Spanish Citizenship & Permanent Residence Explained

Whether you’re already living in Spain or have decided to take the plunge and make the move in the not-too-distant future, you’ll probably be thinking about the rules surrounding Spanish Citizenship and residency. Will you be eligible? What are the benefits of becoming a Spanish citizen? And how, exactly, is Brexit going to affect everything for British citizens?

Here’s a concise guide to Spanish citizenship and permanent residence to explain everything you need to know:

Am I Eligible to Apply for Spanish Residency or Citizenship?

If you are already living in Spain, then your eligibility for Spanish residency or citizenship will depend on how long you have been in the country. Individuals are able to apply for Spanish residency once they have been living in Spain for five years, or they can apply for Spanish citizenship once they have been living in Spain for ten years.

There are some exceptions to the rules that may enable you to apply for citizenship sooner, for example if you are married to someone who is a Spanish citizen, or are the child of a Spanish citizen.

The Pros and Cons of Residency Versus Citizenship

If you have already been living in Spain for ten years then you are entitled to apply for both residency and citizenship, which may leave you struggling to decide which option is right for you. Here is a brief summary of both Spanish residency and Spanish citizenship, to help you decide which route will suit you best:

If you apply for Spanish residency then you will still retain your nationality, and your passport will remain the same too: helpful if you have a sense of national loyalty or want to retain ties to your country of origin. Spanish residency will give you almost all of the same benefits as Spanish citizenship, but the drawback is that you will only be entitled to these if you meet certain conditions, the most important of these being the ability to support yourself financially.

With Spanish citizenship you will give up your original nationality and passport and these will be replaced with Spanish nationality and a Spanish passport. This means that you will enjoy all the same rights as any other citizen, and you will also be entitled to vote in European elections and enjoy freedom of movement around the EU too. However it is harder to receive Spanish citizenship than it is to receive Spanish residency.

The Big Brexit Question

Brexit has left many British citizens living in Spain wondering about how the UK’s decision to leave the EU will affect them, and their right to apply for citizenship or residency in Spain. Negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU are still ongoing, even though the UK has already withdrawn from the EU, meaning that uncertainty still hangs over much of the rights of UK citizens who currently reside in Spain.

However there is good news: in March 2019 the Spanish foreign minister announced that the 400,000 UK citizens living in Spain would be granted residency rights in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. What we don’t know yet is how this would work logistically, but it has worked to reassure Spanish homeowners of their right to remain in the country they call home. Some forecasters have predicted that British nationals might need to apply for a ‘foreigner identity card’ by the end of 2020: we will update on this situation as and when it is clarified.

If you are eligible and already living in Spain then it may well be that the best way to secure your position in Spain is to apply for citizenship and surrender your British citizenship. Like other non-EU countries, Brits may also be asked to apply for a Blue Card in the future, so this is something to prepare for. This is an approved EU-wide work permit that allows high-skilled, non-EU citizens to work and live in Spain and other EU countries. Provided you have the qualifications and the required skills that are needed to be eligible.

The Spanish Residency Application Process

Have you decided that Spanish residency is the right option for you? Then here is everything you need to know about the Spanish residency application process:

Firstly, you must have lived in Spain for a period of at least five uninterupted years in order to be eligible for a ‘EU long-term residence permit’. This will allow you to stay in Spain indefinitely regardless of whether you are working or otherwise, under the same conditions as Spanish citizens. However, you must meet stringent criteria in order to be eligible for this kind of permit. Firstly, and most importantly, you must be able to prove that you have adequate financial resources to provide for yourself and your family. This doesn’t have to be a salary: pension, student scholarship or independent means would also be accepted. To ensure you aren’t a burden on the health system, you will also need to provide evidence of an authorized public or private health insurance policy.

Other information you should have available to submit with your application include:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of legal residence in Spain (such as a mortgage or rental contract)
  • Criminal record certificate issued by the authorities in your home country;
  • Medical certificate (certificado medico)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Marriage certificate, divorce certificate, or other proof of your current marital status

Once you have been issued your Spanish residency permit you will have the freedom to enjoy Spanish benefits and social services in the country, and you can also work (or not) freely too. If you’re interested in travelling and exploring the EU then it may interest you to know that you can move to other EU member states for up to three months at a time with this residency permit too.

The Spanish Citizenship Application Process

Have you decided that Spanish citizenship is the right option for you? Then here is everything you need to know about the Spanish citizenship application process:

To be eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship you must have been living in Spain for a minimum of 10 years if you have no familial ties to the country. If you have a Spanish spouse or a Spanish parent, this 10 year rule will not apply. However the application to become a Spanish citizen is much more vigorous than the application to apply for Spanish residency: you will have to prove that you are a good citizen, that you are financially stable, and that you have no criminal record. You will also have to show that you have integrated well into Spanish society: some examples of this are by learning to speak Spanish or by attending community events and social activities that are a part of Spanish life. 

You have to complete your citizenship application cat the Civil Registry where you live in Spain. You will need to take along the required supporting documents for your Spanish citizenship application, plus a completed Spanish citizenship application form. If you are 18 years or above, 14 or older with legal assistance, or the legal guardian of a person under 14, you can apply for Spanish citizenship.

Spain charges a non-refundable fee to process your citizenship application. The price varies and can range from €60-€100, even if they reject your application. Fees may also apply to issue certificates and documents required for your application, so we suggest that you allocate 200 euros to ensure that you have sufficient funds. It is worth noting that if your application is successful you will have to renounce your former nationality and you will also have to swear your loyalty to the King. You must also promise to obey the Spanish constitution and laws.

Exceptions to the 10 Year Rules

The following exceptions to the 10 year citizenship application rule apply:

-Refugees generally only have to wait for 5 years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. Nationals from Spanish-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, and those of Sephardic origin only have to wait two years.

-If you are born in Spain but your parents are foreign nationals you have to wait just one year before you are eligible to apply for citizenship

-If you are married to a Spaniard then you application for Spanish citizenship can also be fast tracked if you live in Spain for just one year. You can also claim Spanish citizenship under the same terms as the widower or widow of a Spaniard, provided you weren’t separated at the time of their death.

Are you thinking of moving to Spain? Would you like to become a Spanish citizen, and dream of owning property in the country? Then why not get in touch with our locally based property experts, who have years of experience in helping house hunters just like you to find the property of their dreams.



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