Without a doubt, Brexit and the European Union have become buzzwords overnight. The UK’s big breakup with the EU has sent many Spain dwellers into a tailspin on how to apply for Spanish nationality. Luckily for everyone, the procedure for applying for Spanish citizenship was completely overhauled in 2015 and the new system, while more costly and restrictive (expect to pay upwards of 300€ for application fees and official exams), is more efficient and can be done entirely online.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves!
Let’s start with the basics. The most common way for a foreigner living in Spain to be elegible for Spanish nationality is por residencia, or by living legally in Spain for 10 consecutive years. That being said, there are a handful of situations that reduce the minimum number of years and are as follows:
- 5 years residency with refugee status
- 2 years residency for citizens of Latin American countries or those from countries with historial ties to Spain
- 1 year residency for those:
- married to a Spaniard
- the widow of a Spaniard
- born outside of Spain to Spanish parents or grandparents
A quick note on computing residency
It should be noted that residency must be legal and continuous immediately prior to application. Also, any time spent in Spain de estancia por estudios, as a student, is not considered legal residency and therefore does NOT count towards applications por residencia.
Which countries are considered Latin American?
Those countries with historical ties to Spain and where Spanish or Portuguese is the official language have signed conventions which allow for double nationality and a shortened period of residency as a pathway to citizenship. The Latin American / historial ties countries are:
Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea , Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Venezuela
What documents will I need to present?
- official application form found here
- original and photocopy of your valid TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero)
- original and photocopy of your passport (you’ll need a copy of every single page!)
- your birth certificate, printed within the last 90 days and a sworn translation attached (if issued in a language that is not Spanish) – both documents will need to be legalized
- certificado de antecedents penales / a criminal record certificate or background check from your home country (printed within the last 90 days with a sworn translation attached and both documents legalized)
- certificado de antecedentes penales del Registro Central de Penados in Spain/ Spanish criminal record certificate, printed within the last 90 days – click here for more info
- certificado de empadronamiento / government registration certificate, printed within the last 90 days
- a DELE certificate showing a minimum CEFR A2 in Spanish (not a requirement for applicants whose native language is Spanish) – these exams cost between 100€ and 200€ depending on the level you wish to examine for – find out more about DELE diplomas here
- a CCSE exam certificate or prueba de conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales – a 25-question multiple choice exam testing general knowledge of Spanish culture and laws. The cost is 85€ and is administered by official Instituto Cervantes examination centers about once every month. Expect your exam results in 3 weeks.
- proof of application payment or tasa of 100€ via modelo 790 código 026
Those applying under one of the exceptions mentioned above will need to provide additional documentation proving their status as a refugee, spouse, widow, etc. Look for your specifics on the Ministry of Justice website.
Applications can be submitted entirely online using the Spanish government’s SEDE electrónica or in person at your corresponding Civil Registry. Most civil registries will require an appointment in order to turn in documentation.
Unlike visa and residency applications, the government has no set time frame for resolving citizenship applications. As they say in Spain “las cosas de pálacio van despacio.” Speaking from experience, expect to wait anywhere between 18 months to four years for your answer!
A COMO case study
COMO co-founder Hayley began gathering the paperwork for her Spanish citizenship application in January of 2013. She was given an appointment to turn in documentation in May of 2013 and did not receive word until October of 2015 that her application materials had been received and assigned a numero de expediente in Madrid. She was approved in February of 2016 but was not given an appointment for her juramiento until late April of that same year. By mid-May 2016 she finally had her Spanish passport and DNI in hand (specifically the hand pictured above)!
So what’s in it for me?
We’ve all been guilty of chanting “Yo soy español, español, español” at big football matches, but if you qualify there’s no reason not to apply! Apart from a cool burgundy passport, you’ll be able to vote and forget about trips to the dreaded Oficina de Extranjeros ever again!
Stay tuned for more articles on becoming a Spanish citizen or drop us an email at email@example.com with your questions.