How to Apply for Spanish Nationality through Residency

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


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What documents will I need to present?

  1. official application form found here
  1. original and photocopy of your valid TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero)
  1. original and photocopy of your passport (you’ll need a copy of every single page!)
  1. 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
  1. 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)
  1. 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
  1. certificado de empadronamiento / government registration certificate, printed within the last 90 days
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. proof of application payment or tasa of 100€ via modelo 790 código 026


Additional documentation
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 with your questions

Author: Como Consulting Spain

Cat and Hayley are relocation specialists who can help you move to, live in and work in Spain. We'd love to hear from you!

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  1. Does having a pareja de hecho also give possibility towards becoming a citizen via residency?

    Post a Reply
    • Once you have the tarjeta comunitaria, yes. But you’ll need to renew your card for another 5 years and can’t apply until you reach the 10 year mark.

      Post a Reply
  2. What does it mean “both documents will need to be legalised” do you mean compulsada?

    Post a Reply
    • Getting a document legalized is the same as authenticated. For documents printed in most countries you’ll need an Apostille of the Hague affixed, but not all countries are Hague participants / signers. Check with your local Consulate or Embassy for guidance on the legalization process.

      Post a Reply
  3. And also, how does the 90 days thin work in practice? Will I need to apply for another copy of my birth certificate and receive it and have it translated and “legalised” a máximum of 90 days before I hand the documents in? How fast doy ou get an appointment to hand them in? They don’t make it easy, do they?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Lucy,
      You’ll have to check with your local Registro Civil to see what availability they have. As per the 90 days, yes, you will have to get a birth certificate printed, translated and legalized all within 90 days of tuning in documentation. Any documents in the list noted as such are considered expired after 90 days.

      Post a Reply
  4. Is a rental contract enough to prove a 5 year residency?

    Post a Reply
  5. Is there any impediment to taking out “nacionalidad” and maintaining your original passport (Irish in my case)?


    Post a Reply
    • Lorcan,
      During your “juramento” you swear or promise fidelity to the Spanish king and to follow the Spanish constitution. At this appointment you also say to the Spanish government that you have already or will renounce your previous citizenship. From that point on, in the eyes of Spain, you are Spanish. That being said, there is no follow up to check if you have or do in fact renounce your previous citizenship.

      Post a Reply
  6. I have been a resident since 1996 so 20 years with NIE, I am married to a Spaniard for 20 years have 2 kids that are Spanish born (we have a Libro de familia), plus I am autonomo and own a SL here in Spain. Do I need to hand in all the documents you are saying you need?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi There Sean,
      You are certainly elegible to apply if you so wish! The application materials are the same for everyone. Best of luck to you.

      Post a Reply
  7. I have this unusual situation of being American (with a Colombian mother – whose father was a Spaniard) that lives in the UK on a spouse visa with my British husband. With Brexit now an evolving reality, we want to go to Spain and stay there. If I understand it correctly, I can pursue citizenship via the grandparent connection, requiring me to stay in Spain legally for one year. Is that something I can accomplish via my husband’s right to free movement in the EU (before article 50 is triggered) – in other words, he’d have a legal right to live in Spain and I’d have the right to be with him as his spouse. Then, after a year, could I then simply qualify to become a citizen from my own familial ties to Spain?

    Is this a crazy plan that just might work?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Dana, yep, that’s pretty much the long and short of it! You and your husband should both move to Spain and begin the paperwork to prove your legality there. Once you have reached one year, you can pursue the citizenship option, but do note that it takes 18 months as an average. If you’d like more information, please contact us.

      Post a Reply
      • Bear in mind it might be tricky, if you don’t already have the documentation, to prove that grandfather was a Spaniard.

        My wife is in this boat- her father was from Barcelona but he moved to Peru when he was very young. She was born in Peru and is a Peruvian citizen, but because he’s dead and there’s basically no records, we can’t prove that she’s entitled to Spanish citizenship after just one year of residency.

        BUT… there’s good news. As a Peruana, she’s eligible in two years on her own terms.

        Same would apply here; since your mom is Colombian, you’re likely an automatic Colombian as well; and so if you have any issues proving the grandfather connection, you could just do it with the two-year for Iberoamerican citizens rule.

        (In our case, her dad’s records were lost during the war, so even if we went looking for them it’ll be a wild goose chase. Plus we’re staying for several years anyway.)

        Post a Reply
  8. I applied for my Spanish citizenship in August 2016 and I am awaiting my “numero de expedient. Is there any way I can leave Spain and for how long?

    Also if I do not have a Spanish citezenship and neither does my husband and I decide to have a child in Spain does the child automatically get the Spanish nationality?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Karishma,
      If you’ve applied for Spanish citizenship you must already be a legal / long-term resident, so you are absolutely allowed to travel and be out of Spain for however long your current residency allows.

      As for a child born in Spain to foreign parents – the child is not granted Spanish citizenship upon birth, but his or her citizenship can be applied for after a year.

      Post a Reply
      • hello,

        many thanks for your reply.
        After applying for spanish citizenship i went to the ministry of justice and there i was informed that i cannot be out of the country for more than 3months in a year.
        With the 5year residency permit card i had to be back before 6months got over.
        I am currently out of town and I am confused as when i should return.

        Concerning a child, if i get my Spanish citizenship and then get married to a non national and decide to have our child in Spain, do i have to wait for a year before I apply for Spanish citizenship for the child or the fact that one parent has the citizenship means our child will automatically get the citizenship.
        Many thanks.

        Post a Reply
        • If the Ministry of Justice said three months then you should plan your return before then. As for your child, if one of the parents is a Spanish citizen then the child is automatically granted Spanish citizenship at birth.

          Post a Reply
  9. Hello sir
    Am holding the tarjeta residents which is regemen comunitario,
    I changed my 2 years residential permit to be comunitario after making the pareja de hecho with my pertner.
    All total I live with residential permit is 7 years.
    So, do I allow to apply Spanish nationality or not?
    If the answer is no then when do I allow ?

    Post a Reply
  10. If i am married with a girl who got citizenship through Which countries are considered as Latin American is it still the same rules for getting citizenship

    Post a Reply
    • Once a person is granted Spanish citizenship there is no asterisk on their ID or passport which identifies them as different to other Spaniards. If you are married to a Spanish citizen and meet the requirements as outlined in the article above then you are elegible to apply.

      Post a Reply
  11. Hello,

    I am an American with a Guatemalan father and hold both passports. My 2 year anniversary in Spain is November 2017. I am here as a student but have been working as an English teacher LEGALLY. I have my NIE card, rental contract etc.. I noticed that it is stated if I am here as a “student” the 2 years do not there any way around this? Since I have been working can that be considered? Can I still apply for the Spanish passport with my Guatemalan passport this coming up November? would getting a lawyer help?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi There Rebecca,
      That’s great that you’ve got your work permission on a student estancia! That’s certainly not easy. However, the law regarding application for citizenship por residencia states clearly that you must be a legal resident in Spain in order to apply, and students are not considered legal residents, they are legal stays “estancias.” In the past time as a student counted as half (so a one year estancia would count as 6 months of residency) but the law has since changed and no time as a student can be used towards citizenship.

      Post a Reply
  12. Thank you for this excellent blog and for answering questions. It is very nice to see people helping to each other nowdays.

    I have applied to a residence visa non lucrative. I will need to stay in Spain for 1 year so that I can apply for citizenship.

    My office is transferring me from Malta to UK. Since I like my job and there is some flexibility of working remotely I would like to continue working but live in Spain. This will require some traveling but I believe it’s manageable. The question is now how many days I can stay away from Spain so that I have the minimum number of days to apply.

    After some research from several blogs and communities it seems that this is the rule:

    – no more than 3 consecutives month per year.
    – no more than 6 months in total per year.

    I will for sure try to get some official information but if you have any knowledge on this I would appreciate your help.

    In addition, I wounded how taxation will work. I will not have income from Spain but yes from UK.

    Knowing this will help make my decision and propose a plan to my management that can hopefully please both sides.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Antonio,
      For Citizenship applications, no more than three months during the time frame that allows you to apply. Regarding tax questions, those are best directed to a tax specialist.

      Post a Reply
  13. Hi there, if you have a student visa, what is the chance of changing my citizenship? I’m from Philippines.

    Post a Reply
    • None at all. Student estancias used to count as half time towards citizenship, but now only legal residency that is continuous and prior to application count towards citizenship por residencia.

      Post a Reply
  14. I have a regimen comunitario through my father who is a Spanish since last year but I have live in Spain for 3yrs am I qualify to apply for citizenship? Am now 22 years old.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Ami,
      We don’t have enough information about you and your situation to properly advise you. You’re welcome to send us an email.

      Post a Reply
  15. Hello,

    I am currently looking for possibilities to apply for a Spanish citizenship, my father living in Spain for 37 years now is there is possibilities i can apply for a Spanish citizenship i live and study here for 3 year now

    Post a Reply
  16. Nice information
    My question is…which website is good for me to know about my submitted nationality.. As I submitted about one years and 6 months ago…now till I have no letter or any thing from madrid

    Post a Reply
      • Dear sir .
        I am a libyan citizen who is currently studying in spain i have been here for almost 3 years .
        I have a spanish girl friend and we plan to marry do i need to work or no? Note my school afford me a jop upon finishing my study .
        Question number 2 do i need a valid nie to apply for marriage application .
        And if we get married and we wait for 1 year who long time i get my nationality after i sumbit my application best regards.

        Post a Reply
        • You legal status is not considered when applying for marriage. You need some form of valid ID (a passport for example). Once your marriage has bee celebrated you can begin working in Spain. One year from the date of your marriage you are eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship.

          Post a Reply
  17. I have two children born in Germany, who are holding a Ghanaian passport but residing here in Deutschland having a resident permit. Are dey entitled to apply for a Spanish nationality since their grandfather is holding a Spanish nationality passport? But now residing in the UK , but was previously residing here in Germany and later moved to the UK.
    Thank you and best regards

    Post a Reply
    • Your children can apply for Spanish nationality por residencia after one year if they have a Spanish grandparent and can prove this. However, keep in mind that they must legal residents of Spain for a year before they qualify to begin the application.

      Post a Reply
  18. Hello
    I live in Spain last 6month . My father came to Spain 23 years ago & got citizenship. Can I allow to apply citizenship card & how long time it’ll take? I’m 19 years old

    Post a Reply
    • Hi There,
      You would need to come to Spain first and be a legal resident for 10 years, after which you could apply for citizenship.

      Post a Reply
  19. I have my daughter above 18 years old in India. how to get her here as she is dependent on me and I got 5 years of residency card. please answer

    Post a Reply
    • You can apply for something called “Reagrupación Familiar” but your daughter would need a visa first. The best thing for her to do would be to call the Spanish consulate in India for more information.

      Post a Reply
  20. Hi,

    Thanks for this very nice summary of the requirements.

    With reference to the applicant’s birth certificate, and its sworn translation, you say that ‘both documents must be legalized’. I have a recent (British) birth certificate legalized with an apostille. But it is not clear to me how I might legalize the translation. When I have the sworn translation (currently in process), who do I go to to legalize this?

    Thanks in advance,

    Post a Reply
    • The translation does not need to be legalized, only the birth certificate. You will need both the birth certificate and Apostille of the Hague documents translated.

      Post a Reply
  21. Hi,

    I’m a British citizen currently in the process of taking out Spanish nationality. Re the criminal record info from the British police, I’m confused. The consulate in Barcelona know zip, in Madrid they tell me I need a Subject Access form, while ACRO in the Uk say it has to be a Police Certificate. Help!

    Post a Reply
  22. Given that you have to hand in your current passport as part of the application, how long do they take to return it? Hopefully not 4 years 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • The passport is returned immediately, as it’s only for ID purposes. And, thankfully, the naturalization process is getting a bit speedier – 18 months is the norm!

      Post a Reply
  23. One more question on the DELE and CCSE exams. I believe the results are made available online. Do you just print the PDF, or do you need to get some sort of official printed certificate?

    Post a Reply
    • Both exams provide official certificates, the details of which will be explained to you depending on the school where you take the exam. However, be aware that these certificates (especially the DELE) can take months to arrive, so take your exams first!

      Post a Reply
  24. Hello,

    I am an American citizen, born in Puerto Rico, to parents born in Cuba. My grandmother and grandfather on my father’s side were both born in Spain. If I understand it correctly I would have to live in Spain for a minimum of 1 year to be able to apply for Spanish citizenship, is that correct? I could not live in the Unites States and apply.

    Also both sets of grandparents do not have to be Spanish born, is that correct?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Madeline,
      Sounds like you’re getting things confused a bit. If you’re talking about applying for citizenship “por residencia” as you are from a país iberoamericano then you would need to be a legal resident of Spain for 2 years, not one. If you are applying as someone with a Spanish grandparent, and you will need proof of this in the form of a birth certificate, then you are elegible after a year. It is only necessary that one grandparent was born in Spain and you must have lived in Spain for a year to apply under this scheme.

      Post a Reply
      • Thank you so much for the clarification.

        Post a Reply
  25. Hi my father is a filipino ang hismoare ts both are origin in spain, my father applied a spanish citizen which is gra ted already, so as we decendant of my father and great granxhildren of both origin from spain, we know we can apply residence visa and stay 1 year before we can apply spanish citizenship, my question is what docsumnets we need ro submig in spanish embassy in the philippines? P,ease help us and give us some ideas clearly because we are planning to apply as resedence visa because we want ro stay in spain wuth my fatherand somerelatives on there.

    Thank you for your help

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Sarah, Filipinos need a visa to travel to Spain, so it is best to contact your Embassy or Consulate directly.

      Post a Reply
  26. How does citizenship work if you were born in Spain to foreign parents? I’ve looked through the civil code and it says that you need to have a one year residency, but I can’t find any other specific information.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Vince,
      The application “por residencia” as outlined in the article above is the same. If you were born in Spain you would need to prove this in addition to proving a full year of legal residence in the country and all of the documents as listed above. Feel free to email us if you have further questions!

      Post a Reply


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