Obtaining Spanish nationality is the final goal of many foreigners, and the reality is that this is a simple task thanks to the different options and paths available to achieve it. But how can you become a Spanish citizen? Who exactly can apply for this nationality?

In this article we will go over all the ways that will allow you to obtain Spanish nationality, the detailed requirements, and the step-by-step application process.

Stay until the end as we also analyze the most common mistakes foreigners make on this path, plus how to avoid them. So if you want to know how you can enjoy the extensive advantages of the Spanish passport… keep reading!

What is Spanish Citizenship?


Spanish Citizenship is a right that enables you to live indefinitely in Spain. At the same time it grants you certain benefits, like the right to vote, and to work and move freely within the EU.

The most common way of becoming a citizen of Spain is by right of birth. That is, by being born in Spain to Spanish parents.

In this case, you immediately become a national of the country. However, the Spanish Civil Code states some other circumstances that enable foreigners to apply for and obtain Spanish citizenship.

For example, as a general rule, foreigners who have lived in Spain for 10 years can get citizenship by residency.

Some lesser-known paths include: citizenship by origin, and citizenship by option. We will dive deep into these in the next few sections. This means that maybe you are eligible for Spanish Citizenship without having to reside in Spain for 10 years. Keep reading to find out!


Spanish nationality law


The Spanish nationality is regulated through one of the most important documents of the country, the Civil Code. It was published in 1889. Since then, authorities have implemented several modifications – we’ll look into them in a second – that affect the way you can get citizenship.

These modifications are specified in the Royal Decree 1004/2005.


Advantages of Spanish citizenship


There are three main benefits to becoming a Spanish citizen:


1. Easier paperwork

If you apply for Spanish citizenship, navigating Spanish bureaucracy will be much easier. Starting and completely legal processes will take less time, and there will be fewer legal obligations yearly.


2. Obtaining the right to vote in Spain

Obtaining the Spanish citizenship gives one the right to vote in Spain. As a national in the country, you will have the opportunity to vote for what and who you believe in.


3. Having a Spanish passport

With a Spanish passport, you have the right to live and work anywhere within the European Union. Moreover, and thanks to all the agreements Spain has in terms of tourist visas, you will be able to easily travel to 190 countries.


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Spanish Citizenship vs Permanent Residency


If you have been living in Spain for several years and would like to stay for the long run, you have two options: citizenship or long-term residency. The big question is, which option is better for you?

What should you do, apply for long-term residency or become a Spanish citizen (thus obtaining Spanish nationality)?

Well, the reality is that both options will grant you the possibility to live in Spain indefinitely.

Nevertheless, there are a few differences between these two possibilities, and fully understanding them will be key to making the right decision.


What is long-term residency in Spain?


If you have lived in the country for 5 continuous years, you can apply for long-term residency in Spain.

This kind of permit grants non-EU citizens the possibility to stay in Spain for the long run. You just need to renew your residence card every five years.

With the long-term residency, you will be able to live and work in Spain with the same rights as a Spanish national. You will also be able to travel freely around the EU.

However, since you are not a national, you will not be able to vote in the country.

In general, it is more straightforward and requires less things than obtaining citizenship.

How, then, does it differ from Spanish nationality?


The main downside of becoming a Spanish citizen


After 10 years of living in Spain, you can obtain Spanish nationality by residence, thus becoming a Spanish citizen.

The main downside of taking this path is that you will need to renounce your original nationality to get the Spanish one.

If you wish to preserve your original nationality, long-term residency is the better option.

Nevertheless, there is an exception to that rule. If you are from Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, or from a Latin American country, you can obtain dual citizenship. Therefore, giving up your original nationality won’t be necessary.


How to become a Spanish citizen


How can I get Spanish citizenship? This is the big question. So, now that you know how this process can benefit you, let’s talk about the ways to get it. As we have already mentioned, there isn’t just one fixed path towards becoming a citizen.

There are three main ways to obtain Spanish nationality:

  • Citizenship by residency
  • Citizenship by origin
  • Citizenship by option

Each of them has different requirements. So let’s make sure you fully understand each of them to know what path you should go for.


Spanish citizenship by residency


Citizenship by residency is becoming eligible for Spanish citizenship by continuously being a legal resident in Spain for a certain number of years. This type of process encompasses different situations, and each situation has a different required amount of time. This brings us to the next question:


How long do I need to live in Spain to get citizenship?


The exact amount of time will depend on your situation, family ties, and country of origin:

  • The general rule is 10 years
  • 5 years if you are a refugee
  • 2 years if you are from any Latin American country, from Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines, or Portugal. In these cases, as we have already mentioned, you won’t need to give up your former and original nationality, as you can get dual citizenship
  • 1 year for those married to a Spanish national or children/grandchildren of Spanish citizens born in Spain. We will explore these two options in the next section.


Citizenship by marriage


In this sense, citizenship by marriage technically does not exist.

This is because you do not automatically obtain Spanish citizenship when you marry a Spanish national. As stated, you will have to live with your partner in Spain for one year before you are eligible for this procedure.

Thus, it actually falls under citizenship by residency in the context of marriage. Civil partnerships or divorced couples are not valid for this procedure.

The process is simple. First, you need to marry a Spanish Citizen. Once you do that, you will be able to get a residence and work authorization through the family member of an EU visa.

After 12 months of living with your spouse (this is really important), you will be able to start the application process for Spanish citizenship.

Bear in mind that the one year begins from the moment you get your residence card.

Furthermore, as you will need to submit your marriage certificate, you must make sure that the marriage is registered in Spain. So if you got married abroad, this is an extra step you will need to take.


Requirements for citizenship by residency


Aside from living in the Spain for one, two, five, or 10 years (depending on your particular situation); you must make sure to meet the following requirements for a successful application:

  • The year count starts from the validity of your first residence card. If at any period, you fall under an illegal status, the year count restarts
  • Any time in Spain with a tourist or student visa won’t be taken into consideration neither (as those aren’t residency periods).
  • You must have lived for the required amount of years uninterruptedly. This means that you can’t leave the country for a long period of time (more than 3 months can become a reason for denial), neither can you do it frequently.
  • It is crucial to show proper civic behavior. The authorities will check your criminal background records and police records to see if there is any conflicting behavior. Having speeding tickets or having renewed your residence card late won’t help you here


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Citizenship by origin


The Spanish nationality by origin is the process by which the individual acquires the nationality automatically as a child of Spanish parents, without the need for the intervention of the will of the person.

Here it is important to consider that in the cases of adoption, we are also in front of a process of origin, as long as the adoptee is a minor.

If the adoptee is no longer a minor, he or she has two years from the consitution of the adoption to choose to become a citizen. (This is called citizenship by option, which we will discuss in the next section.)

As a summary of this section, you must consider that those who were born in Spain to foreign parents can become a citizen if at least one of their parents was born in Spain too.

In some cases, if the child is born in Spain to foreign parents, but cannot obtain the nationality of their parents’ country due to the said country’s laws, Spanish Nationality is granted to the infant. This also goes for children who are born in Spain to stateless or unknown parents.

In these cases, the infant obtains nationality through citizenship by simple presumption. If a child is found in Spain and we don’t know where they were born, we assume they were born in Spain.

As we can see, children of Spanish parents can get a Spanish passport easily. Is this also applicable to the grandchildren of Spanish citizens?


Grandchildren’s Law (Ley de Nietos)


Currently, it is possible for the grandchildren of Spanish citizens to obtain citizenship. This has been made possible by the grandchildren’s law, which will remain in force until the end of 2025.

If one falls under any of the following situations, they can benefit from the grandchildren’s law and easily obtain Spanish citizenship:

  • If you are the child of those who got their nationality through historical memory but who couldn’t get the nationality by option when the law came into force as they were older than 18 years old
  • Grandchildren of Spanish women who were born in Spain and married to non-Spanish citizens before the creation of the 1978 Constitution
  • Grandchildren of Spanish nationals who got the nationality of another country after leaving Spain before their children were born (so their Children couldn’t become Spanish citizens)
  • Grandchildren of citizens of Spain who, even when having the possibility to get citizenship by option, lost the chance as they became older than 18 years old


Citizenship by option


Citizenship by option is a way and an advantage for foreigners to become Spanish citizens if they meet certain conditions.

Firstly, individuals who are or have been under the parental authority of a Spanish citizen are eligible to apply for citizenship. If one of your parents used to be Spanish and was born in Spain, you can also apply.

If you find out who your parents are after you turn eighteen, and that they are Spanish, you have two years to apply for citizenship. You also have two years to apply if you are above eighteen years old and find out you were born in Spain.

Lastly, as previously mentioned, if you’re adopted by Spanish parents after you turn eighteen, you have two years from the adoption date to decide if you want to become a citizen.


Spanish Citizenship requirements


Below we explore a fundamental part of the process of obtaining Spanish nationality: preparing all the necessary documentation and demonstrating the requirements for the process.

This is one of the parts in which most foreigners fail, but at the same time, it is crucial to ensure that everything is correct from a legal point of view to obtain nationality quickly and successfully. So make sure to read carefully!

Before you look at the list of general requirements, consider that, depending on the type of citizenship you intend to get, some of them may differ:

  • Identification: complete passport and NIE
  • Your current residence permit. This implies that you can’t be in an irregular situation at the moment of our application
  • Birth certificate
  • Criminal records. As we already mentioned, it is important that you don’t have any records; although it is still possible to get a positive resolution if it was a minor and isolated incident
  • Marriage certificate (in case you are getting citizenship through marriage)
  • Current census certificate and past census records (“padrón”)
  • Once you pass the two required exams,  DELE A2 and CCSE, you will get a certificate that must be included on the application file
  • If you would like to grant your children the possibility to get citizenship by option, include their birth certificate
  • Document proving that you paid the corresponding fee, which is about €100
  • Demonstration of the possession of sufficient economic means

How to apply for Spanish citizenship


The application process for Spanish citizenship is really straightforward. It can be divided into the following stages:

  1. You need to prepare all the required documents, including taking the required exams (A2 and CCSE)
  2. You must submit your application
  3. Wait for a response, and get an appointment for the pledge of allegiance
  4. With the document you will be given during step number 4, you can attend your local police station and finally get your passport and DNI
  5. Finally, you will have to request a concordance certificate so that all public and private institutions you registered with your NIE can validate your new ID info

Let’s review each of them carefully.


The Spanish nationality exams: DELE A2 and CCSE


In order to get Spanish passport and become a national in the country, you must pass two different citizenship exams:

  • The DELE A2, which is the basic language test that demonstrates you have a high-enough Spanish level. If you come from any Latin American country, there’s no need to take this exam
  • The CCSE, which is a cultural test. If you studied school or high school in Spain, this test is not required. It is a 45-minute multiple-choice test in which they basically ask about the Spanish government, art, television, culture, and geography

Both exams are organized by the Cervantes Institute.

It is this second test that scares applicants the most. But there’s nothing to fear.

The Cervantes Insitute publishes all the questions online (usually there are a total of 300). So you can easily practice by answering all of them beforehand, so you know what you can expect.

Furthermore, if you fail, you can retake it. You have a second try then you’ll need to pay the €85 again.


Submitting your application


Once you meet all the requirements and finish with all the paperwork, you need to submit them to the authorities.

In that sense, you have two different options:

You can submit your file in person, at the Civil Registry. 

Or, you can do it online, starting here. Our recommendation? Do it online. It will save you a lot of time (no need to get an appointment), and you will receive your resolution much faster.


How long does it take to obtain Spanish nationality?


Answering exactly how long it takes to get Spanish citizenship is quite complicated. However, the process usually takes around 1 year in total. Nevertheless, recently waiting times have been drastically reduced to 5-6 months in the vast majority of cases.

There’s a really useful tip you can use to speed the process up radically.

Once you submit your application, the Spanish government has a period of 12 months to legally submit their response (which you can check here through the “cómo va lo mío” platform).

During that time, your file will go through several phases or statuses. If you click here, you can read about these phases and the meaning of each.

Keep in mind that from the moment you send your application until you receive your resolution, it is totally possible to travel outside Spain, but only if you comply with the 2 requirements we see in this post (not to lose your residence and to make an appointment for the oath on time).

It will be after that period when you can start speeding things up. This is because if after 12 months you did not get a response, it simply means that your application got rejected due to administrative silence.

If there is no clear reason for that denial, you can initiate an appeal to claim a review of your application. After that, you will get a response in 3-4 months.

If you start getting an appointment for the flag’s jury at the same time you submit your appeal, it is possible to get Spanish citizenship in just a year and a half.

But remember that you can make an appointment for the oath at the Civil Registry but also before a notary. This is something that could speed up the process immensely. Especially if you are in a big city where the Civil Registry is very saturated and it would take months to give you an appointment.


Can I lose my Spanish nationality?


Finally, it is important to mention that it is entirely possible to lose nationality by residence once obtained.

If you move abroad and within three years you do not use it, the Spanish consulate will initiate a process of withdrawal.

That is why once you get your Spanish citizenship, it will be essential to use it. In case this is not possible, you will have to make a declaration in the same consulate saying that you still want to keep it.


Get legal assistance with your Spanish nationality application


If you feel this is too much information and would like to have your life simplified, you don’t need to worry, our team of specialized immigration lawyers in Spain is here to help you out.

We can manage the whole application process for you: determining which is the best path for you to follow, asking you for the concrete documentation and information you will need to get your application approved, plus filling out and sending everything ourselves. You will just need to sign!

Furthermore, we can make the process faster; so you avoid long waiting times.

What are you waiting for? Let’s your Spanish Nationality! 


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