How to Obtain Spanish Citizenship

Updated on Saturday 17th October 2020

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In this article, we describe how to obtain Spanish citizenship, the available options, and briefly outline the process for application and the needed documents.

Individuals who qualify for becoming citizens can commence the process with the help of our agents who specialize in Spain immigration. For most expats, the purpose of staying in Spain long-term can conclude in their application for obtaining nationality. 

Obtaining and retaining Spanish citizenship is subject to several regulations and individuals should know that the nationality acquired through residence, for example, can be lost if the process was subject to fraud.
 

What are the methods of acquiring nationality in Spain?


Foreign citizens have several options for becoming Spanish citizens:
  1. By origin: applicable to those both to a Spanish parent or those born in Spain to non-Spanish parents when at least one of the parents was born in Spain. 
  2. By option: applicable only in specific cases, for example when a foreign national has been the parental authority for a Spanish national.
  3. By residence: those who have lawfully lived in Spain for ten years prior can apply for citizenship under this category.
  4. By naturalization: it is not subject to the general rules and it is awarded ex gratia; it is granted at the discretion of the Government by special decree.
  5. By possession of status: those who have possessed or used the nationality for ten years in good faith even though they were not in fact of Spanish origin.

Our team of immigration lawyers in Spain can help individuals who are interested in knowing more information about each of these different methods of acquiring nationality. Talking to a specialist can be useful especially for those foreign nationals who are not applying for the residence type of citizenship but who are willing to explore the other options that may require different processes. Special assistance may be required for example in the situation in which one of the parents was not Spanish but was born in Spain (an exemption applies here to the children of diplomats).
 

Types of visas leading to citizenship in Spain

 
Citizenship is the main purpose of those who immigrate to Spain for long periods of time and luckily, the types of visas through which permanent residence and then Spanish passport can be obtained are various.

When it comes to the visas that can be obtained by foreign nationals, it is important to note that these must be obtained by non-EU and non-EEA citizens followed by the required period of time until citizenship can be applied for.

Another important aspect to be considered by non-EU citizens is that when they are EU residency holders (when they have obtained an EU Blue Card or another type of visa in another member state) it will be easier for them to move to Spain and apply for permanent residence here.

Even if the visa requirement does not apply to EU and EEA citizens, these too must register with the local authorities upon arrival and wait for the citizenship requisites to be met in order to apply for a Spanish passport.

When it comes to the visas through which one can obtain citizenship in Spain, both short-term and long-term residence visas can be obtained, however, the procedure is lengthier when applying for the first type of permit due to the fact that it must be renewed several times before applying for permanent residency.

Our immigration lawyers in Spain can offer detailed information on how to apply for long-term residency with the purpose of obtaining citizenship.
 

What are some of the specific requirements for obtaining citizenship?


Each of the methods of acquiring citizenship is subject to a set of conditions and applicants are advised to thoroughly understand these before they commence the application procedure.

For the nationality by residence, one of the commonly employed methods for acquiring this status, there can be certain cases in which the ten-year period can be reduced:
  • Five years: when it is granted to those individuals who have obtained the status of refugees.
  • Two years: for those of Sephardic origin, those from Ibero-American countries, the Equatorial Guinea, or the Philippines. 
  • One year: for individuals who were born on Spanish territory or those who have not exercised their right to Spanish nationality.
  • One year for marriage: applies to individuals who, when making the application, have been married for one year to a Spanish national.
  • One year for widowers: the widow of a Spanish national can acquire this status if at the time of death they were not separated.

Individuals should also know that the Spanish nationality can be lost in some cases. For example, those who have acquired nationality according to residency can lose their status as citizens or nationals if they enter the armed services or hold political office voluntarily in a foreign state against the government’s indications. The citizenship can also be annulled when the party is sentenced and is convicted of having falsified the acquisition of Spanish nationality.

Our team of immigration lawyers in Spain can give you more information about the conditions for obtaining citizenship but also the special situations in which it can be withdrawn as a result of the holder’s actions.

The Ministry of Justice in Spain is the one to handle nationality matters, interested individuals can reach out to us for details about the ongoing requirements, and procedures set forth by the authorities.

We invite you to read about the main ways of obtaining Spanish citizenship in the infographic below:
 
How to Obtain Spanish Citizenship


How to obtain Spanish citizenship by residency


The main way through which foreign citizens apply for citizenship in Spain is after living here based on permanent residence permits. This is also one of the simplest ways of acquiring a passport, as the applicant already knows the culture and language after living for sufficient years in Spain.

Before applying for citizenship, a foreign national must first obtain a temporary or permanent residence permit that will need to be renewed several times before being allowed to apply for citizenship. Also, it is important to note that there are different requirements for obtaining Spanish citizens based on the nationality of the applicant.

In the case of non-EU citizens, these must live for 5 uninterrupted years in Spain before obtaining permanent residency. They must also meet specific requirements, such as having sufficient funds to support themselves and public or private health insurance.

Then, citizenship can be requested after 10 years of living in Spain.

Foreign citizens seeking to obtain residency and then citizenship can rely on our immigration lawyers in Spain for detailed information on how to obtain them.
 

How to obtain Spanish citizenship by descent


Citizens who have Spanish origins can also obtain citizenship here. This is called citizenship by option and implies:
 
  • having a Spanish mother or father;
  • having foreign parents but at least one of them being born in Spain;
  • having foreign parents but being born in Spain;
  • being adopted by Spanish citizens prior to turning 18 years old.

There are also special cases where foreign citizens born outside Spain with Spanish grandparents to obtain a residence permit and after a year applying for citizenship.

The documents to be prepared when applying for Spanish citizenship by descent are usually more extensive, given the fact that in some cases, proof of descent must be obtained with the local authorities in Spain.

If you need support in gathering the documents for obtaining citizenship, our lawyers in Spain can help you.
 

Acquiring citizenship in Spain by marriage


Just like other European countries, Spain also offers the possibility to foreign citizens who are married to Spanish nationals to obtain citizenship here. This is one of the fastest ways to acquire a Spanish passport, however, there are some requirements to be met. First of all, the foreign citizen must give up their previous citizenship in order to obtain the Spanish one. Then, he or she must have lived in Spain based on a residence permit for at least one year.

Foreign citizens can rely on our immigration lawyer in Spain for guidance in applying for citizenship after getting married to a national of this country.
 

Citizenship by investment in Spain


Spain is one of the many countries to have enabled an economic citizenship program. Moreover, it is one of the most successful in Europe. It must be noted, however, that this program is available for high net worth individuals meaning to make a significant contribution to the economy, hence its name.

The conditions for obtaining Spanish citizenship through the Golden Visa Scheme are more stringent are imply among others the following:
 
  • to invest at least 1 million euros in the form of a bank deposit;
  • to invest at least 1 million euros in the form of company share purchases;
  • to invest at least 500,000 euros in the purchase of a property;
  • to invest at least 2 million euros in Treasury bonds.

It is also possible for the applicant to invest in the opening of a company in Spain.

Apart from these conditions, the applicant must also meet the following requirements:
 
  • he or she must have a clean criminal record;
  • the applicant must prove the legitimacy of the funds;
  • the investment must be maintained for 5 years.

This program was created for non-EU citizens seeking to move to Spain and the preferred choice of applicants is usually real estate investment. For this, our immigration lawyers in Spain offer various services.

We can also assist with the preparation of the documents required to apply for citizenship by investment in Spain.
 

What are the documents needed to apply for citizenship in Spain?


In general, the documents required when applying for citizenship will be those that prove the applicant’s lawful stay in the country for the requested period or the fact that he/she is lawfully married to a Spanish national or other documents, as per the specific situation that applies.

The criminal record, the proof of income, and of residence in Spain, along with other documents as may be required will be gathered into a file that will be submitted with the filled-in application.
 

Steps to complete in order to obtain citizenship in Spain


No matter the way one immigrated to Spain, the steps to citizenship are the same once all requirements are met. These are:
 
  • to prepare all the documents attesting to meeting the conditions for citizenship and filing them;
  • take the language test;
  • take the 25-question test on knowledge of the Spanish Constitution and social-cultural customs;
  • pay the application fee.

For foreign nationals whose native language is Spanish, the language test will not be required. For other applicants, a minimum A2 level is required.

The procedure does not take long, and our lawyers can offer more information and prepare you for the interviews.
 

Dual citizenship in Spain


Foreign citizens who have applied for citizenship in Spain must know that they are required to renounce their previous passports unless they have Ibero-American origins. Among the foreign citizens who can retain both citizenships are Argentinians, Bolivians, Brazilians, Chileans, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Mexicans,  Nicaraguans, citizens of Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Uruguay.

The procedures for obtaining citizenship in Spain for the citizens of these countries are the same, even if they decide to keep their former citizenship.

If you want to emigrate to Spain and need guidance on the best way to do that, you can rely on our lawyers who can provide you with details on the procedures related to each type of residence permit available.
 

The fastest way to obtain citizenship in Spain


While the Immigration Law in Spain requires a permanent residency of 10 years before applying for citizenship, there a few exceptions to this rule. Refugees can be eligible to apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency here, while citizens of Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, and the Philippines can apply for Spanish passports after two years of residency here.

Compared to other European countries, Spain is very friendly to foreign citizens who want to move here on a permanent basis.

Our lawyers are here for those who need information and guidance on the simplest way to obtaining citizenship in Spain.
 

What is the best way of applying for Spanish citizenship?


Choosing a way to immigrate to Spain is not complicated unless one has Spanish origins, a case in which, this would be a natural choice. Employment and living in Spain under a residence permit can be the best route for those seeking to obtain citizenship by naturalization.

Entrepreneurs can decide on citizenship by investment in Spain by starting a business or by purchasing properties here. Either way, our lawyers can offer the needed assistance for moving to this country permanently.
 

Procedures to complete after becoming a Spanish citizen


Those who have acquired Spanish citizenship must change their documents after the procedure is completed. They will also obtain full rights as Spanish citizens, such as voting rights and even property purchase rights for those who did not have them before.

For those who have not registered with the national healthcare system and the insurance authorities in this country, the procedure can be completed after obtaining citizenship. As Spanish nationals, persons also have the right to enroll in the national educational system with local universities, while their children can study in local schools.

Obtaining citizenship in Spain also comes with EU residency for those who did not immigrate here based on an EU residence visa.

Our immigration lawyers in Spain can offer detailed information on all the rights attached to becoming a citizen of this country. Also, should you need assistance with registering with the local authorities, we can help.

Contact us for more information about the procedures related to Spain immigration, living in Spain, acquiring the right residence permit, or acquiring citizenship.