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Spanish passaporte Citizenship Spain: How To Become A Spanish National Expat Tips

If you are a permanent resident in Spain, you may be wondering whether your next step should be to get Spanish citizenship or not.

In the following article, we will provide you with everything you need to know about citizenship in Spain including:-

  • What Spanish citizenship actually is
  • The advantages of citizenship
  • The requirements
  • How to apply to become a citizen of Spain
  • What you need to know about the citizenship test
  • The different routes to obtaining citizenship
  • Dual citizenship
  • And lots more.

Let’s take a look and see whether becoming a Spanish national could be right for you.

What is Spanish Citizenship and Naturalisation?

Naturalisation is the legal process by which a non-citizen of a country can acquire citizenship or nationality of that country.

Once you are granted Spanish citizenship, you have the right to live permanently in Spain with additional benefits such as being able to vote, have a Spanish passport and be able to move freely within the EU and each of the member states.

There are a number of ways to become a Spanish citizen. The default route is via birth. If you were born in Spain to Spanish parents you will automatically be a Spanish citizen.

If you are married to a Spaniard, you may also apply.

However, according to Spain’s Civil Code, there are other paths you can take to become a Spanish national.

For example, citizenship by residency. This means that foreigners who have lived in Spain for 10 years or more can also apply to become Spanish citizens.

There are other routes you can take which we will touch upon below.

What is the difference between citizenship and residency?

Having Spanish residency means that you have the right to reside and in some cases work in Spain, however, it doesn’t give you some of the other benefits that are enjoyed by Spanish nationals.

What are the advantages of becoming a citizen of Spain?

There are many advantages to becoming a Spanish citizen. These include:-

  • Free movement within the EU - As a Spanish national you will have the right to move freely as well as live and work anywhere within the EU.
  • The right to vote - Many people like to place their tick in the box and cast their vote. As a Spanish citizen, you will be able to vote in local, regional and national elections as well as European elections.
  • The bureaucratic benefits - We all know that Spain can be a little bureaucratic at times. Becoming a citizen will make your navigation through such processes far easier.
  • Spanish/EU passport - As a Spanish citizen, you will be able to get your hands on a nice shiny EU passport. Note that in most cases, you will have to give up your current nationality and passport.
  • EU membership - Spain is a member of the 27 EU Member countries and currently has no plans to follow the UK and renounce its membership. This means that for the foreseeable future, you will be able to remain a member of the EU.
  • The cost of living - The cost of living in Spain compared to the UK is far cheaper. This includes the cost to buy and rent a home which can be up to 50% lower.

So what are the disadvantages?

There aren’t too many...

The main disadvantage would be that in most cases you would have to renounce your current nationality. There are some exceptions to this, for example, where Spain has agreements with specific Latin American countries and former Spanish colonies. (See section below)

Unemployment in Spain is also a little on the high side and focused primarily on the tourist sector. However, if you are willing to learn the language and possibly retrain, like anywhere else, there will be opportunities.

You could also set up your own business or become autonomo self-employed.

What Are The Requirements to Become a Citizen of Spain?

The requirements to get citizenship will depend on your circumstances, however, there are four main eligibility requirements to gain citizenship.

These are:-

Spanish Citizenship by Residency

This is the route to citizenship for many foreigners and can be obtained if you have been permanently resident in Spain for a specific number of years.

The default is 10 years. So if you have lived in Spain permanently for 10 years you will be able to apply for citizenship.

However, this can be 1, 2 or 5 years under the following conditions.

  • 5 years if you are a refugee.
  • Only 2 years if you are from any Latin American country, Portugal, Andorra, Philippines or Equatorial Guinea. (See excluding list for dual citizenship further below)
  • Only 1 year if you are married to a Spanish national or a child/grandchild of a Spanish citizen born in Spain.

Spanish Citizenship by Marriage

One of the quickest ways of obtaining Spanish citizenship is to marry a Spaniard.

In this case, you can then be granted citizenship after just one year of permanent residence. Note that you must have lived together for at least one year within the Spanish territory.

Also, note that the one-year timeframe starts from when you first obtain your residency card.

All marriages will also need to be registered in Spain. If you tied the knot outside of Spain, you must first register the marriage in Spain.

Those who are in Civil partnerships (Pareja de Hecho) or divorced couples are not currently able to apply for Spanish citizenship by marriage.

Spanish Citizenship by Option

If you have obtained citizenship yourself, you are eligible to apply for your children.

The child will need to be under the age of 18, however, the application process may be extended further to when they are up to 20 years of age.

This is because the child will have the right to claim citizenship for up to two years from when they turn 18.

The parent will not be able to apply if the child is over 18.

The child may then apply for a Spanish passport.
There are a number of advantages of doing this including as we have seen, the right to travel and work within the European Union.

Also, future grandchildren will become Spanish nationals by birth as their parents will be Spanish nationals.

Spanish Citizenship by Descent or Ancestry

The new citizenship by descent law is for grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Although it was not previously possible, the new law has now opened the path to citizenship for both of these groups under certain circumstances.

If you are a grandchild of a Spanish citizen and belong to any of the following groups, you may be able to apply for Spanish nationality.

  • Children of those who obtained nationality via historical memory, however, were unable to get nationality by option when the law came into force because they were older than 18.
  • Grandchildren of Spanish women who were born in Spain and who were married to non-Spanish citizens before the Constitution of 1978 came into force.
  • Grandchildren of Spanish citizens, even though they had the chance to apply by option, failed to do so and became older than 18 years of age.
  • Grandchildren of Spanish nationals who acquired nationality from another country after leaving Spain and before their children were born.

Civic Behaviour

In order to be granted citizenship, you will need to be a person of good standing and not have any criminal records.

The Spanish authorities will check these during the application process. Some violations such as speeding tickets and renewing your residency card late can even work against you in some cases so make sure you are squeaky clean in this respect or your application may be rejected.

Spanish Citizenship Tests

Ok. The next part of the process will scare many as most of us just don’t like taking exams, especially when they may be in a foreign language.

In order to get Spanish nationality, you will need to sit two different tests.

One is a language test (DELE A2) and the other is a cultural test (CCSE) to ascertain your understanding of Spanish culture. Both are run by the Cervantes Institute.

  • DELE A2 - This is the language test and will be used to make sure that your grasp of the Spanish language is sufficient. This test does not need to be taken by those who are from Latin American countries. More info about the DELE A2 test can be found here.
  • CCSE - This is the cultural test and comprises 45 minutes of multiple-choice questions. Questions will be on a wide range of topics such as Spanish politics, TV, art, culture and geography. More info on CCSE exams can be found here.

According to the Cervantes Institute, in the January 2022 exams, a massive 95.75% of the 13,442 candidates who applied passed the exams!!

That has to be reassuring!

The current fee to sit the CCSE test is €85. If you fail the first test you can resit the second test for free.

The fee for the DELE A2 will vary depending on the country you take the test and the test centre.

The Cervantes Institute contains a wealth of info on preparing for the exams including practice questions and answers for you to study.

You can find out more via the Cervantes Institute website.

Required Documentation To Apply

You won’t need to produce too much documentation, however, it will vary slightly depending on which route you take.

The following are what you will need for your citizenship application.

  • Your pass certificate from your DELE A2 and CCSE exams
  • A receipt to prove that you have paid the corresponding citizenship fee which for 2022 is €104.05
  • Passport and NIE number
  • Proof of being registered on the padron of the local town hall
  • Proof that you have a sufficient income
  • Criminal records
  • Birth certificate if wishing to obtain citizenship by option
  • Marriage certificate if applying for citizenship by marriage
  • Residency document

Note that any foreign documents will need to be translated into Spanish and legalised by a notary.

How To Apply For Citizenship In Spain

Once you have all of your documents ready, you will need to sit one or more of the exams mentioned above. If you are from a Latin American country you will not need to take the language exam.

Once you have passed the exams and have received your certificate, you can make your application for citizenship either in person at your nearest Civil Registry office or online via the Ministry of Justice website.

To do it online, you will need to visit the following official web page.

https://sede.mjusticia.gob.es/es/tramites/

To find your nearest Civil Registry office, view the following official web page.

Once processed (1-3 years), you will then be given an appointment to pledge your allegiance.

Once you have done this, you will be able to apply for your Spanish/EU passport and DNI.

Note that it can take up to three years for the citizenship application to be processed and for you to be informed of the outcome.

Dual Citizenship For Spain

As we have already touched on, in order to gain citizenship in Spain, in most cases, you will need to give up your current nationality.

Spain does have agreements with Ibero-American countries and former Spanish colonies. Citizens of these countries do not need to give up their current citizenship and are therefore granted dual citizenship rights.

Below you can see a list of the current list of exempt countries.

Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela and France.

FAQs For Spanish Citizenship

Q. Will I Get A Spanish Passport?

A. Yes, once you are a Spanish national you will be able to apply for a Spanish/EU passport.

Q. Will I Need To Give Up My Passport?

A. Spain has dual citizenship agreements in place with a number of Latin American countries and former colonies (see list above). If your country is on this list you will not need to give up your passport.

Q. Can You Buy Spanish Citizenship?

A. Not directly. However, if you were to become a resident in Spain through one of the residency visa schemes that require you to invest in property or a business then you will be able to apply for citizenship after 10 years.

Find out more about the non-lucrative visa and golden visa.

Q. Does Spain Allow Dual Citizenship?

A. Yes, Spain has agreements with a number of Latin American countries. See the list under the ‘Dual Citizenship’ section.