Complete Guide Spanish Citizenship
Spanish nationality law refers to all the laws of Spain concerning nationality. Article 11 of the First Title of the Spanish Constitution refers to Spanish nationality and establishes that a separate law is to regulate how it is acquired and lost. This separate law is the Spanish Civil Code. by Wikipedia
Although it’s possible to get Spanish citizenship through the time-consuming, expensive process of residency, it’s often more convenient to get Spanish citizenship through your lineage. If your ancestors were born in Spain and you have documentation to prove it, then you could qualify for Spanish citizenship without ever leaving your home country, thanks to Spain’s new law on citizenship by descent. This article will explain everything you need to know about getting Spanish citizenship through ancestry, including what documents you need and how to apply for them.
Spanish citizenship: the basics
Spain is set to make a number of changes to its immigration law that will go into effect on July 11, 2022. In that year, the Spanish government will begin a process of making it easier for international investors and entrepreneurs to gain Spanish citizenship. Both Spanish citizenship and permanent residency allow you to stay living in Spain, but some differences exist between the two.
The changes are part of Spain’s attempt to bring more investment and jobs into the country; when you combine them with the country’s lower taxes, improving economy, and abundant natural resources – it’s clear why so many people are looking at Spain as an ideal destination. Here’s everything you need to know about obtaining Spanish citizenship in 2022/2023.
Should you choose permanent residency or citizenship?
For most people, the answer is pretty clear - to live long-term in Spain, you'll need Spanish citizenship. As a resident, you are afforded limited rights and responsibilities; but as a citizen of Spain, your rights and obligations are far more extensive. You're able to vote in Spanish elections and hold public office; you can also pass on your citizenship to your children if they were born in Spain or while they hold residency there.
After 10 years as a Spanish citizen, you can even apply for dual citizenship! Permanent residency may be fine if you're planning on living abroad for only a short time - say two or three years - but the permanent status will expire after that. If you become a Spanish citizen, however, you will need to give up your original nationality and passport, unless you qualify for an exemption (see below). You will enjoy all the same rights as other Spanish citizens. In addition, you will become a citizen of the EU, meaning you are free to move around within it. You can also vote in European elections.
Brexit: British ex-pats in Spain
On the other hand, if you’re a British ex-pat and your kids are in primary school, you may have a harder time getting Spanish citizenship. Your right to stay depends on the length of your residency, but to make sure that you can continue living in Spain after Brexit (British exit from the EU), be sure to apply by July 30, 2022.
You can start the process before then, but it won’t be finalized until October 31, 2022. The Spanish government has also confirmed that Britons living in Spain as of October 31 will be able to apply for foreigner resident status—the last step before citizenship—for free.
How to apply for permanent residence in Spain
Start by getting your residency visa. If you're moving to Spain, there are a number of steps you can take to make the process as smooth as possible. The first thing you need is a temporary residence card, or Tarjeta de residencia temporaria (TRT).
To get one, you'll need the following paperwork and documents: Application form; passport; proof of address in Spain; two passport-sized photos; and other requirements based on your nationality. You will also need to submit a physical copy of your application along with copies of your supporting documents to the Spanish embassy or consulate nearest you before it can be processed.
You might also have to submit:
- A valid passport;
- Proof of legal residence in Spain (e.g., a long-term rental contract in Spain or receipts for rent);
- Criminal record certificate issued by the authorities in your home country;
- Medical certificate (certificado medico), if not already supplied;
- Proof that health assistance is guaranteed during your residence in Spain;
- Marriage or divorce certificate or other papers relating to your marital status (translated into Spanish if required).
Benefits of permanent residence in Spain
As a resident, you can work in Spain without the hassle of visas or permits. You are not allowed to vote or hold public office, but you will have many more rights than a tourist, including easier access to medical care and social services. Your children can attend Spanish schools at little or no cost.
And you will be entitled to a pension and other forms of public assistance (such as unemployment benefits). Once you become eligible for citizenship (which generally requires 10 years as a permanent resident), you may apply by making an appointment with your local government representative in Spain.
How to get Spanish citizenship
The first step to getting Spanish citizenship is naturalization. In order to obtain a Spanish passport, you must be an EU national and have lived in Spain for at least five years. You can also obtain citizenship by residency if you have lived in Spain (and other countries in the EU) for a total of at least 10 years out of the last 15 years, or if you are married to a Spaniard and have lived together with them continuously over that time period.
Once you become an EU citizen, you will then be able to seek Spanish citizenship after 5 more years of living in Spain. After those 5 more years of residency, your application will most likely be accepted by the government unless there are any outstanding issues that would disqualify your citizenship request (such as having criminal charges against your name).
Spain Golden Visa – Invest in Spain and Get the Residence Permit
Investing in Spain is a smart way to get your residency permit, and the government has simplified the process by implementing a Golden Visa that gives you Spanish residency if you invest in certain businesses or real estate.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have; as long as it’s over €500,000 (or just €1 million if investing in real estate), you’re on your way to getting the golden ticket. If you want to learn more about how to get Spanish citizenship via residence permits through investment, check out my post on Spanish Golden Visas.
Who can get a Golden Visa for Span?
How to get a golden visa, or Visa de Oro (Visa Gold), is determined by the Spanish government. In order to obtain a Visa de Oro, you must meet the following criteria: Have enough money to sustain yourself without working in Spain; earn at least €720,000 (or its equivalent in another currency) per year in tax-free investment income; purchase real estate worth more than €500,000, and have health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay. Additionally, you must be able to prove that you are legally allowed to live and work anywhere else in the world. Golden Visas can also be obtained if you have sufficient technical skills.
In addition to the investment, you must also fulfill the following requirements:
- You must be of legal age (+18 years old).
- You must have no history of criminal records.
- You must not have been refused a Schengen Visa in the past.
- You must have health insurance in Spain.
Because the investment is so substantial and risky, most potential applicants consult with professionals in the field of investment immigration to determine eligibility. La Vida is a consultancy and assistance company, experienced in immigration law, real estate, and international investment. Their range of experts can guide you through your options and even help you apply for the Spanish Golden Visa.
Origin or birth Spanish citizenship
You are Spanish by origin and can apply for Spanish citizenship by ‘Option’ (where you do not require a residency period) if you were:
- Born to a Spanish mother or father;
- Born in Spain to foreign parents, if at least one parent was also born in Spain. The exception is children of diplomats and consuls accredited in Spain;
- Were adopted by a Spaniard and are under 18, or are over 18 and were adopted within the last two years;
- Were born in Spain to foreign parents whose identity is unknown or whose country of origin is undetermined (stateless or refugee status). This also applies if neither parent’s nationality could be legally passed on to you.
There are also other situations to qualify for Spanish citizenship, where residency is required for one year. This applies to those born outside Spain to parents (also born outside Spain) and grandparents, who were originally Spanish. It also applies to those with a Spanish guardian or foster parent. Those who did not duly exercise their right to acquire Spanish nationality by option are also required to have a year.
Spanish citizenship by marriage
If you're married to a Spanish citizen, you have the fastest path to citizenship. You can apply for your Spanish citizenship in five years, as long as you have lived in Spain for at least two of those years and meet other requirements. This is the fastest path to gaining permanent residency (the best way to get Spanish citizenship).
If you are married to a Spanish citizen and meet all other requirements, then your spouse will usually be able to sponsor your application. However, it's important that if at any point during the process one of the spouses stops being married or divorced, they'll need to reapply with their new marital status in order to receive their residence card and apply again for full permanent residency.
How do I qualify for Spanish citizenship through marriage?
Following your marriage to a Spanish citizen, you will need to have been resident in Spain with your partner for a minimum of one year from the date a residence permit was granted. You will need to have a residence permit as a family member of an EU citizen.
The other qualifications required for Spanish citizenship are academic – you will need to pass the CCSE (Constitutional and Sociocultural Aspects of Spain) and DELE (Diploma of Spanish) exams. These prove that you have a good level of knowledge of both the legal and cultural aspects of Spain and that you have an intermediate grasp of the Spanish language. Once you have these, integrating into your local community will be much easier.
What documents do I need to qualify for Spanish citizenship through marriage?
An application for Spanish citizenship through marriage requires identity documents, including a full passport and a birth certificate for both your spouse and you, as the principal applicant. You will also need your marriage/civil registry certificate and proof of registration of both yourself and your spouse at the town hall showing your presence on the local census.
It is also necessary for you to prove that you have integrated with the Spanish culture and that you are in possession of sufficient economic means to support yourself.
In addition to this, it is necessary for you to demonstrate that you have sufficient economic means to support yourself.
You will also need to undergo a criminal background check, which must come up unblemished.
Exemptions to the 10-year rules
If you were born in Spain to foreign parents, you have the right to Spanish citizenship. However, if your native country extends citizenship at birth and was a Spanish colony until 1898, then you do not need to live in Spain to get citizenship. Otherwise, you must reside in Spain for ten years before applying.
In addition, being married or living with a Spanish citizen or having been a resident of Spain continuously since age 16 will shorten the waiting period by one year (to nine years). To claim exemption from the 10-year rule, apply no later than October 31, 2022.
Spanish citizenship by naturalization
The majority of people who gain Spanish citizenship do so by naturalization, which essentially means applying after you've lived in Spain for a period of time. The criteria vary by region and they change over time, but in most cases, you will need to have been living legally in Spain (for non-EU citizens) or the European Union (for EU citizens) during the past five years and meet certain other requirements—including passing a language test and proving that you can support yourself financially.
The easiest way to apply is through your local municipal office. There are often long waiting lists, however, so be sure to start the process early if your goal is to obtain citizenship by naturalization before the Brexit deadline.
The naturalization process is more complicated than citizenship by investment:
- during the entire application period, the applicant needs to constantly confirm the specific purpose of their stay in Spain, for example, work or study;
- the applicant’s spouse and children will need to obtain separate permits;
- as there is strong demand for Spanish residence permits, the government limits applications by setting an annual quota. As a result, the process can take much longer than 10 years to complete.
Spanish citizenship for family reunification
In general, the process of applying for Spanish citizenship through family reunification is fairly straightforward, as you don’t need to pass a language test or even spend any time in Spain. If you have an immediate family member (like a parent) who is eligible to apply and qualifies financially, all you need to do is fill out the right forms and pay the right fees.
However, it’s important to note that the current rules only allow parents and grandparents who are over 65 years old to apply. In 2021 and 2022, the age will be raised by one year until people of any age can apply—so if your parent isn’t yet 64 years old, they will soon be able to!
Spanish citizenship based on guardianship
Some people are surprised to learn that the Spanish government offers citizenship to children of Spaniards born outside of Spain. In certain circumstances, those children can even get Spanish citizenship based on their parents’ guardianship.
The first thing you need to know is that it’s easier if your child is under 18 when you submit your application. But regardless of his or her age, he or she must have been legally adopted by a parent who is already a Spanish citizen in order to qualify for Spanish citizenship based on guardianship.
Advantages of Spanish citizenship
All these methods give the same rights and obligations as to any other citizen of Spain. As the country is part of the European Union, a Spanish passport is also a pan-European one. This offers additional benefits for Spanish citizens:
- a comfortable life in an economically developed and stable country in the European Union.
- Spain ranks second in the list of the best European countries to live in retirement;
- the ability to move to any EU country for permanent residence;
- study at the best European universities;
- the right to conduct business or work in prestigious European companies.
- Spain is included in the top 5 countries for foreign professionals;
- a high-quality medical system;
- loans at favorable interest rates;
- possibility to legally reduce tax obligations;
- deposit funds in reliable European banks;
- travel around Europe without visas;
- purchase and register real estate and cars in your name.
Frequently asked questions
Why do foreigners choose Spain for immigration?
The main reasons why foreigners choose to live in Spain are that it has a warm climate, a stable economy, and a high level of income and security, as well as excellent educational institutions and medical systems.
How can I get a Spanish citizenship?
Spanish citizenship can be obtained by naturalization, by origin, family reunification, through marriage, by guardianship, and by the state-registered residence permit by investment program. It is important to take into consideration that Spain does not recognize second citizenship with most countries. Therefore, in order to obtain a Spanish passport, a foreign citizen usually has to renounce citizenship of their country of origin. Naturalization. Any foreigner can apply, but the state does not guarantee granting citizenship.
What are the benefits of Spanish citizenship?
With Spanish citizenship, you get the same rights as an EU citizen. A Spanish passport offers the opportunity to travel freely around the world and visit more than 159 countries, including the Schengen states. With a Spanish passport, you can live, work and study in any EU country. Citizenship is issued indefinitely. However, your Spanish citizenship can be revoked for providing false information in the application, if you enter military service or apply for a political position in another country, or for any serious crime.
Which are the documents needed?
Each of the 4 types of nationalities has its own documents and requirements. Nevertheless, as a general rule, you will always need to include:
- Yous passport, NIE, and current residency card.
- Criminal background check.
- Your historic census (called “histórico de empadronamiento” in Spanish).
- Document certifying that you passed both nationality exams.
- Payment of the corresponding fee.
How can I check the status of my application?
The Spanish Ministry of Justice created an online platform that allows you to check the status of your citizenship application completely online and in real-time. It is called “cómo va lo mío”.
Can you end up losing it?
Yes, it is entirely possible to lose your Spanish nationality.
In cases where you start living in a third country, and within three years (without notifying your intention to keep your citizenship) either you only use your original nationality or you acquire a third one, you will lose your Spanish nationality.
Can I travel abroad while waiting for my resolution?
The answer is yes. You can travel for a short period of time abroad without any problem, as long as, as detailed in this post, you respect the periods required by your current residence card.
New law for Spanish nationality
The Spanish Civil Code is the main document regulating Citizenship in the Spanish territory.
Nevertheless, recently the government approved a new law that will grant grandchildren of Spanish nationals the possibility to get citizenship themselves.
As of 2022, anyone with a Spanish parent or grandparent who was born in any country will be able to apply for citizenship. That includes a lot of people! The specifics might change between now and then, but it’s clear that Spanish citizenship is more open than ever.
If you’re one of the many people who have always wanted to live in Spain, what are you waiting for? Time to plan your future—and get busy studying the official languages! Good luck!