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Spanish Citizenship

Updated: 6 days ago

The concept of citizenship is really interesting how it evolved over the years. Some people who got interested in this phenomenon, considered it to had started in the early city-states of ancient Greece, thus others regard it as a really modern status. Regardless to when it was started, the relation of citizenship, it is absolutely known, that it has been constantly changed within each society.

This is what happened with Spanish citizenship as well. Different issues related to Spanish nationality emerged at constitutional articles back in the 19th century and since then, different amendments followed in the Constitution itself and in the Spanish Civil Code. In this article, the phenomenon of citizenship and the difference with nationality will be explained.

Furthermore, information will be given related to the different ways in which a person can get Spanish Citizenship and what is the process of that, as well as the advantages arising from the acquisition of it.

Nationality and citizenship

Nationality and citizenship are two definitions which sometimes identify, some others not. In a technical and legal way, citizenship differs from nationality as the definition of someone being “national” refers to both citizens and non-citizens.

Nationality is related more to the international law. Based on Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to have a nationality. The Spanish nationality is regulated through the Civil Code which was published in 1889.

Citizenship on the other hand, is a bond between a person and a state to which the person guarantees allegiance to the state and accept its protection. Civil, political, and social rights are recognized to citizens. For example, the right to contribute to the political circle of a country, belongs only to citizens. They can vote or stand for election. The prerequisite for full citizenship is nationality. The concept of the citizenship of the European Union was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty and the Article 17(1) states that “Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.”

Two Latin principles define the existence of citizenship, “jus sanguinis” and “jus soli”. “Jus sanguinis” or right of blood, means that citizenship is acquired by the nationality of one or both parents. On the other hand, “jus soli”, that is birthright citizenship, it is when somebody gets the citizenship of the country where was born.

There are people who are not considered as nationals by any State under operation of its law. Those people are called stateless. Administrative reasons may cause statelessness and those reasons are defined by each country. However, there are limits on nationality laws, which were generated by 1961 Statelessness Convention.

Spain is one of the countries who manage the issue of statelessness in a good way since as it will be explained below, children the moment they born in Spain, naturalise automatically so they cannot be stateless and refugee children can acquire nationality after one year’s residence in Spain.

Types of Spanish nationality

Two different types of nationality are established by Spanish legislation, the “Spanish nationality by origin” which refers to a natural-bond-Spaniard, and the “Spanish nationality not by origin”.

Spanish nationality by origin

Based on article 17 of the Spanish Civil Code, “Spanish nationality by origin” includes Spanish people by birth right, which is considered to be people who were born in Spain and their parents are not Spanish, provided that at least one of the parents were born in Spain with the exception of children whose parents are foreign diplomatic or consular officers accredited in Spain.

In addition, people by birth right are those who born to a Spanish parent and also people who were born in Spain and their parents are foreign and no one of them has a nationality or their legislation’s home country does not grant nationality to the child. Moreover, people who were born in Spain of undetermined filiation. Lastly, when the first known territory of residence of someone is Spain, it considered to have been born in Spain.

Under 18 years old children who are adopted by a Spanish national are assumed to be of Spanish origin but when the children are older than 18 can ask for Spanish nationality of origin in a two-years-period from the legislation of the adoption.

According to Article 24.1 of Spanish Civil Code, those who born outside of Spain, to a Spanish citizen born in Spain, lose Spanish nationality when they use a foreign nationality acquired before adulthood in an exclusive way, with the exception of Spanish-speaking countries. They can avoid that loss if they register their desire of preserving Spanish nationality in the civil registry at a Spanish consulate.

Before 9 January 2003, all Spanish citizens from an Ibero-American country or specific Spanish territories who born to a Spanish citizen parent also born outside of Spain and who had the other’s country citizenship, could keep Spanish citizenship with no need to declare it. After 9 January, Spanish citizens born at those countries and were not 18 at that time, and had the other’s country citizenship, need to declare any intention of retaining Spanish nationality to Spanish authorities in a period of three years after adulthood.

There is the nationality by naturalisation which is granted at the discretion of the Government by Royal Decree and is given as a favor rather than because of any legal requirement.

Spanish nationality by option

The other way to get a citizenship is called by option. According to Article 20 of the Spanish Civil Code, people who belong to this category are those who are or have been subject to the custody of a Spanish national and people who have their mother or father born in Spain or they are Spanish nationals. Moreover, individuals who adopted by Spanish nationals after turning eighteen years old. However, the right to opt for Spanish nationality is valid for a term of two years after the adoption with the exception of persons whose mother or father had been originally Spanish and born in Spain, so there is no age limit.

Citizenship by descent

There is also the citizenship by descent. It is really easy for children of Spanish parents to get a passport directly. Grandchildren can also apply for nationality if they are children of people who got their nationality through historical memory but they could not get it by option when the law could apply because they were not younger than 18 years old.

Also, persons can get Spanish citizenship if they are grandchildren of Spanish women who were born in Spain but they got married to people who are not Spanish citizens before the 1978 when the Constitution was created. In addition, grandchildren of Spanish people who left Spain and got another country’s nationality before even their children were born. Lastly, grandchildren of Spanish nationals who they were older than 18 years old when they had the chance to get citizenship by option.

The application in this situation can be submitted to the Spanish consulate which is located at the country of origin when people are not in Spain or in the Central Civil Registry when people are already in Spain. The next step is to arrange an appointment in which the submission of the documentation will take place and it will be accredited that they belong in any of the previous four categories. The administration will take twelve months to response.

Citizenship by residence

Furthermore, there is the citizenship by residence, that is, people who have lived legally in Spain for a specific required amount of time. The basic rule is that foreigners who have spent 10 years uninterruptedly in Spain get a nationality and so become Spanish citizens. The disadvantage is that they need to deny their original nationality unless they are originated from Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines or from a country of Latin America as they will have a dual citizenship.

Permanet residency

Nevertheless, there is the option of “permanent residency” which does not require renunciation of the original nationality of the person. However, with the Spanish Citizenship status people are able to live and work around the European Union because they will get a Spanish passport, thus with permanent residency that cannot happen. Furthermore, the bureaucracy for Spanish citizens is less at any legal process and they have the right to vote in contrast with permanent residence.


There are some exceptions from the basic rule with which Spanish nationality can be acquired in less years. People who have obtained refugee status and spent in Spain 5 years uninterruptedly, may apply for permanent residency and they have to renew their residence card every time the five-year-period passes. The word uninterruptedly means that the person cannot leave the country in frequent or long period of time.

Foreign people to grant citizenship, they need to enter in Spain with their residence permit and they need to renew it until they get to the necessary number of times which fit to their situation. It is important to be mentioned, that the period of residence begins to count from the acquisition of the first residence card. The authorities will take into consideration any incidents which can affect negatively the image of the person.

Nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or persons of Sephardic origin need only 2 years of residency. On the other side, others need only one year and those are the ones who born in Spanish territory. Individuals who could exercise their right to Spanish nationality by option but they have not.

Also, individuals who at the time of the application have been married to a Spanish national for one year and they live together in a Spanish territory, and children or grandchildren of citizens born in Spain or were originally Spanish. Furthermore, those who are widow or widower of a Spanish national provided that they were legally still together at the time of the death. Lastly, individuals who have been legally subject to the guardianship or fostering of a Spaniard or institutions for at least two consecutive years.


To get a Spanish citizenship some documents need to be prepared and two exams need to be passed. Initially, the identification is important, that is, people must have a completed passport and NIE. Also, the current residence permit, a birth certificate, criminal record, a marriage certificate -if it is the case of a citizenship by marriage-. The certificate which shows that the exams were passed, DELE A2 and CCSE, the document which proves that the corresponding fee of 100 euros was paid and a proof that the person possess sufficient economic means are important as well. Also, the birth certificate of any children if they probably need to get citizenship by option in the future.

The above citizenship exams are important to get a Spanish passport. The DELE A2 is a language test which shows if the Spanish language level is high-enough but it is not necessary for people who originate from any Latin America country. The second one, the CCSE, it is a cultural test which is not essential for people who studied in a school in Spain. If a person fails, has 3 different opportunities to retake it and then a fee of €85 needs to be paid.

After preparing those documentation, the application can be submitted in person at the Civil Registry or can be done online which is faster. After the response, an appointment for the pledge of allegiance should be arranged and the next step is the acquisition of a passport and DNI from a police station. Most of the times the nationality processing time takes about two to three years.

There is an online platform, which is called “cómo va lo mío” and people can check the status of their application. However, if a year passes and no response was given, the application can be considered as rejected because of the administrative silence. Therefore, an appeal can be done to claim the review of the application and the answer will be received the next four months so the process of getting a Spanish Citizenship can be finished in 1 year and a half only if the appointment for the flag’s jury will be arranged at the same time that the appeal was submitted.

When the application is approved, the next step is the oath to the King of Spain and the Constitution. That is when people get finally their passport.Since Spain is a part of the European Union, all the Spanish citizens are considered to be citizens of the European Union and thus enjoy all the advantages arising of it. They are able to vote in elections for the European Parliament and enjoy rights of free movement and as a result they can live and work around the European Union. In non-European countries where a Spanish embassy is missing, Spanish citizens can address to any other embassy of a European country and get consular protection.

In conclusion, there are many ways to acquire Spanish Citizenship as long as somebody is related with the Spanish territory or Spanish citizens. Spain is made up of nationalities which can be regarded as smaller nations. The autonomous communities of Andalusia, Aragon, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia and the Basque Country are recognized by Spanish law as nationalities. Many advantages are absolutely derived from getting a Spanish Citizenship but undoubtedly the process to get a passport takes a lot of time and patience by person.


Reference List:

  1. How to get the spanish citizenship

  2. Spanish citizenship

  3. Spanish nationality law

  4. Immigration lawyers in Spain

  5. Getting Spanish citizenship

  6. How to obtain a Spanish citizenship

  7. Guide to Spanish citizenship

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