If you’re a long-term Spanish resident who has made the country your home then you may be seriously tempted to apply for Spanish citizenship. After all, citizenship comes with many benefits and affords you the security of knowing that no matter what the UK decides to do next (we’re thinking about the fallout from living in Spain after Brexit), your position in the country will be secured. The one drawback of Spanish citizenship that puts off many of the candidates we speak to? Having to give up your British passport, and that link to your British heritage.
This leads many people to ask the question, do I really have to give up my British passport when I take Spanish citizenship? Unfortunately, the short answer is yes, legally speaking you do. Here’s everything you need to know:
There is No Dual Citizenship Between Spain and the UK
At present, there is no dual citizenship agreement between Spain and the UK. That doesn’t mean that Spain is opposed to dual-nationality, but for many years it has only recognised these between countries with which it has a specific connection. These countries include Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and Portugal and for those who have applied using their Sephardic Jewish heritage. More recently, Spain has also signed a dual nationality agreement with France, which many believe could be a positive sign that they will be open to widening this up to other countries.
But if we look at the situation as it stands right now, the lack of dual citizenship between Spain and the UK can be very off putting for British citizens thinking of applying for citizenship in Spain. This is likely to be the reason why there are many more Britons applying for French citizenship (a country that does recognise dual nationality with the UK) than Spanish citizenship, which doesn’t.
So what does happen to your British passport if you apply for Spanish citizenship? Do you have to hand it over when you collect your Spanish passport? Once you’ve officially renounced your British citizenship can you still refer to yourself as British? Here’s everything you need to know:
Your British Passport is Your Own
The good news, for many Brits, is that your British passport will always remain your own: you won’t be asked to physically hand it over at any point. So if you want to keep your British passport for symbolic reasons, you have nothing to worry about.
You will, however, have to swear allegiance to the Spanish constitution as a part of your Spanish citizenship test, and at this stage you will stand in front of a judge who will ask you to formally renounce your British nationality. It is at this point, officially, that your British identity will be removed.
What Does the British Government Say About This?
The British government does recognise dual citizenship between Spain and the UK, so they will also not ask you to renounce your British passport, or your British citizenship. In fact, despite the fact the Spanish government have asked you to renounce your British citizenship the British government doesn’t recognise this. Your right to hold a British passport will remain in place, and you will also be allowed to apply for a new passport when your current one expires.
On the issue, a representative from the Spanish embassy said that “Dual citizenship (also known as dual nationality) is allowed in the UK. This means you can be a British citizen and also a citizen of other countries... You can apply for foreign citizenship and keep your British citizenship. However, many countries do not accept dual citizenship. Spain only recognises dual citizenship with a select number of countries who are judged to fulfil the requirement set out in the Spanish constitution of having ‘a close/special relationship with Spain’ e.g. Latin American countries that were previously under Spanish rule. It does not recognise dual citizenship with the UK.”
Renouncing your British citizenship is a legal process that involves completing an application form on the gov.uk website and paying a hefty fee for the privelage. As the Spanish government doesn’t ask you to demonstrate that you have done this, there is no need to complete this process.
So, Can I Continue Using My British Citizenship?
Whilst the British government won’t ask you to give up your British citizenship, there are legal ramifications to consider if the Spanish authorities find out that you are continuing to use your British nationality. In fact, if it is discovered that you have used your British citizenship, this could put your Spanish citizenship in jeopardy. On the Spanish Foreign Office Website it says that “Spanish nationals who are not nationals by origin (for example, those who have acquired Spanish nationality by residence) shall lose their Spanish nationality if after acquiring Spanish nationality, they use the nationality they had renounced in order to acquire Spanish nationality, for a period of three years.”
Frankly, it’s just not worth the risk! Once your citizenship has been issued, apply for a Spanish passport and use this when you’re travelling instead.
So What Are You Giving Up?
As well as the opportunity to use your British passport (although you can still keep it) acquiring Spanish citizenship means that you also cannot legally claim to be British if you get in trouble with the law: you would no longer be eligible for support from the British embassy, for example. When you are in Spain you will be considered Spanish: when you are in the UK, you would be considered a dual national. If this leaves you feeling uneasy, or you have any concerns, you should seek professional legal advice before making the decision and taking the plunge.
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