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Spanish Citizenship from A to Z

Spanish Citizenship

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Many residents in Spain believe that Spanish citizenship can be obtained by being born in Spain, or that their child is born in Spain, or that they marry a Spanish citizen, etc. However, this process is not as simple as it seems, and some regulations must be followed to apply for Spanish nationality.

The concept of nationality is the legal union between a people and their state. It has the dual function of being a fundamental right and constituting the legal status of a person.

As a result, there are many ways currently available to obtain Spanish citizenship, for example by residency, naturalization, natives, option, and others.

Advantage of Spanish Nationality

Gives you peace of mind

When you are granted Spanish nationality, your life will change because you will no longer have to wait to renew your residence permit, to comply with all the legal requirements to renew your permit, to wait for the resolution of the application, and pray that it is favorable. After all, otherwise, you would lose the possibility of residing in Spain, which means starting the initial residence procedures again and all that this entails… Therefore, acquiring Spanish nationality gives you peace of mind in your day-to-day life.

You will be able to work and live in any country of the EU

By obtaining Spanish nationality, you will become an EU citizen, which means that you will be able to work and live in any country of the European Community without any problem.

You will obtain political rights such as active and passive suffrage.

In other words, you will be able to vote in general or regional elections.

You will be able to regroup your family members:

By obtaining Spanish nationality, since you will be considered an EU citizen, you will be able to regroup your children, your spouse, or their children in a much easier and quicker way, by applying for the Residence Card as a Family Member of an EU Citizen.

Spanish passport

Ways of obtaining the citizenship

Citizenship by residence

This form of acquiring nationality requires the person’s residence in Spain for a legally determined period, in a legal, continuous manner, and immediately before the application.

In this regard, generally, the foreign resident who already applied for permanent residency and lived in Spain. for ten continuous years. However, there are exceptions to the general rule: five years are sufficient for those who have obtained refugee status and two years in the case of nationals of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal, or Sephardic Jews.

In addition, the period of residence of one year will be sufficient in the following cases:

  • A person born in Spanish territory.
  • If the person has not exercised the right to opt for Spanish nationality promptly.
  • A person who has been legal under the guardianship, custody, or foster care of a Spanish citizen or institution for two consecutive years, even if he/she continues in this situation at the time of the application.
  • Who at the time of application has been married to a Spanish citizen or institution for one year and is not legally or de facto separated.
  • The widow or widower of a Spaniard, if at the time of the spouse’s death there was no legal or de facto separation.
  • The person born outside Spain of a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who were originally Spanish.

Citizenship by a letter of naturalization

This form of acquisition of nationality is granted on an exceptional basis and is not subject to the general rules of administrative procedure. It may or may not be granted at the discretion of the Government by Royal Decree, after assessing the existence of exceptional circumstances.

Citizenship for native Spaniards

The following are Spaniards of origin:

  • Those born of Spanish parents.
  • Those born in Spain of foreign parents if at least one of them was also born in Spain. The children of diplomatic or consular officials accredited in Spain are excepted.
  • Those born in Spain of foreign parents, if both lack nationality or if the legislation of neither of them attributes a nationality to the child.
  • Those born in Spain whose parentage is not determined. For these purposes, minors whose first known place of stay is Spanish territory shall be presumed to have been born in Spanish territory.

Nationality by option

The option is a benefit that Spanish legislation offers to foreigners who meet certain conditions to acquire Spanish nationality. They are entitled to acquire Spanish nationality by this means:

a) Persons who are or have been subject to the parental authority of a Spaniard.

b) Those whose father or mother was originally Spanish and born in Spain.

c) Filiation or birth in Spain, whose determination occurs after the age of eighteen, are not in themselves a cause for acquiring Spanish nationality. The person concerned is then entitled to opt for the Spanish nationality of origin within two uninterrupted years of that determination.

d) If the adoptee is over eighteen years old, he/she may opt for the Spanish nationality of origin within two years of the establishment of the adoption.

Double nationality with a Spanish passport

Many foreigners applying for Spanish nationality are unaware that Spain requires them to expressly renounce their original nationality of origin to obtain Spanish nationality and, after waiting two or three years for the process to be completed, they find themselves in this important situation. This situation applies to foreign nationals from countries with which Spain does not have a signed dual nationality agreement. 

If they do not renounce their nationality of origin, they will not be able to obtain Spanish nationality. 

However, as I have already mentioned, this applies to nationals of countries with which Spain has not signed a dual nationality agreement. Thus, citizens of countries with which Spain has signed a dual nationality agreement are not obliged to renounce their nationality of origin and may have dual nationality: that of origin and that of Spain.

In this sense, citizens of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, or Portugal don’t need to renounce their nationality. For these purposes, Ibero-American countries are considered to be those in which Spanish or Portuguese is one of the official languages.

To acquire dual nationality, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Guyana are not considered Ibero-American, while Puerto Rico is considered Ibero-American.

Spanish Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

In 2015, the Congress of Deputies approved the Law Project that granted Spanish nationality to the Sephardic descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century. The law abolished the need for residence in Spain and did not require the renouncement of the previous nationality.

However, although this law, initially foreseen for one year, was extended year after year, in 2019 it was no longer extended and the last applications accepted were those completed before 1 October 2019. Therefore, as of today, it is no longer possible to apply for Spanish nationality as a Sephardi.

Citizenship exam

If you apply for citizenship by residence, then, as a general rule, you must pass the exam on constitutional and cultural knowledge of Spain (CCSE test) and obtain the DELE Spanish diploma level A2 or higher, which certifies a basic knowledge of the Spanish language. 

However, you will be exempt from taking the DELE A2 or higher exams if you are in one of the following situations:

  • you are a national of Spanish-speaking countries or territories,
  • you are under 18 years of age,
  • you have a judicially modified capacity,
  • you already have a DELE A2 diploma (or higher), or
  • you already have a basic (A2), intermediate (B1), or advanced (B2) level certificate from the Official Language Schools.

On the other hand, minors, persons with legally modified capacity, persons with learning difficulties, and persons who have been schooled in Spain and have passed Compulsory Secondary Education may also be exempted from taking the CCSE exam.

The validity of the DELE Spanish diplomas is indefinite, while the CCSE certificate is valid for 4 years from the date of approval of the qualification certificate.

The easiest way to obtain Spanish Citizenship

At this point, having explained the different ways of obtaining Spanish nationality, you may be wondering which is the quickest and/or easiest way to obtain it. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to obtain Spanish nationality. By law, once the application for nationality by residence is submitted, the administration has up to one year to resolve it. However, the reality differs from what is legally stipulated, as it is currently taking more than two or even three years to receive a decision on the application. 

Therefore, knowing that applications for nationality by residence are quite high, which has led to a delay in their resolution, this has consequently had repercussions on applications for other ways of obtaining Spanish nationality, such as nationality by option. For this reason, it is not possible to speak of a realistic timeframe for the resolution of nationality files at present.

On the other hand, even if there is an easier way than another to obtain Spanish nationality, the citizen who applies for it must be in a specific situation that allows him/her to apply for it in one way or another.

A citizen whose parents are not Spanish by origin, born in Spain, for example, could never apply for Spanish nationality by option. Likewise, a citizen with no family ties to a Spaniard and who has never resided in Spain will never be able to apply for Spanish nationality either by option or by residence.

Get assistance

In the Immigration Department at Lexidy, we will be able to assist you with your application for Spanish nationality. So, if you wish to apply for Spanish nationality, do not hesitate to contact us and tell us about your case to see how you can apply for nationality and to inform you of the requirements you will need to meet to proceed with your application.

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