How to get Spanish citizenship – find out how to acquire Spanish nationality so that you can get a Spanish passport, and the documents required for the application procedure…

There are a number of different ways to acquire or claim Spanish citizenship. Below, we have outlined the main ways that a foreigner can get Spanish nationality. In general, it is possible to apply for Spanish nationality after ten years of continuous residence in Spain, although there are exceptions. The applicant must be able to prove good conduct, that they speak some Spanish, and that they have integrated into Spanish society.

How to get Spanish Nationality

Nationality through residency – Nacionalidad por residencia

Anyone over the age of 18, who has been living in Spain for more than ten years on the date of the application, may apply for Spanish nationality. One of the parents or a legal guardian must file the application on behalf of minors. There are exceptions to the ten-year rule as follows:

  • Marriage to a Spanish citizen – an application for Spanish nationality can be filed after one year of marriage, on the condition that the couple are still married and living together; for widows/widowers the same one-year rule applies as long as the couple were still married at the time of the death
  • Those born in Spain, or born outside of Spain to Spanish parents or grandparents – an application for Spanish nationality can be filed after one year – this applies to those who did not opt for citizenship within two years after their 18th birthday
  • Citizens of Spanish-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea and people of Sephardic origin can apply after two years of continuous residence
  • Refugees can apply after five years of continuous residence

Documents required:

Along with a completed application form, a number of supporting documents must be provided:

  • Passport and photocopy
  • Residency card
  • Proof of no criminal record (proof of no criminal record in previous countries of residence may also be requested)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Certificate of empadronamiento
  • Receipt of payment of the required tax for the application
  • Diploma from the Instituto Cervantes, proving Spanish proficiency (DELE)
  • Diploma from the Instituto Cervantes, proving knowledge of the Spanish constitution and Spanish culture (CCSE). If the applicant’s mother tongue is Spanish, this is not required

The exact documents may vary depending on the person’s situation and their age. Find further information on the documents that may be required.

Nationality by option – Nacionalidad por opción

Nationality by option allows a foreign national to acquire or ‘opt’ for Spanish nationality if any of the following apply:

  • They have a Spanish mother or father who was born in Spain
  • They have been under parental authority of a Spaniard
  • They can prove they have parents that were originally Spanish (and who may have lost their Spanish citizenship)
  • They were adopted as an adult by a Spanish parent

The application must be filed within two years after the person’s 18th birthday

The following documents are generally required:

  • Original and copy of the applicant’s birth certificate
  • Original birth certificate of the Spanish parent(s)
  • Proof of identity of the applicant and the Spanish parent(s)
  • Marriage certificate of the parents or family book of the parents (libro de familia)
  • Proof of address

Two stamped and self-addressed envelopes or an email address must be provided so that the applicant can be notified when a decision has been made

Where to Apply for Spanish Nationality

All applications for Spanish nationality must be filed at the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) in the place of residence.

The application can be started online, or in person at the Civil Registry

All documents in a language other than Spanish must be translated and legalised; it is likely that the documents will need an Apostille of the Hague, or that they are translated by an official translator.

The procedure to acquire Spanish nationality can take between 18 to 24 months. the Ministry of Justice website can be consulted to follow the procedure during this time, and to be alerted when a response is given.

If the application is successful, the person must swear loyalty to the King and to obey Spanish laws and the Spanish constitution (unless the applicant is under 14). They must also renounce their other nationality to the Spanish authorities unless they are from Andorra, the Philippines, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea or a Spanish-American country. However, in practice, the person generally keeps their original nationality, as it is not renounced to the authorities in the original country of citizenship, but this original nationality is not recognised by Spain.

If Spanish nationality is not granted (denegado), it is possible to contest the decision by writing to the Dirección General de los Registros y del Notariadowithin one month following the refusal, or to the Audiencia Nacional en Madrid, within two months. If there is no reply, the contestation is considered rejected. It is advisable to get legal advice if contesting the decision.

Further information is available from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.