Residency permits For Members

Does being born in Spain give you Spanish residency rights for life?

The Local Spain
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Does being born in Spain give you Spanish residency rights for life?
Being born in Spain only easily facilitates residency rights for minors, not adults. (Photo by JOSE LUIS ROCA / AFP)

Being born in Spain gives you the life-long right to apply for Spanish nationality after a year of residency, but if you’re a foreigner who left Spain as a child or later, do you also have the automatic right to move back to the country?


Children born in Spain to foreign parents are not automatically granted Spanish citizenship in the majority of cases. 

Instead a year of legal residence in Spain has to pass before you (or your parents rather) can apply. 

This is covered in Spain's Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11th, on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Social Integration (articles 16 to 19 and 31) and the Regulation of Organic Law 4/2000, approved by Royal Decree 557/2011, of April 20th (article 186).


The exceptions are for parents from Argentina, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guinea Bissau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, San Tome and Principe, Uruguay or those who are stateless, in which case their child can get Spanish citizenship straight after birth.

READ MORE: How to apply for Spanish citizenship for a baby born in Spain to foreign parents

Nevertheless, only one year of residency before citizenship is still a very appealing offer for many people whose personal circumstances allow for this. 

So what happens if you were born in Spain but you never obtained Spanish citizenship before you moved to another country?

Fortunately, you hold onto the right to claim Spanish nationality after a year of residence throughout your life. 

READ ALSO: Does having a baby in Spain mean the parents can become Spanish?

However, the main obstacle for many in this situation will be how to obtain that one year of residence before applying for Spanish citizenship.

You may not want to obtain Spanish citizenship but instead just want to live in Spain, and hope that having been born in España will mean Spanish authorities welcome you back without any hurdles in the way. 


Is this the case? Not exactly, as being born in Spain only easily facilitates residency rights for minors in Spain, not adults who left.

If you’re an EU national, getting Spanish residency will be very straightforward due to the bloc's freedom of movement policy, and will initially involve getting a green residency certificate (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión). 

On the other hand, if you’re a non-EU national, having been born in Spain will give you no automatic advantage over other third country nationals who are applying for residency.

In essence, you will have to decide which visa you should apply for. 

There are work-related visas: standard work visa, self-employment visa, the EU Blue Card for highly skilled workers and the newer digital nomad visa.  

Then there are visas for those with plenty of money and who don’t need to take on work - the non-lucrative visa and the golden visa.

And there are other visa options which you may be lucky enough to obtain, such as the visa for a family member of an EU citizen, as in the case of a parent or spouse living in Spain being a Spanish national or from another EU country. 

So, all in all, if you’re say a UK national who was born in Spain to British parents but you all left when you were a child, you will be able to apply for Spanish citizenship as an adult after one year of residency, but getting back into Spain to live in the first place may have its challenges.

There is no unlimited period of absence from Spain, the same rules apply to you as to other non-EU nationals who've resided in Spain.

Keep in mind as well that you will have to sit Spain’s language and culture exams if you want to get Spanish citizenship, and that waiting times can be of several years

If one of your parents is Spanish, or one of your parents was born in Spain, then the year of residence to apply for citizenship isn’t necessary as you will be considered a Spaniard by origin. 

Spain’s new grandchildren law may also be worth looking into if your grandparents fled Spain during the Civil War or Franco’s dictatorship.

You should also take into account that most foreign nationals will be expected to renounce their original nationality once they obtain Spanish citizenship.



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