If you would like to become a Spanish citizen and get the passport in the country, keep reading. In this article we will solve all your doubts about Spanish citizenship. We will go over the 4 options you have to obtain it, documents and requirements for each, and application process. Including a useful tip to get in in half time! So get ready to learn how to get Spanish nationality.
What is Spanish Citizenship and how can you obtain it?
Spanish Citizenship is a right you can obtain that enables you to live indefinitely in Spain; at the same time that grants you certain benefits, like the right to vote or to freely move and work within the EU.
The most common way of becoming a citizen of Spain is by right of birth. Provided that you have been born in Spain and your parents are Spanish, you directly become a national of the Spanish territory.
Nevertheless, the Civil Code accepts other procedures that can enable you, as a foreigner, to get Spanish citizenship.
For example, as a general rule, those foreigners who have lived in Spain for 10 years can get nationality (citizenship by residency).
But there are other paths, and that is what we’ll discover in this article: like citizenship by marriage, by descent, and by option.
So make sure you keep on reading because it is highly probable that you can get it yourself. And maybe much faster than you thought!
Spanish nationality law
The Spanish nationality is regulated trough one of the most basic documents of the country, the Civil Code, published in 1889. Nevertheless, the authorities have implemented several modifications (we will study them in a second) that affect the way you can get Citizenship. Those are, for example, the ones that come specified on the Royal Decree 1004/2005.
There are 5 main benefits that you can enjoy when becoming a Spanish citizen:
1. Easier paperwork
If you apply for Spanish citizenship, you will have a much easier time navigating the Spanish bureaucracy whenever you need to start any legal process. This, for sure, will save you tons of time.
2. Obtaining the right to vote in Spain
Expats living in Spain for the long run may like to have the option to vote. After formalizing this process, they can.
3. Free movement
Becoming a Spanish citizen, you will have the right to enter 183 countries with your visa on hand during the arrival.
4. Getting the EU passport
You will also be granted the right to live and work anywhere you want inside the European Union.
5. No Spainexit
Spanish is not planning to leave the EU any time soon. Therefore, these benefits are not going to change either expire during the upcoming years.
Spanish Citizenship or permanent residency?
If you have been living in Spain for several years and would like to stay in the long run, the question regarding which is your best option will surely pop up.
What should I do, apply for the permanent 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 in regards to these two possible paths, and clearly understanding them will be key.
About the permanent residency in Spain
If you have lived in the country for 5 uninterrupted years, you can apply for permanent residency in Spain.
This kind of permit grants non-Eu citizens the possibility to stay in Spain over the long run. You just need to renew your residence card every 5 years.
The conditions under which you will be living in the country are the same as those of Spanish citizenship; therefore it can be your preferred option, as it is perhaps the easiest one and the most straightforward.
What is then the difference between Spanish nationality?
The main downside of becoming a citizen
After 10 years of living in Spain, you can obtain Spanish nationality, thus becoming a Spanish citizen.
The main downside of using this path in order to get the long run residency is that you will need to renounce to your original nationality (in order to get the Spanish one).
So that is what you should take into consideration. If you wish to preserve your original nationality, go for the permanent residency, and renew it every 5 years. If that is not a problem for you, nationality will be a better option.
There is, nevertheless, an exception to that rule. If you are from Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines or from a Latin American country, you can obtain your dual nationality; therefore there won’t be any need to give up your original citizenship.
How to get Spanish Citizenship: the 4 different options
Now that you know how this process can benefit you it’s time to see the actual steps to get it. As we have already mentioned, there isn’t a single path to become a citizen.
There are four main ways in which you can obtain Spanish nationality:
- By having lived enough years in the Spanish country (citizenship by residency)
- By marrying a Spanish national (citizenship by marriage)
- By being a descendant or grandchildren of a Spanish citizen (citizenship by descent)
- And trough your children (citizenship by option)
Each of them has different requirements. So make sure you fully understand them to what you should go for.
Spanish citizenship by residency
This is the most known of them all.
If you having been a legal resident in Spain uninterruptedly for a certain amount of years, you can get the Spanish residency through a process called naturalization.
So, basically, it is granted to all foreigners who have remained in the country enough time. You just need to enter Spain with your residence permit, renew it enough times, and once you reach the time frame required according to your situation, you will be granted citizenship.
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:
- 10 years, which is the general rule.
- 5 years if you are a refugee.
- 2 years if you are a foreigner coming from any Latin American country, from Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Philippines, or Portugal. In those cases, as we have already mentioned, you won’t need to give up your former and original nationality, and you will get dual citizenship.
- Just 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.
Requirements for Citizenship by residency
But it’s not that easy. Beyond living in the Spanish territory for 1,2, 5 or 10 years; 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. This implies that any period in between that you became irregular won’t be taken into consideration for the computation.
- Any time in Spain with a tourist or student visa won’t be taken into consideration either (as those are stay 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 you can 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 can work against you here.
Citizenship by marriage
Would you like to get Spanish nationality without the need to wait until 10 years? Then citizenship by marriage may be the right solution for you.
This type of nationality is granted to those foreigners who have been legal residents in Spain for 1 year and who are married to a Spanish citizen. Civil partnerships or divorced couples are not valid for this procedure.
So the process is simple. First of all, 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 together with your spouse (this is really important), you will be able to start the application process. The requirements are exactly the same as the ones we saw in the previous section.
Bear in mind that time starts counting from the moment in which 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.
Citizenship by option
An individual who became a Spanish national by option (also called citizenship by origin) is simply a foreigner who got citizenship because of her parents getting it before.
Let’s say, for example, that you initiate the application for your citizenship by residency. If, in that application, you include the birth certificate of your children, they will be able to become citizens of Spain later on.
The important consideration is that your children must be under 18 years old. Nevertheless, they have the right to claim citizenship for 2 complete years, so they can become nationals until they are 20. Hence, provided that you, as a parent, applied for Spanish nationality when they already were over 18, the process is not valid.
So, who can benefit from citizenship by option?
- Children of foreign citizens who were born in the Spanish territory
- Individuals who are over 18 years old but were adopted by Spanish nationals
- Those who are or have been subject to the custody of a Spaniard
Citizenship by descent
Children of Spanish parents can get a Spanish passport immediately and easily. But what happens to their grandchildren? To they have the same luck?
Well, some years ago it was not possible. The nationality law simply did not include those cases. Nevertheless, with the approval of the new grandchildren’s law, the situation has changed completely.
Nowadays, if you are the grandchildren of a Spanish citizen and you are inside any of the following group, you too can apply for the nationality:
- If you are the children of those who got their nationality trough 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.
Application process and general requirements
The application process to get Spanish citizenship is really straightforward. It can be divided into the following stages:
- You need to prepare all the required documents, including taking the required exams (A2 and CCSE).
- You must submit your application.
- Wait for a response, and get an appointment for the pledge of allegiance.
- 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.
Let’s review each of them carefully.
Required documents to get the nationality, plus preparation
The first step is to prepare the following documents. 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 in the moment of our application.
- Birth certificate
- Criminal records. As we already mentioned, it is important that you don’t have any background records registered; even though you can get a positive resolution if you had a minor and isolated issue
- Marriage certificate (in case you are getting citizenship by marriage)
- Current census and historic (“padrón”)
- Once you pass the 2 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
About Spanish citizenship test: 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 Insitute.
It is this second test the one that scares applicants the most. But it shouldn’t be like that. Why? Because the Cervantes Insitute publishes all the questions online (usually there are a total of 300). So you can easily practice completing all of them beforehand, so you know what you can expect.
Furthermore, if you fail, you can retake it. You have 3 different opportunities until you need to pay again (85€).
Submitting your application
Once you meet all the requirements and finish with al the paperwork, you need to send it to the authorities.
In that sense, you have two different options:
- You can submit your file in person, at the Civil Registry.
- 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.
Nationality processing time: how much time does it take?
Usually, the process takes about 2 to 3 years in total. Nevertheless, there is 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 1 complete year to legally submit their response (which you can check here).
It will be after that period when you can start making things faster. Why? Because, if after 12 months you did not get a response, it simply means that your application got rejected due to administrative silence.
But as there is no reason for that denial, you can initiate an appeal to claim a review. 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 1 year and a half.
Get legal assistance with your 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 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 in order to get your Spanish Nationality?