Brexit: Should Spain’s British Expats Become Spanish Citizens? Expat Tips

One burning question that many expats have had since the Brexit referendum is "Will I be able to remain in Spain after Brexit?".

Although it's impossible to say at such an early stage in the Brexit negotiations, many expats have already seized the initiative and taken steps to become Spanish nationals so that they can guarantee the same level of privileges that they currently enjoy here in Spain.

If you are considering becoming a Spanish national, it's important to understand that there are a few eligibility requirements that you will need to meet.

To be able to apply to become a Spanish national you will need to either:-

  • Have a Spanish parent or grandparent
  • Have lived legally and continuously in Spain for at least 10 years. This is commonly referred to as Nationality via Residence.
  • Are married to a Spanish citizen - If you have been married for more than one year you can fast track your application via your local Civil Registry (Registro Civil).
  • Born in Spain to foreign parents

Further detailed information of eligibility requirements can be found here.

You will also need to:-

  • Renounce your British nationality - Although Spain does allow dual citizenship/nationality, this is only available for a handful of Latin-American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, Andorra, Portugal, the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea.
  • Take the Spanish citizenship exam - Taking the citizenship exam is not just a case of turning up and sitting a test. You will first need to have an adequate level of spoken Spanish and a good understanding of the Spanish culture including historical, social and political events as well as some sporting knowledge. See section below.

It's also important to note that if you do decide to renounce your British nationality, you will need to give up your British passport and apply for the Spanish equivalent.

Applying For Spanish Citizenship

If you wish to apply for citizenship, you will need to do so via your local Civil Registry Office or if living outside of Spain via your nearest Spanish Consulate. You will also need to provide a certain amount of documentation including:-

  • Completed application form
  • Your birth certificate and that of your spouse if married to a Spanish national. You would also need to provide your marriage certificate.
  • Consular Certificate - including your former nationality, criminal records and your military situation.
  • Certification of Spanish criminal records
  • Proof of Empadronamiento/registration at your local town hall
  • Police certificate stating the length of your legal residence in Spain

Please note that it can take between 18 and 24 months from the date of application for Spanish nationality to be granted by the Spanish authorities.

For a full list of required documentation, please see the following links

Be warned though, as stated previously, you will need to have a good grasp of the Spanish language and have knowledge of cultural, historical, social and political events as well as Spanish sporting successes.

The Parnell Language Academy in Mijas on the Costa del Sol is thought to be the first centre to offer Spanish citizenship courses to help expats pass the citizenship exam. 

The Parnell Academy in partnership with Brexpats Spain offer a "Brexpat Spanish Citizenship Course", which teaches the student to speak Spanish competently as well as introduce them to the kinds of general knowledge and information that they will need to know in order to pass the exam and become fully fledged Spanish citizens.

But don't expect to be ready to take the test overnight. Depending on your current level of Spanish, it can take a student up to 3 years to become competent enough to sit the exam.

In a recent interview with The Local newspaper in Spain , Natasha Parnell, Director at the Parnell Academy stated, "We offer two one-hour classes a week of combined Spanish and general knowledge for the test".

"Of course it depends entirely on the student but if you were a complete beginner at Spanish I would say it could take between two and three years before you would be competent to take the test".

Do I Need To Become A Spanish Citizen To Remain In Spain?

Even though there is a very good chance that expats who resided in Spain prior to Brexit, will be able to retain their current privileges, there can be no guarantees until all of the negotiations have been completed.

You can read more about how expats may potentially be affected by reading our other article here

If you do decide to become a Spanish national, you will retain your rights to move freely and unhindered between existing EU member countries. You will also have the ability to vote in Spanish and European elections and of course work within Spain and the rest of the EU.

On the downside, you will as previously stated, need to renounce your British nationality and give up your British passport, which for some may be hard to do.

Image Credit: Daniel Diaz Bardillo