Spanish citizenship by descent

Article Breakdown

Spanish citizenship by descent

There are numerous advantages to getting Spanish citizenship. There are several ways to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Spanish citizenship by descent or ancestry is available to a diverse range of nationals, including people with no genuine Spanish ancestors up to 2 generations (and more in the case of Sephardic jews).

This includes citizens of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and Sephardic Jews.

Although Spain does not recognize dual citizenship, nationals of such countries are not required to give up their foreign citizenship. This procedure does not allow Americans to lose their citizenship.

If you obtain Spanish nationality, you will quickly see the benefits. The value of Spanish citizenship is among the highest in the world. It allows visa-free travel to the United States and Australia, as well as living anywhere in the European Union.

If you have Spanish ancestors, you may be eligible for Spanish citizenship by descent and avoid the expensive cost of citizenship by investment.

This article will explain how to obtain Spanish citizenship by descent, including qualifying requirements, the papers you must complete to support your application, and instructions on how to obtain a Spanish passport.

Who is eligible for Spanish citizenship by descent?

Spain Passport CoverIf your family ancestry is Spanish, as the word implies, you are able to obtain Spanish citizenship through descent if you have Spanish parents or Spanish grandparents.

Your right to apply is based on jus sanguinis (blood right), but if you were adopted into a Spanish family, you can also petition for Spanish citizenship by descent without technically having a Spanish ancestor.

This is specified in Article 11 of the Spanish Constitution (the Spanish citizenship Law), which refers to Spanish nationality and the requirements that exist on applying through jus sanguinis.

Understanding the Spanish Nationality law behind your citizenship application may assist you in determining whether or not you are eligible to become a Spanish national.

  1. If you have at least one Spanish parent (a Spanish mother or a Spanish father), you can gain Spanish citizenship by descent.
  2. If your parents were both born in Spain and are Spanish nationals, you can obtain Spanish citizenship.
  3. If you were adopted by a Spanish citizen before turning 18 years old, you’re entitled to Spanish citizenship by descent.
  4. You have Spanish ancestors with citizenship in Spain, you can also obtain citizenship.

In 2022, a new Spanish law called "Ley de Nietos" was adopted, which allows Spanish citizenship by descent up to the second generation. Read more in the following article:

What are the advantages of acquiring Spanish citizenship?

The advantage of obtaining Spanish nationality over applying for a visa to enter Spain is that obtaining permanent residence through a visa takes much longer and costs more because a visa is only valid for a limited amount of time, and you must re-apply, pay fees, and repeat the process each time your visa expires.

Citizenship, on the other hand, is obtained by a single application that is valid for life.

The primary advantages of Spanish citizenship

Rounded Spain Flag IconThere are five major advantages to becoming a Spanish citizen:

1. Less paperwork

You will have a much easier time navigating the Spanish bureaucracy if you apply for Spanish citizenship. This will undoubtedly save you a significant amount of time.

2. Obtaining the voting privilege in Spain

Expats who want to stay in Spain for a long time may choose to vote. They can do so after formalizing the process and becoming Spanish citizens.

3. Freedom of mobility

When you become a Spanish citizen, you will be able to enter 183 countries with your visa in hand.

4. Obtaining one of the strongest passports amongst european countries

Besides having very good mobility on a Spanish passport, you will also have the right to live and work anywhere in the European Union. This will be especially interesting to non eu citizens.

5. No Spainexit any time soon

Spain has no intention of leaving the European Union anytime soon. As a result, the benefits for Spanish passports will not change or expire in the following years.

The primary disadvantage of obtaining Spanish citizenship

After ten years of Spanish residency, you can apply for Spanish nationality and therefore become a Spanish citizen.

The biggest disadvantage of taking this route to obtain long-term residency is that you will have to abandon your original nationality (in order to get the Spanish nationality).

So it is something you should think about. If you want to keep your native nationality, apply for permanent residency and renew it every five years. If it is not an issue for you, nationality is a better choice.

There is, however, an exception to this rule. If you are from Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, or any Latin American country, you can gain dual nationality without giving up your original citizenship.

What are the stages to obtaining Spanish citizenship by ancestry?

The application process for Spanish citizenship can be time-consuming. It is prudent to plan your application and ensure that you are completely informed of the processes that must be taken as well as the documentation that will be required to support your application.

Spain Country Landscape Photo

Here are the fundamental actions you must take:

  • Obtain any documentation necessary to demonstrate that you fit the conditions for Spanish citizenship by descent (this can be a birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, etc, anything that proves that your ancestors are or were Spanish citizens) .
  • Pass the DELE A2 (Spanish Language) and CCSE citizenship tests. DELE A2 is a basic language test, and CCSE is a Spanish citizenship test that assesses knowledge of Spanish social and cultural practices, as well as knowledge of the Spanish Constitution.

To avoid rejection, most citizenship by descent and immigration lawyers will also check that the documentation you supply to support your application is genuine and correct. At the end of this article we provide more information about the language tests.

How long does it take to become a Spanish national?

It is difficult to say exactly how long it takes to obtain a Spanish passport. However, the procedure often takes 2 to 3 years in total.

Nonetheless, there is a pretty helpful method you may apply to drastically speed up the procedure.

After you submit your application, the Spanish government has one year to legally respond (which you can verify here via the “cómo va lo mio” platform).

Your file will move through numerous phases or statuses throughout that period. If you click here, you will be sent to one of our articles where you will find all of those stages and their meanings.

Keep in mind that you can travel outside of Spain from the time you submit your application until you receive your resolution, but only if you meet the two requirements outlined in this post (not to lose your permanent residence and to make the appointment for the oath on time).

After that, you’ll be able to start moving things along more quickly. Why? Because if you haven’t received an answer after 12 months, it simply implies that your application was rejected due to administrative inaction.

However, because there is no justification for that denial, you can file an appeal to request a reconsideration. Following that, you will receive a response in 3-4 months.

If you begin getting appointments for the flag’s jury at the same time you file your appeal, you can obtain a Spanish passport in less than a year and a half.

But keep in mind that you can take the oath not only at the Civil Registry, but also before a notary, which could greatly speed up the procedure if you live in a big city where the Civil Registry is overcrowded and would take months to provide you an appointment.

Spanish citizenship application: fast-track naturalization

Naturalization to Spanish citizenship typically necessitates ten years of continuous residence as well as the renunciation of all other citizenships.

You can petition for Spanish citizenship under the Spanish Citizenship by descent option after only one or two years of residency in Spain.

The Spanish government recently lowered physical presence criteria for applicants applying through the citizenship by descent route.

You only need to spend no more than three months continuously outside of Spain (which means you can travel back and forth every three months and only spend a few days in Spain each year if that is your preference).

Naturalization and Spanish nationality after one year:

  • Persons born on Spanish soil.
  • The widower or widow of a Spanish national if they were not officially or physically separated at the time of the spouse’s death.
  • Those born outside Spain to a Spanish parent (father or mother, also born outside Spain), grandfather or grandmother, as long as they were all born in Spain.

Naturalization and Spanish nationality after two years:

For nationals of the following countries or people of Sephardic origin:

These Countries Maintain Dual Citizenship with a Spanish Passport
Rounded Andorra Flag Icon Andorra argentina-flag-round-icon-sovspot.png Argentina Rounded Bolivia Flag Icon Bolivia
Rounded Brazil Flag Icon Brazil Rounded Chile Flag Icon Chile Rounded Colombia Flag Icon Colombia
Rounded Costa Rica Flag Icon Costa Rica Rounded Cuba Flag Icon Cuba Rounded Dominican Republic Flag Icon Dominican Republic
Rounded Ecuador Flag Icon Ecuador Rounded El Salvador Flag Icon El Salvador Rounded Equatorial Guinea Flag Icon Equatorial Guinea
Rounded Guatemala Flag Icon Guatemala Rounded Honduras Flag Icon Honduras Rounded Mexico Flag Icon Mexico
Rounded Nicaragua Flag Icon Nicaragua Rounded Panama Flag Icon Panama Rounded Paraguay Flag Icon Paraguay
Rounded Peru Flag Icon Peru Rounded Philippines Flag Icon Philippines portugal-flag-round-icon-sovspot.png Portugal
Rounded Puerto Rico Flag Icon Puerto Rico Rounded Spain Flag Icon Spain Rounded Uruguay Flag Icon Uruguay

As you can clearly see from the list, most of these are Ibero American countries. Individuals with one of these citizenships of a foreign country, can also be Spanish nationals.

Spain Residency Options / Resident Permit

If you are eligible for fast-track citizenship, you must obtain a resident permit in order to lawfully remain in Spanish territory.

To be eligible for naturalization, you must have lived in the country for at least one year. Residence entails spending less than three months in a row outside of Spanish territory.

You have several alternatives for obtaining a residency visa in Spain, but the Spanish Investor Residency program, commonly known as the Spanish Golden Visa, is the most favored. This is the preferred option for HNWIs since it provides greater flexibility and security.

Be aware that once your citizenship application is completed, it takes one year for the Spanish authorities to process it, which means it will take 2 to 3 years from the time you establish residence in Spain to the time you become a Spanish citizen.

This is why the Spanish Golden Visa tends to be the best option, while others demand annual renewals or have conditions that must be met each year. It’s also the sole option to avoid the Spanish Wealth Tax on your worldwide assets while still keeping you in the race for a Spanish passport.

Preservation and loss

Finally, it is crucial to note that once a nationality has been achieved, it is absolutely possible to lose your Spanish passport through residence.

If you go abroad and do not use it within three years, the nearest Spanish consulate will commence a withdrawal process.

That is why, once you have a Spanish passport, you must utilize it and, if feasible, make a declaration in the same consulate that you intend to keep it.

What documents do I need to collect in order to become a Spanish national?

  • Your current passport and residency documentation, if required
  • Spanish marriage certificate
  • Proof of employment in Spain
  • A criminal background check
  • A certificate verifying you passed the DELE A2 and CCSE exams
  • Oath at the Civil Registry
  • Proof of application fee payment

What is the cost of applying for Spanish citizenship?

At the time of writing, the fees for applying for a Spanish passport or applying through citizenship by descent ranged between €60 and €100.

However, if extra evidence is required, additional fees may be imposed. Regardless matter whether your application is successful or not, application costs are non-refundable.

Is there any method to apply for Spanish citizenship if I have no Spanish heritage?

There are several other ways to apply for Spanish citizenship, including:

  • By marriage; if you are married to a Spanish citizen;
  • By residence or possession of status; if you have legitimately resided in Spain for ten years or more;
  • Sephardic jews can claim citizenship in Spain by exception.

Frequently Asked Questions about Applying for Spanish Citizenship

Can you have dual citizenship in the United States and Spain?

Foreign nationals of Ibero-American countries (mostly in South America) can get dual citizenship under their second nationality after two years. They can become Spanish citizens and keep their original citizenship.

Is it possible to obtain a Spanish passport if your spouse is Spanish?

After one year of marriage you can obtain citizenship in Spain, yes.

How long do you have to live in Spain before you can apply for citizenship?

It all depends on the type of citizenship route you pursue, and it can range from 1 to 10 years.

Will a Spanish passport allow me to work in any EU country?

Yes, Spain is a member of the EU, and if you obtain citizenship in Spain allows you to work in any other EU member state.

How long does it take to process an application for Spanish citizenship?

It can be a lengthy procedure, as with most citizenship petitions. This is due to the fact that some citizenship paths require you to live and work in the country before filing an application. If your application is through citizenship by descent, it can also take some time to gather all the required documents.

There is also the time required to take and pass the Spanish language and culture exams.

About the DELE A2 and CCSE Spanish citizenship tests

To obtain a Spanish passport and become a citizen of the country, you must pass two separate citizenship exams:

  1. The DELE A2 is a basic language test that shows you have a sufficient level of Spanish. There is no need to take this exam if you are from a Latin American country.
  2. The CCSE is a cultural assessment. This test is not required if you attended school or high school in Spain. It is a 45-minute multiple-choice test about the Spanish government, art, television, culture, and geography.

The Cervantes Institute organizes both exams.

The second test is the one that most applicants fear. But they shouldn’t be too worried. Because the Cervantes Institute makes all of the questions available online (usually there are a total of 300). So you may easily try completing all of them ahead of time to get a sense of what to expect.

In addition, if you fail, you can retake it. You have three options till you have to pay again (85€).

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