest rules.

What are Spain's citizenship rules?

As a general rule, people naturalising as Spanish citizens have to renounce their previous nationality. This is not required of nationals of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, France or Sephardic Jews of Spanish origin (the deadline for the latter to apply for citizenship via this route expired in 2021).

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

For citizens from these countries (except French nationals) the residency requirement to apply for naturalisation is two years, but for other nationalities it is 10 years. It is otherwise one year for people married to a Spanish national or five years for refugees.

Legally speaking, anyone else obtaining Spanish citizenship such as Britons or Americans would need to renounce their original nationality.

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The last step in applying for Spanish nationality includes going before a judge to swear allegiance to the Spanish Constitution. During this time, they will also ask you to renounce your original nationality.

However, the crucial point is that you will not be requested to physically hand over your other passport, so it will remain in your possession.

The rules for how naturalised Spaniards could lose their Spanish nationality are slightly ambiguous as well (more on that in the link above on dual nationality), but whatever your interpretation, you probably shouldn't use your non-Spanish passport when travelling into Spain or for other official processes in Spain for at least the first three years of Spanish citizenship. If you acquire a new nationality, you should also get in touch with Spanish authorities to clarify that you wish to keep your Spanish nationality.

Children born in Spain to foreign parents can apply after one year of residence in the country.

It's worth noting as well that waiting times for Spanish citizenship processing are generally very long

All things considered, Spain has fairly strict citizenship rules when compared to other European countries. Not only is the waiting time for naturalisation through residence longer than in other neighbouring nations, dual nationality is more restricted and foreign babies born in Spain do not get automatic citizenship.

READ ALSO:

Seven reasons to get Spanish nationality (and four not to)

What are the rules for losing Spanish nationality and can you get it back?

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How do Spain's citizenship and dual nationality rules compare to elsewhere in Europe?

In many other countries, such as France, Italy and Sweden, as well as Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK, dual citizenship is permitted. 

However, Austria, Germany and Spain generally do not allow dual citizenship, except in some special circumstances. 

In France the residency requirement for naturalisation is generally 5 years, showing integration into the French way of life and knowledge of the French language.

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In Italy it is possible to apply for citizenship after 10 years of residence, or 4 for EU citizens and 2 for a resident married to an Italian citizen. A language test is also required.

Sweden is one of the few countries where language or civics tests are not needed, although the government plans to change this. The general rule is 5 consecutive years of residence, with absences of more than six weeks during a year subtracted from the total. People married, in a registered partnership or cohabiting partners with a Swedish citizen can apply after three years.

The Swedish government has launched an inquiry to extend the residence requirement to eight years. It's not yet clear if there will be exceptions for partners of Swedish citizens.

Neighbouring Denmark has one of the strictest citizenship laws. Naturalisation requires an extra waiting period of two years after obtaining a permanent residence permit, which usually takes eight years. There is also a citizenship test.

Denmark allows dual citizenship after the law changed in 2015. Former Danes who lost their citizenship by acquiring a foreign one before September 1st 2015 can reacquire it by making a declaration to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration by June 30th 2026.

After a recent change in regulations, dual citizenship is also allowed in Norway. Those who lost their Norwegian citizenship before 2020 can reacquire it by submitting a notification of citizenship.

There are stricter rules, however, in the Netherlands. Foreign nationals acquiring Dutch citizenship, or Dutch nationals acquiring a foreign one, need to give up their citizenship of origin, except in some specific circumstances – for example, for those acquiring their spouse’s or partner’s citizenship or those holding an asylum residence permit.

In Austria, “in principle, anyone who acquires Austrian citizenship by conferral loses their foreign citizenship,” says the Austrian government website. This also applies to Austrian citizens who acquire a foreign citizenship.

Austrians at birth can maintain citizenship if they apply to do so before acquiring another nationality and if this is justified by “special circumstances”. Children with at least one Austrian parent are Austrian and can have dual citizenship.

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In Germany, only EU and Swiss nationals can retain their citizenship of origin when they naturalise as German - with a few specific carve-outs. For example, children with a German parent acquire German citizenship at birth and can keep dual citizenship permanently. In addition, refugees, people from countries that forbid the renunciation of citizenship and those who were stripped of citizenship during the Nazi period can also retain both passports.

German citizens who wish to naturalise in another country and keep German nationality can apply for a retention permit

However, an overhaul of these rules is set to come into force in April 2024, which will allow the holding of multiple nationalities and will also see the current residence requirements reduced from current eight years to just five years of continuous residence in Germany.

Restrictions also exist in many Eastern European countries.

This article was partly produced by the team at Europe Street news.

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