Updated September 2023
Spain has always been an attractive destination for those seeking a remarkable life in Europe, thanks to its rich history, diverse culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Many individuals are interested in exploring Spain’s beauty and aspire to become esteemed citizens of this captivating country. However, attaining Spanish citizenship is no simple task; it involves navigating complex legal procedures and facing unique challenges.
If you’re considering obtaining Spanish citizenship, continue reading as Wego delves into all the essential information about the requirements for becoming a Spanish citizen in this article
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Spanish citizenship is primarily determined by the principle of jus sanguinis, with limited jus soli provisions. It can be voluntarily renounced but cannot be forcibly removed. The most common method of acquiring derivative citizenship is through legal and continuous residence in the country.
The Spanish legal framework is widely acknowledged as one of the most restrictive in Europe concerning citizenship acquisition. However, there is preferential treatment for former colonies, as their citizens can acquire Spanish citizenship without the requirement to renounce their original citizenship.
Spain citizenship requirements
There are several ways for non-Spanish individuals to pursue Spanish citizenship. The following provides an overview of the available routes to attain Spanish citizenship, each with its specific requirements.
Spain citizenship by birth
According to Article 17 of the Spanish Civil Code, individuals who are considered Spaniards by birthright include the following:
- those born of a Spanish mother or father
- those born in Spain with foreign parents, provided at least one of them was also born in Spain. An exception applies to children of diplomatic or consular officials accredited in Spain
- those born in Spain with foreign parents, where both parents are stateless, or if the legislation of neither parent’s country grants citizenship to the child
- those born in Spain with uncertain parentage. For this category, minors whose first known place of residence is Spanish territory are presumed to be born in Spanish territory
Please note that filiation or birth in Spain determined after a person turns eighteen is insufficient to acquire Spanish citizenship. In such cases, the individual has the right to opt for Spanish citizenship by birthright within two years from the date of such determination.
Spain citizenship by descent
Spanish citizenship by descent offers a pathway to acquiring nationality based on familial connections. You may be eligible for Spanish citizenship by descent if:
- one of your parents is a Spanish national
- both of your parents were born in Spain
- you were adopted by a Spanish national before reaching the age of 18
- you have grandparents who are Spanish
- you are of Latin American origin and have a grandparent born in Spain
- you can trace your lineage to Spanish ancestors with citizenship in Spain
Spain citizenship by option
Article 20 of the Spanish Civil Code outlines the eligibility criteria for individuals who have the right to apply, or “opt,” for Spanish nationality:
- individuals who were under the guardianship of a Spanish citizen
- individuals whose father or mother was originally Spanish and born in Spain. This includes those born after their parent(s) lost Spanish nationality or those born with another nationality before 1982 to a Spanish mother
- individuals mentioned in the second bullet point of Article 17, as well as adopted foreigners who are 18 years of age or older
Individuals eligible for Spanish nationality by option must submit their application within two years after turning 18 or after their “emancipation,” irrespective of age. However, there is no age limit for individuals born to a Spanish parent who was originally Spanish and born in Spain.
Spanish nationality obtained by option does not confer “nationality by origin” unless explicitly specified, as outlined in Article 17 and for those who obtained it through the Law of Historical Memory.
Spain citizenship by naturalization
Spanish nationality through naturalization is granted solely at the discretion of the government through a royal decree, typically in exceptional cases, such as for notable individuals.
Any individual aged 18 or older, or represented by a legal guardian if younger can request Spanish nationality after meeting specific residence requirements outlined in Article 22. These requirements are as follows:
- ten years of legal residence
- five years if the individual is a refugee
- two years for individuals from countries of Ibero-America, Portugal, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, or Sephardi Jews with a connection to Spain
- one year for individuals who meet various criteria, including those born in Spanish territory, those who didn’t opt for nationality within the established period, those under the legal tutelage or protection of a Spanish citizen for two consecutive years, those married for one year to a Spanish national, widows/widowers of Spanish nationals, or those born outside of Spain with Spanish ancestry
Spain citizenship by marriage
In the past, acquiring Spanish citizenship through marriage to a Spanish citizen was a straightforward process, but significant changes were made to the Spanish civil code in 1975. As a result, direct acquisition of Spanish nationality through marriage no longer exists.
According to various sources, to obtain Spanish citizenship through marriage today, a specific set of criteria and procedures must be followed:
- hold a valid residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen during the application period
- demonstrate sufficient financial means, equivalent to 150% of the IPREM
- provide certificates confirming successful completion of the CCSE and DELE exams
- submit a valid passport
- furnish birth certificates for both the spouse and the principal applicant
- present a criminal background check for the last 5 years in Spain and any other country of residence
- both members of the marriage must be jointly registered in the town hall (known as ’empadronamiento’) to demonstrate continuous coexistence for a year
- if the marriage was registered outside Spain, it must be officially registered in Spain before initiating the legal application process
- civil unions (‘pareja de hecho’) and divorced couples do not qualify for this process, and the one-year reduction does not apply. This highlights a key distinction between marriage and civil union, with marriage being the more advisable option
- integration with Spanish culture is also assessed
- the DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) of the Spanish citizen spouse is required throughout the application process
The standard regulation dictates that foreign individuals may apply for Spanish nationality after residing in the country legally for 10 years. However, in the case of marriage to a Spanish citizen, this residency requirement is significantly reduced to just 1 year.
Consequently, while the application process for Spanish nationality aligns with that of other foreign residents, this familial relationship affords the applicant the valuable advantage of a substantial reduction in the mandatory residency period.
Spain citizenship application
Based on various sources, the following steps provide a general outline for acquiring Spanish citizenship
- gather all the necessary documents, including completing the required exams (A2 and CCSE)
- once you’ve met all the requirements and completed the paperwork, you have two options:
- submit your application in person at the Civil Registry.
- apply online
- after submitting your application, wait for a response from the authorities. You’ll receive an appointment for the pledge of allegiance.
- attend the appointment and complete the pledge of allegiance.
- visit your local police station to obtain your passport and DNI (National Identity Document).
- request a concordance certificate to ensure that all public and private institutions with your NIE (Foreigner Identification Number) record can validate your updated ID information.
Spanish citizenship benefits
Securing Spanish citizenship offers more than just the allure of its enchanting culture and breathtaking landscapes. It provides a host of compelling advantages. If you are considering the prospect of Spanish citizenship, here are the prominent benefits to consider:
- as a Spanish citizen, you enjoy unrestricted travel within the Schengen Area, simplifying visits to many European countries
- Spain is among the fortunate 40 countries participating in the visa waiver program, allowing its citizens to enter the United States without the need for a visa
- access to Spain’s comprehensive social services, including healthcare and education, ensuring a high standard of living
- many scholarships and discounts are available exclusively to Spanish citizens
- Spanish embassies and consulates worldwide provide assistance and protection to Spanish citizens abroad
- grants you the right to work anywhere in the European Union without the need for additional visas or permissions.