Spanish Nationality

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Obtaining Spanish nationality

When a foreigner has been living in Spain for a period of time, it is common for them to consider the question of how to obtain Spanish nationality, as this represents a significant advantage in many aspects.

In this article, we will explain the different ways to obtain Spanish nationality, but we will focus on the application for nationality by residency, as it is the most common procedure to obtain Spanish citizenship.

Spanish nationality application

Firstly, once you obtain Spanish nationality, you can forget about the tedious residency renewals that usually have very strict requirements, such as being able to prove a work contract or having sufficient financial means.

Additionally, depending on the country of origin, you will not lose your original nationality, therefore, you can be legally Spanish without losing your nationality, that is, you can have dual nationality.

The general rule for Spanish nationality application is that you must renounce your original nationality. This is established in Article 23.b) of the Civil Code, which states as a requirement to obtain Spanish nationality «that the person renounces their previous nationality,» however, the final part of that provision states that «this requirement does not apply to nationals of countries mentioned in paragraph 1 of Article 24 and to Sephardic Jews originally from Spain.»

The countries mentioned in Article 24 are Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal.

How to acquire Spanish nationality

The different ways to apply for Spanish nationality are:

  • By grant of citizenship. This route is very exceptional. It is granted discretionally by the Government, by means of Royal Decree, in cases where it understands that there are exceptional circumstances that justify it.
  • Nationality for Spanish citizens by origin. Spanish citizens by origin are: Those born to a Spanish father or mother or those born in Spain when they are children of foreign parents if at least one of the parents was born in Spain. Children of diplomats are excepted. That is, we are in the case of a person who is born in Spain and whose father or mother also was born in Spain but did not apply for Spanish nationality at the time, therefore, they are foreigners. Those born in Spain to foreign parents, if both are stateless, or if the laws of neither attribute nationality to the child. In this case, a procedure can be carried out in the Civil Registry of their domicile to declare Spanish nationality with the value of simple presumption. This is to prevent a minor from being stateless. In the event that the parents do not have nationality or do not transmit it to the child according to the laws of the country of origin, Spanish legislation allows the child to acquire Spanish nationality. Children born in Spain whose parents’ identity is unknown. Minors whose first known place of residence is Spanish territory are presumed to be born in Spain. Minors under 18 who are adopted by a Spanish citizen are also Spanish citizens by origin. If the adoptee is over 18, they can opt for Spanish nationality of origin within two years from the date of adoption.
  • Nationality by possession of status. Those who have possessed and enjoyed Spanish nationality for 10 years, continuously, in good faith, based on a title registered in the Civil Registry can apply for nationality through this route. In other words, Spanish nationality was granted to a person by mistake and they are allowed to keep it.
  • Nationality by option. This is a benefit offered by the law to two groups of people: Those who are or have been subject to the parental authority of a Spanish citizen. Those whose father or mother was Spanish and born in Spain. In this blog, you will find more detailed articles on each of these ways to obtain Spanish nationality.

As mentioned earlier, the most common way is to apply for Spanish nationality by residency during a period of time in Spain.

Requirements for Spanish nationality

Legal, continuous, and immediate prior residence

The main requirement and the most important is legal, continuous, and immediate prior residence before applying for Spanish nationality by residency.

Legal residence: This excludes those who are in Spain irregularly from being able to access Spanish nationality. People in this situation must first obtain a residence permit, whether for social, work, family reasons, etc., and once they meet the legally required residence period, they can begin the process of applying for Spanish nationality.

It is important to note that studying in Spain does not count towards obtaining nationality. For example, if a student from Ecuador has been studying a Master’s degree in Spain for two years, they cannot apply for Spanish nationality. In the case that they wanted to apply for Spanish nationality, they would have to change their residency status, most commonly to a work residency, and then apply for Spanish nationality by residency.

Continuous residence: The required period of time specified by law, whether it’s 10 years, 5 years, or 2 years, must be fulfilled continuously.

Let’s give an example to make it clearer. A Colombian national starts their legal residence in Spain on January 1, 2018. Since they are a citizen of an Ibero-American country, the law requires only two years of residence, so on January 1, 2020, they would already meet the temporal requirement. These two years must be continuously spent in Spain, but does this mean they cannot leave Spain? According to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, continuous residence does not mean an absolute prohibition of leaving Spanish territory. The important thing is not to lose the connection with Spain.

Therefore, it is possible to travel to the country of origin or elsewhere, but for short periods. Continuing with the example of the Colombian citizen, since only 2 years of residence are required, exits from Spanish territory should not exceed 3 months as a general rule.

In the case that 10 years of Spanish citizenship by residency are required, exits cannot exceed 6 months.

Another question that arises regarding this is how to calculate this period of allowed exits. That is, if my exits cannot exceed 3 months, does this refer to the total or to each individual exit?

Well, it seems that the criterion that the DGRN (General Directorate of Registries and Notaries) has been maintaining lately is that a single exit cannot exceed that time, but if two different exits exceed that period, it would be acceptable.

Despite this criterion, our recommendation is to avoid, as much as possible, leaving Spanish territory, in order to avoid any problems that could lead to a denial of Spanish nationality in the future.

Prior: logically, the residency period must be immediately prior to the moment when the Spanish nationality application is submitted. It is not valid if you resided legally and continuously in Spain for 2 years 10 years ago, if during the Spanish nationality application process you have been outside of Spain for 8 years.

Applying for Spanish nationality: How long to live in Spain?

The answer to this question depends on your nationality.

The general rule is 10 years of Spanish residency, but as we will see below, there are several exceptions that affect Spanish citizenship. In some cases, 5 years are required, in others 2, and in certain cases only 1. Besides, there is the special case of Guatemalans who have a special agreement.

Let’s analyze these exceptions:

5 years: this applies to those who have obtained refugee status.

2 years: this applies to nationals of Ibero-American countries (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, etc.), Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, or individuals of Sephardic origin.

1 year: there are different situations that allow only one year of Spanish residency:

  • Those who were born in Spanish territory.
  • Those who did not properly exercise their right to acquire Spanish nationality by option.
  • Those who have been legally subject to the guardianship, care, or fostering of a Spanish citizen or institution for two consecutive years, even if they continue in that situation at the time of the Spanish nationality application.
  • Those who, at the time of the Spanish nationality application, have been married to a Spanish man or woman for one year and are not legally or effectively separated.
  • The widower or widow of a Spanish man or woman, if at the time of the spouse’s death they were not legally or effectively separated.
  • Those born outside of Spain to a father or mother (also born outside of Spain), grandfather, or grandmother, provided that they were originally Spanish.
  • One day for Guatemalans. Nationality convention of July 28, 1961, signed between Spain and Guatemala.

Taking the Spanish nationality exam

There are two exams to take to know how to obtain Spanish nationality, the so-called CCSE (Constitutional and Sociocultural Knowledge) and the DELE, which is the Spanish language knowledge test.

Obviously, Spanish-speaking nationals do not have to take the DELE exam, as they know the Spanish language.

These exams are conducted by the Cervantes Institute. If you want to know how to register, you can access our article «Spanish Nationality Exam: How to Register?» where we explain in a very simple way the steps you have to take to enroll in the Spanish nationality exams.

These exams are conducted regularly, so you can register when you feel prepared. In this sense, it is worth noting that, once the CCSE exam (Constitutional Knowledge) is passed, the certificate is valid for 4 years from the date of approval of the qualification report, so if you intend to apply for Spanish nationality and meet the other requirements to apply for Spanish nationality that we are explaining in this article, you can start this Spanish nationality process to save time.

The DELE exam certificate (in case you have to take it) does not expire.

These exams serve to be able to prove «a sufficient degree of integration into Spanish society.» It no longer happens as before when passing a personal interview was required to prove this, and therefore it was more subjective to decide who met this requirement and who did not. Now, passing the exam is sufficient to prove that necessary degree of integration.

If you want to know more about the exam, you can continue reading more information on how to register for the Spanish Nationality Exam.

Good civic conduct

This requirement usually translates into the absence of criminal records, both in Spain and in the country of origin.

Apart from the above, one must be careful with police records because having them could also lead to a denial of Spanish nationality.

As we explained in another article, good civic conduct and having criminal records do not have to be incompatible. It is possible to have criminal records and for the Ministry of Justice to consider that the person has demonstrated good civic conduct. The problem arises when the opposite happens; that is, a person who has already canceled their criminal records has their nationality denied because, despite the cancellation, the offense they committed is so serious that it prevents proving good civic conduct.

In any case, if there are criminal records, our recommendation is to cancel them as soon as possible to avoid problems.

How to acquire Spanish nationality

Lack of criminal records

Another important requirement is being able to prove «good civic conduct.»

We are facing what is called an indeterminate legal concept, that is, a concept subject to interpretation since the law does not clearly define it. In practice, however, we can understand it related to criminal or police records, although they are not synonymous.

Having criminal records in Spain or in the country of origin is grounds for denial of the application, so if you have them, you must cancel them before applying for Spanish nationality.

In the event that you only have police records, it is more debatable whether they could deny your Spanish nationality application, but obviously, it is better to avoid them at all costs. Also in this case, it is advisable to cancel them before submitting any paperwork.

If you want to know more about how criminal records affect the Spanish nationality process, we recommend that you read our article on nationality and criminal records.

Documents for Spanish nationality

To be granted Spanish nationality, we must submit a series of documents for Spanish nationality, in case any is missing, the Administration will most likely require it from us and give us a deadline to provide it. However, to avoid delaying the procedure and to be granted Spanish nationality as soon as possible, it is advisable to present a perfect file from the beginning.

The important thing is that the documents for requesting Spanish nationality are valid. Many documents for Spanish nationality have a very short expiration period, such as criminal records in the country of origin, which expire 6 months from the date of issuance (unless another period is established in the document itself), so they should only be requested once you are sure that you meet all the requirements for Spanish nationality. In case they expire, nothing happens, they can be requested again, but this involves an extra cost, so as we have been saying, it is best to present everything correctly from the beginning.

The documents for Spanish nationality that we have to provide are:

  • Residence card.
  • Complete and valid passport from the country of origin.
  • Birth certificate, properly legalized and translated. Unless the document itself establishes otherwise, the validity of the certificate will be 90 days.
  • Certificate of criminal records from the country of origin, properly legalized and translated. According to Order JUS/1625/2016 of September 30 on the processing of procedures for the granting of nationality by residence (Annex. 4. Validity of documents) «In the case of criminal records certificates that do not establish a validity period, it will be understood that they are valid for six months from their issuance.»
  • Marriage certificate if married.
  • Proof of payment of the Spanish nationality fee. Form 790 – code 026 (currently €102).
  • Certificate of criminal records in Spain. If the document does not establish anything, it expires in 90 days. Certificate of residency. Institute Cervantes Diploma. CCSE and DELE exams.

These are the most important requirements that must be met to successfully apply for the Spanish nationality process. If you want to know more about how to obtain Spanish nationality or about the Spanish nationality process or others, we suggest you read the other articles on the blog.

Of course, if you have any questions or need more personalized advice, do not hesitate to contact esabogadoextranjeria and we will be happy to assist you with your case.

Questions and answers about Spanish nationality

How to obtain Spanish nationality by descent?

In this case, the parents of the newborn must go to the nearest Civil Registry and register their birth. To do this, it will be enough to present the birth certificate of the baby, family book, and ID, NIE, or passport of the parents.

How to obtain Spanish nationality by descent?

In this case, the parents of the newborn must go to the nearest Civil Registry and register their birth. To do this, it will be enough to present the birth certificate of the baby, family book, and ID, NIE, or passport of the parents.

How long does it take to obtain Spanish nationality?

The Spanish nationality application process may vary depending on the case. This notification could take from 1 to 2 and a half years, even 3 or more, depending on each case.

«The procedure must be resolved and notified within a maximum period of one year from the date on which the Spanish nationality application was received by the Directorate General of Registries and Notaries. If the aforementioned period has elapsed without an express resolution, the requests made by the interested parties will be considered denied.»

How is Spanish nationality obtained?

The most common way to acquire Spanish nationality is by birthright. If you were born in Spain and your parents are Spanish, you automatically become a national of Spanish territory at birth.

However, the Civil Code accepts other procedures that may allow you, as a foreigner, to obtain Spanish nationality. For example, as a general rule, foreigners who have lived in Spain for 10 years can obtain Spanish nationality by residence.

But there are other paths, and that’s what we’ll discover in this article. There are 4 ways to achieve it, which brings the process closer to many.

We will study citizenship by marriage, by descent, and nationality by option.

How to obtain Spanish nationality through grandparents?

The children of Spanish citizens can obtain their Spanish passport immediately and easily. But what about their grandchildren? Do they have the same luck?

As of today, if you are a grandchild of Spanish citizenship and fall within any of the groups covered by the law, you can also apply for Spanish nationality.

Now, as a grandchild of Spanish citizenship, the applicant must add the literal birth certificate of the Spanish grandfather/grandmother. Likewise, the birth certificate of the father or mother must be presented regardless of their nationality.

Do you still have doubts about how to obtain Spanish nationality?

Contact us and we will arrange a meeting where we will help and advise you in the best way possible so that you can carry out the Spanish nationality process.