Spanish citizenship For Members

I’ve got a Spanish surname: Can I get Spanish citizenship?

The Local Spain
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I’ve got a Spanish surname: Can I get Spanish citizenship?
Two supporters of Spain's Women's football team hold the Spanish flag (back to front). Can a Spanish surname help you to gain Spanish citizenship? Photo: IZHAR KHAN/AFP

Many people, particularly Americans and Latin Americans, wonder if having a Spanish surname means they're eligible for Spanish citizenship.


In the last few years, there's been quite a bit of confusion about the different ways to get Spanish citizenship and who is and isn't eligible.

This stems mainly from two pieces of legislation that widened the potential pool of citizenship applications: a law that enabled the acquisition of Spanish citizenship possible for Sephardic Jews that are descendants of those expelled from Spain in the 15th century; and the more recently passed Democratic Memory Law, which included the so-called 'Grandchildren's law' and also extended citizenship to descendants of International Brigade fighters.

Combine this with other European countries having relatively lax citizenship requirements, (Italy allows applicants to go all the way back to descendants from the country's founding in 1861) and many people with Spanish surnames have assumed they might be eligible for Spanish citizenship based on their name alone.


In Latin American countries in particular, where Spanish names are extremely common, there would likely be millions of people potentially eligible for Spanish citizenship.

But is that the case?


The short answer is no.

Immigration experts have received a lot of queries on this in recent months, and state this pretty clearly on their website that there is no legal bases for a citizenship claim based on a name alone: "From we want to make it clear that there is no way through which you can access or obtain Spanish nationality simply by having a specific surname. There is no rule, no law, nor any project to create a rule that allows access to a Spanish DNI for having specific surnames."

"These are therefore only rumours or hoaxes that only confuse and give false hope to foreign citizens. All this may be due to the relatively recent publication of the Democratic Memory Law, a law that, among other things, includes the possibility in certain cases of requesting and obtaining Spanish nationality of origin. A law that has nothing to do with having or not having a specific surname."

Around the time citizenship was extended to Sephardic Jews unofficial lists of surnames were circulating, and it is thought that much of the confusion could come from this.

To sum it up: there is no rule or law that grants Spanish citizenship on the basis of having a specific surname, Spanish sounding or not. Any claims that there is are rumours and wrong.

As such, the main routes to Spanish citizenship are through marriage, naturalisation (after living continuously in Spain for ten years) and by descent, going back to grandparentage.



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