A guide to Spanish citizenship and permanent residence
31st May 2014, 22 comments
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.
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.
Updated from November 2012.
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22 comments on this article Add a comment
14th November 2012, 18:10:56 Denise posted:My son would like to work for the National Police here in Spain, and has been told many times that you must be a Spanish citizen, or renounce your British citizenship. Having read your article, this now seems to not be the case. [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]
14th August 2013, 12:08:54 David posted:Thanks for the article. Getting ready to submit my documents but concerned about the 'test'. Your article suggests this is performed later by a judge during an interview. Is this correct or should I expect an evaluation during submission of documents?
Do you know an internet site where I can I find information about the infamous 30 questions that will be asked?
26th September 2013, 23:24:24 Lucas posted:Hola! my name is Lucas, i have submitted the documents and paperwork at the ministry of justice. Now how long does it usually take to procure the Spanish Passport. Prior receiving it do i have to undergo any interview and any other formalities that needs to be followed.
29th October 2013, 00:43:12 David Jenkins posted:Applying for Spanish citizenship is not straightforward. Firstly, it can take nearly two years. Secondly, there is no interview with a judge. Thirdly, be careful about your "legal residency".. This means ten years of having your residency card. That you are an European citizen with a right to llive in Spain from the moment you arrive does not seem to count.
20th March 2014, 20:21:39 rima posted:[Edited by moderator: For expert help, please direct your question to our 'Ask the Expert' service http://expatica.com/ask_the_expert] hi, my mum is going to submit her documents for spanish citizenship but she did not inform about the test. so she just want to know what kind a question can be asked, when is the test and is it vocal test or written? many thanks
22nd March 2014, 16:58:46 Dennis posted:[Edited by moderator: Please direct expert questions to our 'Ask the Expert' service http://expatica.com/ask_the_expert] One of my Dads grandparent was from Spain , can I obtain citizenship thru them? I am an American
25th March 2014, 09:30:01 JR posted:I am from the Philippines and currently working in the middle east. My family name is Rojas. I am interested in in becoming Spanish citizen is it possible?
27th March 2014, 11:54:51 Rose posted:[Edited by moderator: Please direct expert questions to our 'Ask the Expert' service http://expatica.com/ask_the_expert] I am from Philippines and currently living and working in Madrid Spain for 5 years. I would like to obtain the spanish citizenship, I am on going of completing my requirements. I just would like to ask what are the possible questions in the interview in obtaining a citizenship? That would be nice if you can help:)
28th March 2014, 04:08:30 Joey posted:[Editor's note: Please direct expert questions to our 'Ask the Expert' service http://expatica.com/ask_the_expert] I am from the Philippines. With the passing of the Sephardic Jew Law, and since i decended from the surname in the list, i think am eligible to apply for a Spanish citizenship. What are the guidelines to start the process? Am excited with this development. Thank u Spain!
28th March 2014, 22:24:20 miguel posted:@joey, you must be a JEWISH SEPHARDIC first to be eligible.The surname list only applies for those who are with the blood of sephardic jew. Filipinos are welcome to be a citizen of spain as long as you are legally residing on spain for at least 2 years.
17th April 2014, 20:18:12 Albert posted:Where do you find this list of surnames?
7th May 2014, 14:28:47 Victor posted:I am non eu citizen of spain. Now i am permanent resident of spain. Now i like to bring my non eu unmarried son here. So how can i apply for this and manage a visa for him to move spain with me and work????
27th May 2014, 18:53:26 Douglas V. posted:I have both Mexican and American citizenship however I would like to apply for Spanish citizenship. I was wondering how difficult it would be to do that? If I enter the country as a student for 2 years could I apply for citizenship after that time period? Thank you in advance for any advice.
13th June 2014, 01:09:48 Gini posted:I am interested in getting Spain citizenship/passport for my sons. I was born in Spain to American parents but have never claimed my citizenship. I live in the States and am having a hard time finding someone who can help me with this paper work. Do you have any suggestions who to contact for assistance other than the Spanish Embassy who have not returned my calls.
2nd July 2014, 10:10:53 Daniel posted:My query would be the same as what Douglas V stated. Somebody please answer to clarify if one can apply for Spanish citizenship after being in Spain for 2 years as a student with student residency permit/card. Thanks!
28th July 2014, 16:15:33 ryan posted:I am an Australian married to a spanish citizen and have obtained my residency card and lived in Spain for one year with it. My questions are; can I now apply for citizenship?, is there a speaking test? How long can it take? Do I lose my Australian citizenship if accepted? Can I leave Spain whilst my application is pending?
Any help here would be appreciated
7th August 2014, 09:58:10 Steph posted:Hi
I am a British national and my husband is non eu national
I would like to know how and when he can apply for a Spanish citizenship
3rd September 2014, 07:43:23 Eber Peña posted:Hola I'm Mexican-American
I know my paternal grandparents were Jews from Spain
And I will like to know if I can apply for a Spanish citizenship ?
3rd September 2014, 12:52:38 Morgan posted:For those of you asking about obtaining perminant residency with a student visa it's not possible until you can prove you have lived in Spain for three years. Furthermore, by proof they mean specifically being empadronado (registering your residence with the town hall). On top of that you must also have official fingerprints from your country of former residence/citizenship sent to Spain, show proof of health insurance in Spain, proof that you can support yourself and a job contract (which means you need to find a place to work and have them contract you before you can even start working). In addition to all of this, AFTER you have the appointment to submit the documents (which can be over a month away from the moment you try to get it) the entire process to just get the ok letter takes at least two months. To be clear this type of residency is called ARIAGO. Residency is not so easy to get if you are a nonEU citizen. I am an American and from experience of myself and others I know the process takes anywhere from 6 months to a year after living for three years officially empadronado.
29th September 2014, 08:57:44 Ivane posted:My name is Ivane Jashiashvili, I am Georgian citizen. I am looking for some detailed information about living permission in Spain. My wife and I bought an apartment in Spain (Madrid) some time ago. as long as we own our property in Spain All my family is register in Madrid. My family and I want to get permanent Spanish visa. can you give me directions regarding that fact?
Also, I want to inform you that I run my own business in Georgia, and my monthly income is more than 3000 EU. looking forward your answer. thanks in advance
1st December 2014, 15:01:07 Ala posted:
My grandfather was born in Spain in 1935. His mother is a Spanish originally. She traveled to Palestine in 1938 because of the Spanish civil war. These dayes we have got a birth certificate of my grandfather from civil registration of Las Palmas. my father will obtain the Spanish nationality this year (2014). Can I get the Spanish nationality as a grandchild of a Spanish grandfather? Please take in you account that My age is NOW 29 years old and I did not take MY opportunity/RIGHT of choose the Spanish nationality in the past. because we did not able to extract my grandfather's birth certificate from civil registration, and we were deprived from it by force as a result of civil war since 1937. and we live now in Palestine under occupation and with no real nationality because it is not independence country . best regards
[Moderator's note: Please refer questions to our Ask the Expert free service]
17th November 2014, 23:29:23 john posted:
There is NO TEST for the swearing in ceremony for Spanish citizenship. It's a group ceremony where you repeat 5 lines read aloud by a judge that takes 6 minutes. 2 weeks later you receive a Nationality certificate in the mail, and get an appointment to get a Spanish Passport at the Police Station. Easy.
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