A guide to Spanish citizenship and permanent residence
After living in Spain for five years you can apply for permanent residence, and after 10 years you can apply for Spanish nationality or citizenship.
After you have lived in Spain for five years you can apply for permanent residence, and after 10 years you can apply for Spanish nationality – although there are exemptions, which allow some people to apply even sooner for long-term residence in Spain. There are some differences between the two types of Spanish permanent residency.
Holding an EU long-term permanent residence permit allows you to stay on as a resident in Spain while retaining your own nationality and passport. With a Spanish permanent resident you will get most of the same benefits enjoyed by Spanish citizens as long as you fulfil certain conditions, like being able to support yourself financially. You can move around the EU for limited periods, and longer with permission.
If you become a Spanish citizen, however, you will need to give up your original nationality and passport. You will enjoy all the same rights as other Spanish citizens, as well as become a citizen of the EU with freedom of movement throughout the EU. You can also vote in European elections.
Long-term residence in Spain
Once you have lived in Spain legally for five uninterrupted years, non-EU nationals can apply for an EU long-term residence permit. A long-term residence permit allows you to stay in Spain indefinitely working or otherwise, under the same conditions as Spanish citizens.
You have to prove that you have adequate financial resources to provide for you and your family (if applicable) and proof of public or private health insurance with a company authorised to operate in Spain. When you have this permit, you can work freely and enjoy social services and benefits in Spain. You can generally move between other EU member states for up to three months, and longer for certain purposes if you’re granted a permit to do so.
If you hold a Blue Card from another EU-member state, and have lived elsewhere in the EU for the same period, this also permits you to long-term residence in Spain as long as you have lived for two years in Spain beforehand.
If you hold an EU long-term residence permit granted by another EU member state and want to stay on in Spain, you will have to relinquish your long-term residence status in the other country and apply for an EU long-term residence permit from the Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) in Spain. Click here to find your local office.
Obtaining Spanish nationality
You can apply for Spanish nationality after 10 years of residence in Spain. You can also acquire Spanish nationality through marriage or through having Spanish parents even if they were born outside Spain.
You can apply to become a naturalised Spanish citizen after you’ve lived in Spain for 10 uninterrupted years and can prove ‘good citizenship’ and a ‘sufficient’ degree of integration into Spanish society, for example, being able to speak Spanish and taking part in social activities that are part of the Spanish way of life.
Refugees only wait five years and nationals from Spanish-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and those of Sephardic origin wait only for two. The Spanish government currently has a bill going through parliament that aims to change the law regarding those of Sephardic origin so that any applicant, Jewish or not, who can fulfil certain criteria such as having links to Sephardic culture or even knowledge of Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language, may be offered instant naturalisation – so watch for updates.
If you’re the spouse/widow/widower of a Spaniard or are the child of Spanish parents (even if born outside Spain) or Spanish grandparents, then you only have to wait one year.
How to apply for Spanish nationality
You have to apply at the Civil Registry where you live in Spain. You should be able to prove that you are a ‘good citizen’ and be deemed by the authorities to have integrated into Spanish society.
Once you have been approved, you have to swear your loyalty to the King and promise to obey the Spanish constitution and laws.
Unless you’re from a Spanish-American country, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal, you also have to renounce your previous nationality.
- The complete guide to Spanish visas and permits
- Work in Spain: Guide to Spanish work visas and permits
- Moving to Spain to join a relative or partner
- Study in Spain: Spanish student visas and permits
- A guide to EU/EEA/Swiss nationals moving to Spain
Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.
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Updated from November 2012.