Spanish Citizenship

After you have lived in Spain for 5 years, you can apply for permanent residence. After 10 years, you can appeal to Spanish citizenship or nationality. Some exemptions exist that allow certain people to apply sooner. For example, you can apply if you are married to a Spaniard or the child of a Spanish parent. Both Spanish citizenship and permanent residency allow you to stay living in Spain, but some differences exist between the two. In this article, we will cover the following topics: 



If you have been living in Spain for several years and would like to stay in the country for the long term, you may be wondering which is the best option to achieve this goal.

Should you apply for Permanent Residence or Spanish Citizenship?

Well, the reality is that both options will give you the possibility of living in Spain for an indefinite period. However, there are some differences between these two options, and understanding them is fundamental.If you have lived in the country for 5 uninterrupted years, you can apply for permanent residence in Spain. This type of permit gives non-EU citizens the possibility of staying in Spain long term. The conditions under which you will live in the country are the same as those of Spanish citizenship or nationality; so it may be your preferred option, as it is perhaps the easiest.

What is the difference between Permanent Residence and Spanish nationality?

After 10 years of living in Spain, you can obtain Spanish citizenship or nationality, thus becoming a Spanish citizen.
The main disadvantage of this option is that you will have to give up your original nationality to obtain Spanish nationality.
There is, however, one exception to that rule. If you are a citizen from Andorra, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines or a Latin American country, you can obtain dual nationality; therefore, there will be no need to give up your original citizenship.

What are the advantages of Spanish Citizenship over Permanent Residence?

Having the Spanish Citizenship status will grant you the right to live and work anywhere you want inside the EU, thanks to the acquisition of a Spanish passport. You’ll also save a ton of time sorting the Spanish bureaucracy, as you won’t be considered a foreigner anymore. In addition to that, you will obtain the right to vote in the country.


Now that you know what the main benefits of Spanish citizenship are and how it differs from permanent residence, you may be wondering how to obtain nationality in Spain and what are the exact steps that arise with the application process. There are different ways to obtain Spanish citizenship. 

Nationality for Spaniards of origin:

The following individuals can apply to Spanish Citizenship by Origin:

  • Those born to a Spanish father or mother.
  • Those born in Spain when they are children of foreign parents if at least one of the parents was born in Spain (except for the children of diplomats).
  • Those born in Spain of foreign parents, if both lack nationality (stateless), or if the legislation of neither of them attributes the child a nationality. In this case, a file can be made in the Civil Registry of their domicile to declare Spanish nationality with the value of simple presumption.
  • Children born in Spain whose parents’ identity is unknown. Minors whose first known place of stay is Spanish territory are presumed to have been born in Spain.
  • Spaniards under the age of 18 who are adopted by a Spaniard are also Spaniards of origin. If the adoptee is over 18 years of age, he or she may opt for the Spanish nationality of origin within two years from the constitution of the adoption.

Nationality by residence

This form of acquisition of nationality requires the residence of the person in Spain for ten years legally, continuously and immediately before the request. There are cases in which the required period of residence is reduced; these are:

  • Five years: for the granting of Spanish nationality to those persons who have obtained refugee status.
  • Two years: for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or persons of Sephardic origin.
  • One year:
    • Those born in Spanish territory.
    • Those who did not properly exercise their right to acquire Spanish nationality by option.
    • Whoever has been legally subject to the guardianship (under the supervision of a tutor), guardianship or fostering (the fostering that allows the reduction of legal residence to one year is that in which there is a resolution of the public entity that has in each territory entrusted with the protection of minors and the fostering that is judicially recognized) of a Spanish citizen or institution for two consecutive years, even if it continues in this situation at the time of the application.
    • Anyone who, at the time of application, has been married to a Spaniard for one year and is not legally or de facto separated.
    • The Spanish or Spanish widow or widower, if at the time of the death of the spouse they were not separated, de facto or judicially.
    • A person born outside Spain to a father or mother (also born outside Spain), grandfather or grandmother, provided that all of them were originally Spanish.


To apply for Spanish citizenship, there are some documents and requirements that you must fulfill to be able to obtain it effectively:
  • Full Passport
  • Residence permit
  • Birth certificate
  • Criminal record
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Current census + historical census
  • DELE A2 certificate (if applicable)
  • CCSE Certificate
  • Proof of integration into the Spanish community (such as a gym membership card, a library, etc.).

How can I apply for Spanish nationality?

Once you complete all the required documents, you will need to send them online. In that sense, you have two different options:
  • You can submit your file in person, at the Civil Registry.
  • You can do it online, via the Spanish Justice System Website. We advise you to go for the second option, as it will save you a lot of time and you will receive your resolution much faster.

How much time does it take to process the Citizenship Application?

Usually, the whole application process takes between 2 to 3 years, due to the slowness of the Spanish bureaucracy. Nevertheless if after a legal period of 1 year you haven’t received a response, the application is considered as rejected due to administrative silence. What you can do then is an appeal to claim a review over your request. After that, you will receive an answer within the next 4 months, so if you get an appointment for the flag’s jury at the same time you submit your appeal, you can get your Spanish Citizenship in 1 year and a half!

Once approved, you must swear an oath to the King of Spain and the Constitution, and later you will receive your passport (the physical document). If you think this is too much information and would like to simplify your life, don’t worry, our team of immigration lawyers in Spain is here to help you. We can manage the entire application process for you: determine the best way forward, ask you for the specific documentation and information you will need for your application to be approved, as well as complete and send all the papers to us – all you have to do is sign! What are you waiting for to obtain your Spanish nationality?

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