How to Get Spanish Citizenship

For the rest of the world, obtaining Spanish citizenship means meeting a few more legal requirements. Not to mention, it can take quite a while, depending on how you choose to get it.

In this article, we’re going to explain exactly how Spanish citizenship works, including the benefits that come with it as well as all the ways to obtain it.

Read on to learn more.

What it Means to Be a Spanish Citizen

Becoming a Spanish citizen goes beyond just living in Spain without having to renew a visa or walking around as a tourist.

Not only does citizenship here grant you the right to live in the country indefinitely, but it also grants you some pretty specific benefits within the European Union (EU). Those benefits would include the right to vote, move to another European country, and work anywhere within the EU.

All of these things fall under the category otherwise known as the “Spanish Nationality Law.”

Let’s take a closer look:

The Spanish Nationality Law

The Spanish Nationality law essentially refers to all of the laws in Spain that concern nationality, or, being a citizen.

When you break it down, the Spanish Nationality Law includes a specific code known as the Spanish Civil Code. The Spanish Civil Code is an article established in 1889—that has since been modified—within the Spanish Constitution. This code refers to the framework of Spanish nationality and establishes itself as a separate law.

More specifically, today, it’s the law that regulates how Spanish nationality (or citizenship) can be established or lost.

Moreover, the Spanish Civil Code has paved the way for the following benefits that come with being a citizen of Spain:

  • An easier time with bureaucracy. Typically, applying for Spanish citizenship goes hand-in-hand with the intentions of taking over or starting a business—or something involving work. All of these things involve paperwork, i.e., figuring out how Spanish bureaucracy works in terms of legal processes. In other words, being a citizen means fewer hoops to jump through with legal matters.
  • The right to vote. When you live in a country for a long enough time, their politics begin to affect you. When you officially become a citizen of Spain, you can take part in political matters such as voting.
  • The luxury of moving freely. As mentioned above, becoming a Spanish citizen means becoming a part of the European Union. When you’re a part of the EU, you’ll have the legal right to enter 183 different countries with just a visa
  • You’ll be granted a EU passport. With Spanish citizenship, you’ll also obtain a EU passport. This passport allows you to legally live and work anywhere else you want within the European Union.

What’s more, is that you won’t have to worry about Spain leaving the EU anytime within the near future. That means all the above-listed benefits you gain with your Spanish citizenship are here to stay for the long haul.

Citizenship Vs. Permanent Residency

Of course, when it comes to living in Spain, there are quite a few options to choose from. For example, there’s residency (both temporary and permanent) as well as citizenship.

While both options—permanent residency and citizenship— offer the possibility of living in Spain indefinitely, there’s a reason why so many expats choose a permanent residency.

Put simply, the primary difference between permanent residency and citizenship is the ability to retain your original nationality. Once you decide to become an official citizen of Spain, you’ll be expected to renounce your current nationality for Spanish citizenship.

Additionally, it can take up to 10 years of living as a permanent residency in Spain to become an official Spanish citizen, while permanent residency only takes 5 years before you can apply for your permit.

However, there are a few exceptions. For example, if your original nationality comes from Latin America, Andorra, Portugal, or Equatorial Guinea, you’ll be granted dual citizenship should you choose to do so.

Therefore, you wouldn’t have to give up your current nationality to become a citizen of Spain.

How to Get Spanish Citizenship

There are actually four different ways you can acquire your Spanish citizenship, but they all come with different requirements.

Here’s how you can become a Spanish citizen:

1. By Residency

As mentioned earlier, to become a Spanish citizen through residency, you must be living in Spain for up to 10 years. This is the process commonly referred to as naturalization.

Of course, you must be living and working in Spain year-round to attain naturalization. That means being a half-time resident won’t get you there. You’ll also need to have been a permanent resident of Spain, which requires five uninterrupted years of living in the country.

While a full 10 years is the standard requirement, there are a few exceptions including:

  • A minimum of five years for refugees
  • A minimum of two years if you’re coming from Andorra, Portugal, Latin America, the Philippines, or Equatorial New Guinea
  • A minimum of one year if you’re married to a Spanish citizen or have children or grandchildren that were born in Spain (we’ll talk more about this in just a moment).

Keep in mind that while becoming an official Spanish citizen through naturalization takes a long time, you’ll still be granted the same rights once you obtain a Spanish residence permit.

2. By Marriage

Becoming a Spanish citizen via marriage is a pretty straightforward process. All if you have to do is marry a Spanish citizen and live in the country for one year.

However, this only grants you a residence permit in Spain and authorization to work within the EU through your spouse. You’ll have to wait a full 12 months of living in the country with your spouse before you can apply for your citizenship.

In terms of documentation, you’ll need to submit your marriage certificate along with your application as well as proof that your marriage is registered in Spain.

It’s also important to note that your 12-month countdown doesn’t begin until you receive your residency card. That means you may have to wait a few extra months before you can actually apply for your citizenship.

3. By Option

Becoming a Spanish citizen by “option” simply means having a relative, such as parents, who are already citizens. Of course, the requirements are a bit more stringent.

For example, your parents would have to have included your birth certificate when submitting their application for citizenship.

Additionally, the children would have to be minors (under the age of 18) and will have the option to claim their citizenship for two years after the fact. That means they technically have until they’re 20 years old to become citizens through the option route.

Citizen by option applies to the following individuals:

  • Children of foreign nationals that were originally born in a Spanish territory
  • Individuals who are legal adults but were adopted by Spanish nationals
  • Those who are currently or had previously been in the custody of a Spanish national (this applies to situations such as guardianship in the event that the parents of a child are deceased and the next of kin is a citizen of Spain)

4. By Descent

Unlike becoming a citizen by option, you can also become a citizen through your heritage. For example, children of Spanish nationals can get a Spanish passport almost immediately.

Today, under the new Grandchildren’s Law, if you have a grandparent that’s a Spanish citizen you can easily apply yourself. Of course, the grandchildren’s law also applies to the following circumstances:

  • Being the grandchild of Spanish nationals who obtained their nationality through historical memory. This also applies to individuals who couldn’t get their citizenship by option.
  • Being the grandchild of a Spanish woman who was born in Spain and married to a non-Spanish citizen before the constitution was created
  • Being the grandchild of Spanish nationals who became citizens elsewhere after leaving Spain but before their children were born. (This would give their children the option for Spanish citizenship despite being born in a different country)
  • Being the grandchild of Spanish citizens who had the chance to obtain their citizenship by option but surpassed the 20-years of age requirement.

Obviously, if you don’t have any Spanish national relatives, then you’ll either have to marry into the country—under the premise of love, of course—or by residency.

The Requirements for Spanish Citizenship

When it comes to applying for citizenship in Spain, the application process and required documents are pretty straightforward. You’ll also need to complete two exams—the DELE A2 and CCSE.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to feel intimidated, especially because we’re here to help. Our team of relocation specialists and legal representation can help you with every detail of your citizenship application, exam preparation, and more. 

Contact us today to learn more about our full-service consultancy for all personal and professional aspects of moving to Spain.