Most foreigners must have held a residence permit for ten years before they can apply for Spanish nationality. The main exceptions are those who have been granted political refuge or asylum, who can apply after five years, and nationals of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and Jews of Spanish origin, all of whom qualify after just two years.
A one-year residence period is sufficient for someone born in Spain or born outside Spain with a Spanish mother or father, or anyone married to a Spanish citizen (even if the marriage has been dissolved).
In all cases, the period of residence in Spain must have been immediately before the application. Marriage to a Spanish citizen doesn’t entitle you to a work permit, although an application for one is usually granted and expedited. Foreign children aged under 18 who are adopted by Spanish parents automatically become Spanish citizens, although an adopted child aged 18 or older at the time of adoption must decide whether to choose Spanish nationality in the two years following adoption.
Application for Spanish nationality
An application for Spanish citizenship must be made to the Minister of Justice, who can refuse it on grounds of public order or national interest. To apply for Spanish nationality you require your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and your parents’ birth and marriage certificates, all of which must be officially translated into Spanish.
You also require a certificate of good conduct from the police, a statement from two Spanish citizens supporting your application, and you must show that you’re a good citizen and integrated into Spanish society. Most people find it necessary to employ a lawyer to handle the paperwork involved.
Spanish law doesn’t recognise dual nationality for adults and therefore a child who’s entitled to choose between Spanish and another nationality must make a choice at the age of 18. A foreigner must usually renounce his former nationality (exceptions include Portuguese and Latin Americans), swear allegiance to the King of Spain, and swear to abide by the Spanish constitution and laws. Some countries (e.g. the UK) don’t recognise a renunciation of nationality, irrespective of whether its citizens have taken another nationality. It’s advisable to take legal advice before renouncing your nationality and becoming a Spanish citizen.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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