Spain, one of the largest and most captivating European countries, is renowned for its diverse attractions. From its enticing climate and rich history to its reputation for its citizens’ longevity and excellent healthcare, Spain offers a unique allure. As a constitutional monarchy and a member of the European Union since 1986, Spain grants access to one of the most powerful passports globally. With a Spanish passport, you can explore 190 countries and territories without the need for a visa. If you aspire to obtain a Spanish passport as a foreigner, here is what you need to do.
- Getting Spanish Citizenship: Key Requirements
- What is the Required Residency Period to Obtain a Spanish Passport?
- Who Can Elect to Obtain Spanish Citizenship?
- Who Gets Spanish Citizenship Automatically?
- Who Else Can Obtain a Spanish Passport?
- Where Do I Submit My Documents?
- What Documents Do I Need?
- What Other Documents Will I Need in Special Cases?
- How Much Does It Cost?
- What Do I Do Once My Application Is Approved?
- Who May Keep Dual Citizenship?
Getting Spanish Citizenship: Key Requirements
Foreigners who aspire to obtain Spanish citizenship, without having Spanish heritage, can achieve this by fulfilling three key requirements:
- Reside legally in Spain for a designated period of time, obtaining a valid residential status.
- Comply with the laws of both their home country and Spain, demonstrating good conduct and adherence to legal obligations.
- Demonstrate proficiency in the Spanish language, as well as knowledge of the national constitution, social structure, and cultural aspects of the country.
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, Seville, Spain. Photo by Henrique Ferreira (Unsplash)
What is the Required Residency Period to Obtain a Spanish Passport?
The general requirement for obtaining a Spanish passport is that foreign citizens must reside in Spain for a minimum of 10 consecutive years. However, there are several exceptions to that rule, as follows:
- Individuals who reside in Spain under refugee status have the right to apply for a passport after living in the country for a period of five years.
- Citizens of certain countries have the right to obtain citizenship in two years after moving to Spain. This includes Portugal, Brazil, Andorra, The Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and all other Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America (Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, etc.).
Also, it may take only two years to get a Spanish passport for Sephardic Jews who can demonstrate some connection with Spain.
You may be eligible for Spanish citizenship just one year after obtaining your permanent residency if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You were born in Spain.
- You have been under the legal guardianship of a Spanish citizen for two years or are currently under such guardianship.
- You are married to and living with a citizen of Spain.
- You were married to and lived with a citizen of Spain at the time of their death.
- You were born outside of Spain, but your parents or grandparents have Spanish ancestry.
- You were eligible for Spanish citizenship by choice, but you hadn’t had the opportunity to apply for it.
Who Can Elect to Obtain Spanish Citizenship?
There are certain cases where candidates for a Spanish passport are not required to prove their legal residence in the country. You may be eligible to “choose” Spanish citizenship if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You are or were under the legal guardianship of a citizen of Spain.
- One of your parents had Spanish citizenship and they were born in Spain.
- You are over 18 years of age, but you didn’t manage, until recently, to prove that one of your parents had Spanish citizenship or the fact that you were born in Spain. In that case, once you confirm the facts, you have two years to proclaim your wish to obtain a Spanish passport. After that, you need to reside in Spain at least for one year.
- You are over 18 years of age and you have been adopted by Spanish citizens. In this case, you get the right to “choose” Spanish citizenship within two years after your adoption. If you fail to do so within this time period, you will get your passport after residing in Spain for one year.
Apart from that, choosing Spanish citizenship is an option for those whose parents or grandparents had their Spanish citizenship revoked or who were forced to renounce it.
Calle Gran Vía, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Florian Wehde (Unsplash)
Who Gets Spanish Citizenship Automatically?
Spanish citizenship is primarily granted through blood ties. This means that it is automatically conferred to children born to subjects of the Spanish crown. Unlike many countries in North and South America, Spain does not grant citizenship to children of foreigners solely based on birth within the country. Therefore, the concept of birth tourism does not apply in Spain.
In Spain, citizenship is granted automatically in the following cases:
- A child whose parent holds a Spanish passport.
- A child born in Spain to foreign citizen parents, provided that both the child and one of their parents are born in Spain. (This rule does not apply to employees of diplomatic missions and their children.)
- A child born in Spain to parents without any citizenship.
- A child born in Spain whose parents are unknown.
- A child under the legal age of 18 who is adopted by Spanish citizens.
Who Else Can Obtain a Spanish Passport?
According to Spanish law, there are two additional exclusive cases in which the government grants citizenship:
- If you have been exercising your rights as a Spanish citizen for 10 years without realising that you haven't obtained that status yet.
- If the decision to grant a Spanish passport is made by the Spanish government, bypassing the standard legal procedure.
Where Do I Submit My Documents?
To apply for Spanish citizenship and submit all the necessary paperwork, you should visit one of the local civil registration establishments. If you are eligible for citizenship based on residency, you need to schedule an appointment at a local office.
You can access the application form on the website of the Ministry of Justice, where you will provide your personal data, identification documents, and supporting documents to certify your eligibility for a new passport.
On the same website, you can also submit your application electronically and upload scanned copies of your documents. To do this, you will need to register with the Electronic Identity for the Administration system called Cl@ve.
Candidates who are of legal age should personally submit their paperwork. Applicants between the ages of 14 and 18 should undergo the procedure with the presence of their legal representative. Children under the age of 14 do not need to go anywhere as their citizenship proceedings will be handled by their legal representative.
Valldemossa, Spain. Photo by Patrick Baum (Unsplash)
What Documents Do I Need?
Together with the application for citizenship, applicants of legal age are required to submit a standard set of documents, which includes:
- A Foreigner Identification Card issued in Spain.
- A national passport issued by the applicant’s country of origin.
- A birth certificate attested and translated into Spanish.
- A criminal record certificate issued in the country of origin, translated and attested, or a certificate issued by the consulate.
- A marriage certificate (provided the applicant is married).
- A receipt certifying the payment of the administrative fee.
- A criminal record certificate issued in Spain, which you will need to receive at the Central Criminal Registry.
- A certificate of registration.
- CCSE and DELE results certifying that the applicant is familiar with the constitution and culture of Spain and has sufficient knowledge of the Spanish language. These documents are issued by the Cervantes Institute. Applicants that come from countries with Spanish as the official language need only take and pass the exam testing knowledge of Spain’s laws and culture.
When candidates under the legal age apply, accompanied by their legal representatives, the representatives also need to submit their IDs. Children are not required to take exams at the Cervantes Institute. However, if they are already enrolled in school, their educational institution should provide a certificate of their sufficient level of integration into Spanish society.
What Other Documents Will I Need in Special Cases?
Depending on the grounds you are planning to apply for Spanish citizenship on, you may need to submit additional documents certifying your relevant status.
Candidates for a Spanish passport based on refugee status will need the following:
- A Foreigner Identification Card issued in Spain that notes refugee status.
- A blue passport issued to refugees in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1951 (provided the candidate has one).
- A certificate issued by the Asylum and Refugee Office of the Ministry of Home Affairs. These are valid for a period of six months.
Those who are married to a Spanish citizen must submit the following:
- The spouse’s Spanish birth certificate.
- A marriage certificate issued in Spain.
- A certificate of co-residence at the same address.
Costa Brava, Spain. Photo by Jorge Salvador (Unsplash)
Widows and widowers shall submit, in addition to birth and marriage certificates, a document certifying their co-residence at the time of their spouse's death, as well as a death certificate.
If you are acquiring citizenship by descent, you will need to provide either your mother's or your father's birth certificate, depending on which parent is of Spanish origin. If one of your grandparents was Spanish, you will also need to submit their birth certificate along with the birth certificate of your parent.
Those who were born in Spain will need a birth certificate issued by a local registration authority.
Those who failed to obtain their citizenship by choice on time need a birth certificate of their parent, a birth certificate or a court ruling on adoption or paternity/maternity establishment registered in Spain.
Those who are under the legal guardianship of a Spanish citizen will need a court ruling listing the citizen of Spain assigned as the legal guardian.
If you submit your paperwork and it is found that some of the documents are improperly executed or missing, you will have three months to provide the missing papers. If you fail to do so within that time window, your application will be considered void, and you will have to start the process anew.
How Much Does It Cost?
Those who are obtaining Spanish citizenship based on residency are required to pay an administrative fee of €104.05. The payment can be made online through the tax service's website, the website of a bank, or in person at a bank office that accepts tax fees. You can download the payment invoice from the website of the Ministry of Justice.
You will also need to allocate funds for the translation and apostille services for your documents, as well as for integration courses and exams.
What Do I Do Once My Application Is Approved?
You can check the status of your application on the website of the Ministry of Justice. Once you receive notification of approval, you will need to complete a few additional steps to transition from a candidate to a citizen of Spain, including swear allegiance to the King of Spain and vow to follow the Constitution and other laws of the country, renounce any other citizenships you may have, and register under the new status as a citizen.
Mallorca, Spain. Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik (Unsplash)
Who May Keep Dual Citizenship?
Foreigners receiving citizenship based on residency need to renounce any other citizenships they have. This requirement does not apply to Sephardic Jews as well as people coming from Andorra, The Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, Brazil or any of the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America.
Note: Some countries do not automatically revoke citizenship from people who have received other passports. In some countries, you must file for voluntary renunciation of citizenship.
In a Nutshell
To obtain Spanish citizenship, you are required to reside in Spain for a considerable period, learn the Spanish language, and in most cases, renounce your other passports. However, these requirements can be seen as advantages rather than disadvantages. Living in Spain offers a pleasant experience, the official language is widely spoken worldwide, and possessing a Spanish passport is enough to not only be a citizen of Spain but the whole world.
Cover photo: Susan Flynn (Unsplash)