Requirements for Spanish Passport & Citizenship Applications

Unlock your path to Spanish citizenship! Discover the key requirements for Spanish passport applications and navigate the process with ease in our comprehensive guide.
Article Last Updated: 03 Jun, 2024 under Citizenship Application

Spanish Citizenship

 

1. How to get Spanish Citizenship

As a Spanish lawyer with extensive experience in immigration matters, it's my pleasure to guide you through the ins and outs of acquiring Spanish citizenship —a feat that carries numerous privileges but also presents its share of challenges. Becoming a Spanish citizen is not only about obtaining a Spanish passport; it's about fully embracing the life, culture, and responsibilities of being a part of this vibrant country.

For foreign nationals living in Spain, the journey to Spanish citizenship could be seen as a path to overcoming many obstacles. The Spanish passport is ranked among the strongest globally, allowing visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to many countries worldwide. Spanish nationality grants the right to vote and be elected to public office, unrestricted access to the job market, and an unequivocal sense of belonging in Spanish society.

However, the journey to obtain Spanish citizenship is laden with complexities, requirements, and legalities that require careful navigation. From demonstrating sufficient financial stability to passing stringent language and cultural knowledge tests, the process is designed to ensure that applicants are well-prepared to integrate into Spanish society.

In this article, we delve into the process of applying to become a Spanish national, the legal prerequisites and procedural obligations, and the ways to circumvent common pitfalls. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive guide that could turn the strenuous task of acquiring Spanish nationality into an achievable objective.

Whether you've been living in Spain for a decade or just started considering the idea, understanding the path to obtain Spanish nationality is crucial. Indeed, this could well be your first step towards obtaining Spanish citizenship.

One of the major hurdles that non-EU citizens wish to overcome is, of course, the infamous 90-day rule.

2. 90-Day Rule in Spain

The 90-day rule is the regulation that governs the stay of non-European Union (EU) nationals in Spain and indeed the wider Schengen Area: the 90-Day Rule.

This rule permits a non-EU national to stay within the Schengen Area, which includes Spanish territory, for up to 90 days within any 180-day period, for tourism, business meetings, or any non-profit activity. To exercise this right, a non-EU national must hold a valid passport. The countdown of these 90 days begins from the first day of entry into any Schengen country, not just Spain.

The 90-Day Rule significantly impacts non-EU nationals planning to stay in Spain or any other Schengen country for longer periods without a residency permit. Overstaying this limit can result in penalties such as deportation, fines, or a ban on re-entry into the Schengen Area.

It's noteworthy that this rule does not apply to EU nationals. Citizens of any EU country can stay in Spain or move freely within the Schengen Area for an unlimited period, holding only their valid passport or national ID card, without any need for a Spanish residency permit.

For those who do wish to become resident in Spain and not wish to work, a non-lucrative visa in Spain would be a preferrable option. 

how to become a spanish citizen

3. Overview of Spanish Citizenship (Spanish Nationality)

As stated, Spanish citizenship offers numerous benefits, ranging from unrestricted access to the EU job market to the ability to vote in Spanish elections. But beyond these privileges, becoming a Spanish citizen means embracing the vibrant Spanish culture, mastering the Spanish language, and accepting a new identity as a Spanish national.

Generally, there are several pathways to obtaining Spanish citizenship. The most common is through Spanish residency, where non-Spanish nationals who have legally resided in Spain for ten years can apply for citizenship. However, this period is shortened for refugees and nationals from Ibero-American countries, among others, to just two years.

Another common route is through marriage. Non-Spanish nationals married to Spanish citizens can apply for Spanish citizenship after just one year of legal residency in Spain. Citizenship can also be obtained through descent or birth in Spanish territory under certain conditions, even if the parents are non-Spanish nationals.

Moreover, Spanish citizenship can also be obtained through the principle of 'right of blood' Spanish citizenship by descent, where individuals with a Spanish parent, regardless of where they are born, or those whose parents were born in Spain and are or were originally Spanish nationals, can apply for Spanish citizenship.

4. Spanish Dual Citizenship

The question of dual citizenship is a complex one. While Spain does not generally permit dual citizenship, exceptions are made for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal. 

As such, British and other non-EU citizens would usually be required to renounce their original nationality to become Spanish citizens (though in effect their country of original citizenship may permit dual citizenship, and therefore the effects may be negligible). Britain does not prevent citizens from having dual citizenship so worth bearing in mind for those thinking of moving to Spain from the UK.

The application process for Spanish citizenship involves submitting a comprehensive application to the Spanish Ministry of Justice, including documentation to prove eligibility, successful completion of a Spanish language test and a test on Spanish culture and society, except for those who can prove their schooling was conducted in Spanish.

Finally, it's worth noting that obtaining Spanish citizenship could have significant tax implications. Spain taxes its residents on their worldwide income, which could mean an increased tax liability for new Spanish citizens.

Navigating the road to becoming a Spanish citizen can be challenging, but with the right guidance and perseverance, it can be a rewarding journey culminating in the acquisition of a new identity, new rights, and a new home with new work and business opportunities.

So, what are the requirements and steps that you need to take for each mode of citizenship application?

5. Spanish Citizenship By Marriage

This route to obtaining Spanish citizenship was known as 'matrimonio' and was modified a long time ago. The new rules permit the foreign citizen to obtain Spanish citizenship in as little as one year (as opposed to 10 years typically - see 'Arraigo' below).

To qualify, the foreign spouse and Spanish citizen must register the marriage in the civil registry office and the couple must have resided legally in Spain for at least one year. Accordingly, the spouse who is a foreign citizen will first need to obtain residency (normally via the Family Reunification Visa - tarjeta comunitaria). This will give the foreign citizen spouse a 5-year residence permit, during which time the citizenship application can take place.

Once the couple have lived in Spain for one year, the application process begins by submitting the required documents, which include a valid passport, birth certificate, certificate of marriage or civil partnership, and proof of legal residency, to the civil registry office. As proof is required of having lived together as a married couple, it will be necessary to include the certificate of 'empadronamiento' issued by the local town hall.

An integral part of this process to acquire Spanish nationality is demonstrating a basic proficiency in the Spanish language and a rudimentary understanding of Spanish culture, both evaluated through standard tests. Acquiring all necessary documents and dealing with bureaucratic intricacies can be challenging, but with proper guidance, it's manageable.

The total cost can vary but expect to budget around €100 to €200 for the application fee and language test. Processing times can range between 12 to 24 months, largely depending on the workload of the Spanish Ministry of Justice.

6. Spanish Citizenship By Residence

Non-EU citizens seeking to acquire Spanish citizenship by residence must legally live in Spain for ten years, though the period reduces for refugees or nationals from a Latin American country, Andorra, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or Sephardic Jews to two years., as regulated by Article 22 of the Civil Code

The application process involves demonstrating integration into Spanish society, passing a cultural knowledge test and a Spanish language proficiency test.

The applicant must also have a clean criminal record, both in Spain and any previous countries of residence, including any Spanish American country/Latin American countries.

The Spanish government charges a fee of €102 for citizenship applications. The process can be challenging due to its complexity, the requirement of numerous documents and possible language barriers.

Once the application is submitted, it can take up to two years or more before you're granted Spanish citizenship. It's advised to engage a lawyer to help you obtain citizenship efficiently.

7. Spanish Citizenship By Descent

Spanish Citizenship by Descent is granted to individuals who have Spanish parents or at least one Spanish parent or who were born in Spain to foreign parents if at least one of them was also born in Spain (excluding children of diplomats and consuls accredited in Spain).

Even if you were not born in Spain, you can acquire citizenship if your Spanish mother or Spanish father was originally Spanish and you declare your desire to be Spanish within two years of reaching adulthood.

The process involves submitting an application accompanied by a birth certificate, the parents' birth certificates, or proof of Spanish ancestry like a Spanish grandparent's birth certificate.

The application process can be complex, requiring accurate translations and possible genealogical research. The Spanish government's application fee is relatively small but expect potential additional costs for translations or legal assistance. The process usually takes around 12 months, but timeframes can vary.

apply for spanish citizenship

8. Downside of Getting Spanish Citizenship

While obtaining Spanish citizenship can open up many opportunities, there can be potential drawbacks for non-EU citizens. One significant concern is taxation. As a Spanish citizen, you would be considered a tax resident and subject to the worldwide income reporting under the Spanish Personal Income Tax Law (Ley del IRPF). This means you'd need to declare your global income and potentially pay taxes in Spain, even if you've already paid taxes on this income in another country, although tax treaties may mitigate double taxation.

Moreover, under Spain's wealth tax (Impuesto sobre el Patrimonio), residents might have to pay tax on worldwide assets exceeding €700,000. These additional tax responsibilities can significantly impact your financial situation.

Additionally, Spain does not always permit dual citizenship with non-Iberoamerican countries, which could mean renouncing your original citizenship. It's crucial to weigh these factors before pursuing Spanish citizenship.

9. Spanish Citizenship or permanent residency?

Non-EU citizens planning to live long-term in Spain have two primary options: obtaining permanent residency or acquiring Spanish citizenship.

So, those non-EU citizens who have been living in Spain for a period of 10 years after obtaining a Spanish non-lucrative visa, or indeed a Digital Nomad Visa, have a choice of whether they wish to continue living in Spain with the right to permanent residency (assuming they continue to fulfil the requirements of the visa) or apply for Spanish citizenship. 

Permanent residency allows you to live and work indefinitely in Spain while retaining your original nationality. It requires five continuous, legal years of residence in Spain. Benefits include access to employment, public services, and social benefits. However, it doesn't grant you a Spanish passport or the right to vote in national elections. 

Spanish citizenship, on the other hand, offers a Spanish passport, the right to vote, and the freedom to live, work, and study across the EU. But, it generally requires ten years of continuous, legal residence and proficiency in Spanish language and culture, and Spain doesn't always allow dual citizenship, which means you might have to renounce your original nationality.

The choice between these two options often hinges on personal circumstances, long-term plans, and the ties you have with your home country.

10. How To Get a Spanish Passport

Getting your Spanish passport involves a number of steps. Firstly, of course, you must have acquired Spanish citizenship, under one of the processes described above. Once you have been granted Spanish citizenship, you may apply for a Spanish passport.

The application be submitted in person at a provincial office of the Police (Comisaría General de Policía), at passport offices, or at Spanish consulates if you're abroad. You'll need to present a completed application form (Modelo 790), two recent photographs, your Spanish ID card (DNI), and the previous passport if this is a renewal.

Fees are around €30, payable at the time of application, though rates may vary slightly. The Spanish passport is generally issued within 2-4 weeks after application.

Please remember, the laws and procedures for obtaining a Spanish passport can change, so always refer to the most recent regulations or seek legal advice.

how to get a spanish passport

11. About the Spanish citizenship test: DELE A2 and CCSE

The Spanish citizenship test consists of two main components: the DELE A2 exam and the CCSE test. These exams are crucial for individuals seeking to gain Spanish citizenship, as they demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the Spanish language and knowledge of Spanish society, respectively.

The DELE A2 exam is a language proficiency test that assesses the candidate's ability to understand and express themselves in Spanish at an A2 level, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This level corresponds to basic users of the language, who can communicate in everyday situations with commonly-used expressions and phrases. The exam consists of different sections, including reading comprehension, written expression and interaction, listening comprehension, and oral expression and interaction.

The CCSE test, which stands for "Conocimientos Constitucionales y Socioculturales de España" (Constitutional and Sociocultural Knowledge of Spain), evaluates the candidate's knowledge of Spain's constitution and its social and cultural reality. The test consists of 25 multiple-choice questions, covering topics such as geography, culture, history, and Spain's political and administrative structure.

Both exams are administered by the Instituto Cervantes, and they can be taken at authorized examination centers located in Spain and many other countries around the world. The exams are usually scheduled several times throughout the year, providing flexibility for candidates to choose a date that suits them best.

The application process for both exams involves registering online through the official Instituto Cervantes website. Candidates will need to provide personal information, choose an examination center and date, and pay the corresponding fees.

Spanish Citizenship Exam Fees

 

In conclusion, the DELE A2 and CCSE exams are essential components of the Spanish citizenship application process. They ensure that candidates have a basic understanding of the Spanish language and a good knowledge of the country's culture, society, and constitution. Therefore, anyone seeking to become a Spanish citizen must prepare thoroughly for these exams and pass them successfully.

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Martin Rimmer
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