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SPANISH CITIZENSHIP

Spain’s new ‘grandchildren’ citizenship law: What you need to know

Spain has passed legislation which allows as many as 700,000 foreigners with Spanish lineage to get Spanish citizenship without having ever lived in the country. Find out why the law has been passed, who is eligible and how to apply.

Spain's new 'grandchildren' citizenship law: What you need to know
According to estimates, as many as 700,000 people, the majority in Latin America, could now be eligible for Spanish citizenship. Photo: ALEX HALADA/ AFP

Spain’s Democratic Memory Law passed the Spanish Senate on October 5th and officially became law on October 21st.

Part of the legislation includes the new Ley de Nietos, Grandchildren’s Law in English.

The law allows for descendants of Spaniards who fled Spain during the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship to claim Spanish citizenship without ever having lived there.

According to estimates, as many as 700,000 people, the majority in Latin America, could be eligible. It is even believed that Latino migrants living in Spain illegally could be eligible for citizenship. 

What does it mean for citizenship?

The wide-ranging bill builds on legislation from 2007 that offered citizenship to the children of exiled Spaniards, and the revised law has earned the nickname the ‘grandchildren’ law because it offers a path to citizenship for grandchildren too, working on the principle of bloodlines as opposed to place of birth. 

This allows the grandchildren of Spaniards to obtain Spanish citizenship directly from their home country, without having to have lived a minimum period in Spain beforehand, and the law also covers the descendants of women who get citizenship by default through marrying non-Spaniards before 1978.

Applicants must show proof of their Spanish blood and that their ancestors were fleeing persecution, though the definition seems flexible.

According to the law, victims of Francoism and those eligible are defined as “anyone who suffered physical, moral or psychological damage, economic damage or the loss of fundamental rights”. 

What is Spain’s Democratic Memory Law?

The grandchildren’s law is part of the broader Democratic Memory Law that aims to “settle Spanish democracy’s debt to its past” and deal with the legacy of its Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship.

Legislation concerning Spain’s dictatorial past in always controversial, and this law was no different – it passed the Spanish Senate earlier in October with 128 votes in favour, 113 against, and 18 abstentions.

The Spanish right have long been opposed to any kind of historical memory legislation, claiming that it digs up old rivalries and causes political tension. Spain’s centre-right party, the PP, have promised to overturn the law if it wins the next general election.

READ ALSO: Spain’s lawmakers pass bill honouring Franco-era victims

Other aspects of the law include the establishment of a DNA register to help families identify the remains of the tens of thousands of Spaniards were buried in unmarked graves; the repurposing of the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, where Francisco Franco was buried until his exhumation in 2019; and a ban on groups that glorify the Franco regime.

Offering Spanish citizenship to the descendants of Spaniards who fled the country is one way Spain’s PSOE-led government intends to settle its debt to the past. Between the end of the Civil War in 1939, and 1978, when Spain’s new constitution was approved as part of its transition to democracy, an estimated 2 million Spaniards fled the Franco regime.

Who is eligible for the grandchildren’s law?

So, who is eligible for Spanish citizenship under the new law? There are a number of groups included.

  1. Children or grandchildren born outside Spain to a Spanish father, mother, grandfather, grandmother who were exiled and left Spain who due to ‘physical, moral or psychological damage, economic damage or the loss of fundamental rights’, or renounced their Spanish nationality. 
  2. People born outside Spain to Spanish women who lost their nationality by marrying foreigners before the 1978 Constitution was established.
  3. The adult sons and daughters of Spaniards who gained nationality due to the 2007 democratic memory law.

How do you apply?

Potential applicants can apply via the Civil Registry in the Spanish Consulate in their home country, and will need several documents to not only prove the Spanish nationality of their ancestor, but also to prove their descendent was exiled. The basic documents include:

  • Identity document
  • The applicant’s birth certificate
  • The birth certificate of the applicant’s Spanish descendent
  • For those applying for citizenship via a grandparent, it will also be necessary to provide the birth certificate of the father or mother that corresponds to the family line with Spanish blood.

Proving exile status

There are millions of people around the world with Spanish heritage, particularly in Latin America. That’s why the law requires proof that descendants left Spain in the face of persecution and were exiled, and that they left Spain between January 1st, 1956 and December 28th, 1978. In order to prove this, applicants will need to provide one of the following:

  • Documentation proving that you or the descendent have been a beneficiary of the pensions granted by the Spanish state.
  • Documentation from the United Nations International Refugee Office and the Refugee Offices of the host States that assisted Spanish refugees and their families.
  • Certifications or reports issued by political parties, unions or any other entity or institution (whether public or private), recognised by the Spanish state or the host state of the exiles and their descendants that are related to exile or political persecution. 

When is the citizenship offer?

The citizenship offer closes in October 2024.

Member comments

  1. What is meant by “ Documentation proving that you or the descendent have been a beneficiary of the pensions granted by the Spanish state.”. My mother a Spaniard left Spain in 1958. I was born in USA 1959 and have Spanish citizenship due to previous law. Does this new law mean my son in the USA can get Spanish citizenship? My mother does receive a Spanish pension from when she worked. Thanks

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

Spain to stop exclusion of newly registered people from social services

The Spanish government aims to ensure that residents recently registered on the padrón can no longer be excluded from essential social services, as well as outlining rules for social care provisions for people who move between regions.

Spain to stop exclusion of newly registered people from social services

On January 17th, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a preliminary draft bill reforming the country’s social service provisions. 

Though ultimately the legal and organisational remits will remain, as before, in the hands of Spain’s regional governments, the proposed legislation seeks to establish a common framework of services, including minimum standards that all autonomous regions must comply with.

Crucially, among them, the regions will be compelled by law to provide ‘essential social services’ to all residents regardless of how long they have been registered on the padrón.

READ ALSO – Padrón: 16 things you should know about Spain’s town hall registration

The padrón certificate is basically proof that shows where you are living. Your town hall – or ayuntamiento – uses it to find how many people are living in the area and what their ages are. If you plan on staying in Spain for more than three months and becoming a foreign resident in Spain, you are required by law to register for your padrón within this time.

Spain’s social service system, headed by Minister for Social Rights, Ione Belarra, provides support for the disabled, families, infants and teenagers, residential care and the homeless community, among many other disadvantaged groups.

As part of the draft bill, the requirement for a minimum time of registration or residence to access basic services will be removed, which will benefit not only Spaniards who have moved from one region to another, but foreigners who have recently become residents in Spain.

READ ALSO: Can I get my padrón online in Spain?

With this legislation, the Ministry of Social Rights aims to make Spain’s social services “more personalised, more comprehensive and inclusive” and remove barriers to care, according to sources within the Ministry.

“The aim is to lay the foundations for a new model of social services, a path that some regional legislations have already embarked on, far from a welfare-based approach and focused solely on emergencies,” the source added.

The bill is still in the draft stage, and the final text must be formally approved first by the Council of Ministers and then pass through the Spanish parliament. Once, and if, it is green-lighted by both those bodies, the Ministry will then have to agree with the regions which social services are specifically considered essential, and outline a catalogue of services that all regions will be obliged to guarantee to all residents, regardless of when they carried out their padrón registration.

The draft bill establishes that “all persons with effective residence in Spain are holders of the rights contained in this law, without any distinction or exclusion”. 

Moving around Spain

Although the regions will no longer be able to set minimum registration times to be ‘empadronado‘, that is, registered on the local census, as a requirement for access to social services, their power to make access to social services conditional on registration in their region looks set to remain.

Fortunately, however, that will not prevent or interfere with another of the new rules proposed in the legislation: the right of access to social services for people who spend seasons or periods outside their region, elsewhere within Spain.

In that sense, the social services model could become similar to public health in that all residents maintain their access rights, even if they are not registered in that region. For example: if a person who is registered with and receives social services in one region spends the summer in a beach house located in another region, the proposed law will establish that second regional administration (the one being visited) will take on the responsibility for social service previsions while they are there.

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