How to make a successful Spanish citizenship application

Spanish citizenship immigration lawyers Spain

Spain isn’t just a top destination for expats from across the globe – as of 2024, the country also offers one of the most powerful passports in the world.

Not only does Spanish nationality provide some of the greatest freedom of travel, but it also comes with a range of benefits as a citizen, including access to Spanish education, healthcare, and government services.

To obtain Spanish nationality and get a Spanish passport, there are several application routes to go down, with overlapping requirements to become a Spanish citizen.

This guide explains the different types of applications for Spanish citizenship, how the application process works, and the mistakes you should avoid to ensure you apply for citizenship in Spain successfully.

 

Types of Spanish citizenship applications

The various ways to claim Spanish citizenship include through marriage to a Spanish national, Spanish family ties, or residency after living in Spain for a certain length of time – or a combination of these factors.

 

Spanish citizenship by residency

In most cases, foreigners who want to become Spanish citizens must live in Spain for at least 10 years before they can apply – or 5 years, in the case of refugees.

Nationals from Latin American countries or certain countries that are former Spanish colonies, as well as Sephardic Jewish descendants, can apply after living in Spain for 2 years.

If you are the foreign-born or adopted child or grandchild of a Spanish citizen who was born in Spain, then you can apply for citizenship after 1 year of living in Spain.

The period of legal residency starts from the date of issue of your first residence permit, and does not include time spent in Spain on short-stay tourist visas or student visas.

You must comply with local and national laws while living in Spain, and must reside in the country for at least half of each year for it qualify towards your residency requirements.

 

Spanish citizenship by marriage

If you get married to a Spanish national, or someone who becomes a Spanish citizen, then you can apply for citizenship through marriage after living together in Spain for a minimum of 1 year.

You can live in Spain together after getting work and residency authorisation by applying for a visa as a family member of an EU citizen. You must then reside at the same address in Spain as a married couple for 1 year.

Civil partnerships, divorced couples, and ‘green card’ marriages are not accepted, but widowers may still be able to claim Spanish nationality if they were married to a Spanish citizen at the time of their passing.

If you are married to someone from a former Spanish colony who is granted citizenship after residing in Spain for 2 years, you could then apply for Spanish nationality yourself after 1 year of living in Spain together.

 

Spanish citizenship by ‘option’

If you have a direct family member who was eligible for Spanish citizenship and claimed this nationality, then you may have the option to also claim it through them.

For example, those who have been under the parental authority of a Spanish citizen or have a parent who was born in Spain and used to be a Spanish national could also be eligible.

Those born in Spain to foreign parents or adopted by a Spanish national also have the option to claim this nationality within 2 years of their 18th birthday or date of adoption.

The recent Grandchildren Law (Ley de Nietos) of 2022 also makes it possible for children or grandchildren of Spanish nationals who lost their citizenship as a result of exile from Spain during the Civil War or subsequent dictatorship to apply for Spanish nationality, but the application window for this policy will close in October 2025.

 

Spanish citizenship application process

Even if you meet the residency and/or descendancy requirements, you must pass two exams before you can submit an application for Spanish citizenship.

These are the DELE A2 language test and the CCSE general knowledge test, proving that you can speak enough Spanish and know enough about Spain’s constitution and culture to participate successfully in Spanish life.

In addition to passing these exams and providing the certificates, you must submit all other required documents with your completed application form, including:

  • ⦿ Valid passport and birth certificate for the applicant
  • ⦿ Applicant’s marriage certificate and spouse’s birth certificate, if relevant
  • ⦿ Parent’s and/or grandparent’s birth certificates and marriage certificates, if relevant
  • ⦿ NIE (foreigner’s identification number) and current Spanish residency card
  • ⦿ Census records showing the applicant’s registered address in Spain
  • ⦿ Criminal record certificate and documents proving financial status
  • ⦿ Receipt proving full payment of the application fee

All documents must be professionally translated into Spanish and legalised with apostille stamps. You can submit your Spanish citizenship application online or in person at the nearest Civil Registry in Spain.

If your application is approved, you must make a Civil Registry appointment within the next 6 months. This is the final step, where you will swear allegiance to the King of Spain and Spanish constitution, renounce your former nationality, and be entered in the Spanish Civil Register.

Once you receive your DNI (national identity document), you can apply for a Spanish passport.

 

How long does it take to get Spanish citizenship?

On top of the time taken to meet minimum residency requirements, gather documents, and complete and submit the forms, it can take over a year from the date of application before you can officially become a Spanish citizen.

Spanish bureaucracy is notorious for taking a long time, but the Spanish government legally must respond to your application within 1 year of submission and notify you of its decision.

While you wait for approval, you must continue to uphold the application requirements in the meantime – such as maintaining your residency and not leaving the country for long periods.

In the worst cases, when 10 years of residency are required, it can take up to 12 years to obtain Spanish nationality – but in the fastest cases, when only 1 year of residency is necessary, it can take just over 2 years to gain Spanish citizenship.

With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure that you can apply for Spanish nationality as quickly as possible, but with a watertight, error-free application to give you the highest chances of approval.

 

Mistakes to avoid when applying for Spanish citizenship

There are many reasons why the Spanish government might reject an application for Spanish citizenship, but some of the most common mistakes that people make when applying for Spanish nationality include:

  • ⦿ Using a passport or identity document that is expired or about to expire
  • ⦿ Failing to provide copies of all passport pages (not just the photo page)
  • ⦿ Submitting incorrect documents – e.g. misspelled, poorly translated, or non-apostilled
  • ⦿ Missing any required documents – e.g. exam, marriage, or census certificates
  • ⦿ Not having a clean criminal record – any minor offences must be cleared
  • ⦿ Applying too early before meeting the minimum residency period requirements
  • ⦿ Leaving Spain for more than 6 months a year, for periods longer than 3 months

Any one or combination of these errors could result in a rejection, and all your hard work amounting to nothing.

So, it’s crucial to get everything right the first time – and there’s no better way to ensure that your Spanish citizenship application is 100% correct than to get help from immigration lawyers in Spain.

Here at Manzanares Abogados, we would be glad to advise you on the best steps to take for your personal circumstances to help you acquire Spanish citizenship as efficiently as possible.

Visit our enquiry page to contact us by phone or email and arrange an initial consultation at a time that suits you.

 

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