Spanish citizenship For Members

When can I start counting my residency in Spain towards citizenship?

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When can I start counting my residency in Spain towards citizenship?
At what point does your time spent in Spain start to count towards citizenship? Photo: Daniel Prado / Unsplash

Applicants for Spanish citizenship need to have been living in Spain for a certain amount of time in order to qualify. At what point does your time spent in Spain start to count towards citizenship?


How long do I have to have lived in Spain to qualify for citizenship?

As a general rule, you need to have lived in Spain for 10 years with a valid residence permit (TIE card) or EU right of residency (EU green residence card or certificate - Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

Those from Ibero-American countries where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela), only have to wait two years before being eligible for citizenship.

The same applies to those from Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or Sephardic Jews. 

Those with official refugee status have to have lived in Spain for five years before they can apply.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Spain 

If one of the following situations applies to you, you only have to have legally lived in Spain for one year until you can get Spanish citizenship:

- You were born in Spain

- You have been married to a Spaniard for a period of one year and are not legally separated

- You are the widow or widower of a Spanish citizen and, if upon their death you were not legally separated

- You were born outside of Spain to a Spanish parent or grandparent who originally had Spanish citizenship

- Anyone born outside of Spain to a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who originally would have been Spanish

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


When can I start counting from?

This will typically depend on what type of residency you have.

For non-EU citizens, the following rules apply:

According to the Ministry of Justice, the time starts counting for citizenship from the date you apply for your TIE residency card.

You must apply for your TIE within three months of arriving in Spain.

READ ALSO - EX-11: How to get your long-term residency card in Spain

You will initially be issued with a five-year temporary TIE card, which must be renewed after this time and exchanged for a permanent TIE card. Remember, you will lose your right to permanent residence if you live outside of the EU for more than one year. 

READ ALSO: Spain scraps six-month absence rule for losing temporary residency

Your time to Spanish citizenship starts counting from when you receive your residency card. Photo: Photo by Mikhail Nilov / Pexels


British citizens who moved to Spain before Brexit

Brits who gained residency under the Withdrawal Agreement before December 31st 2020 may have exchanged their green residency card for a TIE, although this isn’t a legal requirement.

If you had an EU green residency certificate for less than five years, you will have been given a temporary TIE card and if it was for longer than five years, you will have been issued with a permanent residence card.

Citizenship may count from the date you applied for your new TIE or the date on your green residency card, if you still hold one. To be sure which date the authorities will take into account, you can apply for a Residence Certificate - see below. 

For EU citizens

Your period of residency starts from the date you receive your EU green residency card and are officially recognised as living in Spain, rather than an EU tourist.

Like the TIE, you need to apply for this within the first three months of living in Spain.

Unlike the TIE, however, there is no expiration date on the card. The number of years towards citizenship will count from the date of issuance on the card.

READ ALSO - Step by step: How to apply for Spanish nationality


A family member of EU citizen

If you are not an EU citizen but are the spouse or child of one, you are eligible for an EU family residence card that gives you the right to live and work in Spain for five years, after which you can apply for permanent residency.

Your residency can start counting towards citizenship from the day you receive your initial EU family member residence card.

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

What time will not count towards citizenship?

Any time spent living in Spain as a student will not count towards your citizenship.

This is the same case for any time you spent living in Spain as a tourist – ie the three months before you applied for your residency card.


What if I’m unsure how many years, months and days I’ve lived in Spain?

If you are not exactly sure how long you have been a legal resident in Spain or if your residence has been interrupted at any time, you can apply for a Residence Certificate.

This residence certificate is a document that contains all the authorisations and cards that you have had since your arrival in Spain, so you can verify if you meet the required number of years or not.

You can apply for it online from the Spanish government website or from your local police station or immigration office. It will be valid for a total of three months from when it’s issued.

You will need to complete form EX15 and to pay the relevant fee.

Be aware that applying for Spanish citizenship is a lengthy process and can take anywhere from one to three years. This means that by the time you receive an answer, you will most likely have been living in Spain for more than 10 years in standard cases (less for the specific ones mentioned above).



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