When a foreign person settles and spends some time in Spain, it’s highly likely that they will start thinking about obtaining Spanish nationality as soon as possible. To do this, one of the most important requirements is to live legally in Spanish territory for a certain period of time.

Sometimes, many people initially come to Spain for short periods and then decide to establish themselves indefinitely and permanently in the country over time. This is normal if they lack freedoms and opportunities in their home country.

It is essential to note that having legal residency in Spain differs significantly from processing and obtaining Spanish nationality, which involves becoming a Spanish citizen in all respects. So, if you are in the process of applying for your residency, stay tuned to this article to get all the necessary information.

What is the required time to apply for Spanish nationality?


As we have previously mentioned, the ways to obtain Spanish nationality are regulated by the Civil Code. In the case of Spanish nationality by residency, specific time periods must be met to submit the application. These are as follows:

  • A general period of 10 years for common situations
  • A period of 5 years for those who have refugee status
  • Two years of legal and continuous residency are required for citizens originating from Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, or who are of Sephardic descent

It is important to note that one does not immediately obtain Spanish citizenship after the required period is lived out. It is just when one can start the application process for it. The application process can take months due to external factors such as bureaucracy. 


When is a one-year residency period acceptable to obtain nationality? 


There are some special circumstances wherein the process to citizenship is a lot shorter. In these cases, one can apply for citizenship after one-year of residing in Spain. 

However, to answer the title of this article: Yes, it is possible to obtain Spanish citizenship in less than a year in one circumstance. 

This is possible when the applicant is the child of a Spanish national by origin. 

In this special case, the applicant always has the right to apply for Spanish citizenship. Until the age of 21, he or she is not required to be a resident in Spain for one year to be eligible for application. 

In all other cases, the minimum required time period is one year. 

Which brings us to the next point, a one-year residency period will be sufficient for:


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Someone who was born in Spanish territory


Some countries do not grant nationality to their nationals’ children born abroad. These countries include: Portugal, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Paraguay, Guinea Bissau, Uruguay, and Sao Tome and Principe.

In these cases, Spanish nationality is granted to the infant born in Spain. 

However, if the parents are not from one of these countries, the infant born in Spanish territory will obtain their parents’ nationality. The parents will have to register the infant in the civil registry. From there, the parents can obtain legal residency for their child. 

Then, after legally residing in Spain for one-year, the child can apply for Spanish citizenship. 

If you would like to read more about being born in Spain, click here. 


Someone who has a Spanish spouse


If a foreigner marries a Spanish citizen, he or she only needs to have been a legal resident in Spain for one-year at the time of citizenship application. 

The relationship is only valid if they are not legally or de facto separated. 

So, just to be clear, one does not automatically obtain Spanish citizenship by getting married to a Spanish citizen. The non-Spanish national is still required to live with their spouse in the country for a year, before being eligible for citizenship. 

The widow or widower of a Spanish individual, provided there is no legal or de facto separation at the time of the spouse’s death can also apply for citizenship. 

You can read more about obtaining citizenship through marriage here. 


Someone with Spanish parents or legal guardians


Someone born outside of Spain with another nationality, to a father or mother who were Spanish can apply for citizenship after one year of residency. 

Someone who has been legally under the guardianship, legal representation, custody, or fostering of a Spanish citizen or institution for two consecutive years can also apply for citizenship by residency. Even if they continue to be in this situation at the time of application. 

Anyone who has not exercised their right of citizenship by option in due time must also live in Spain for a year before being eligible for citizenship. 


Taking into account the residency period to apply for Spanish nationality


As you can see, depending on your specific situation, it will generally be necessary to demonstrate a variable period of legal residency. 

It is essential to keep in mind that residency must be maintained legally and continuously at all times to avoid unforeseen inconveniences. In other words, without experiencing major departures from the country beyond what is permitted.

In situations where you are unsure of when you started to be a legal resident or if there have been interruptions in your residency at any time, we recommend obtaining a Certificate of Residency, something you can easily do at any police station.

Once you know that you meet all the requirements, it’s time to proceed with the application.

Yes, it’s true that obtaining Spanish nationality in one year can be a complicated and confusing process. That’s why the best option is to seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer who can guide you step by step, and who have had experience with hundreds of cases like yours.

As always, at Balcells Group, we would be more than happy to guide you through the process. 


Book a consultation with one of our lawyers and we’ll answer all your questions:

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