How to get Spanish citizenship
Hey there, señorita! Have you been dreaming of starting a brand new chapter of your life in sunny Spain? We don’t blame you. Replete with culture, castanets, and café con leche, Spain is an excellent country to move to. If you’ve been on our page before, you might be familiar with advice on visa-hopping as well as encouragement to take advantage of that 90-day tourist visa.
There are a handful of ways to step foot in the tierra española, but you may be missing one for staying long term. If you happen to hail from a qualifying Latin American country, or have a parent or grandparent from one of these nations, you might just be one step (okay—realistically, maybe a few steps) away from fast-tracking that coveted Spanish citizenship.
That’s right, full Spanish citizenship. If you think you may be eligible, or are just a curious cat on all-things-Spain, keep on reading for a breakdown on how to get Spanish citizenship as a citizen from Latin America. We’ll be listing qualifying countries, outlining average wait times, explaining dual nationality, and more ¡Vamos allá!
Can anyone get Spanish citizenship?
As long as you meet specific citizenship requirements you can apply for Spanish citizenship. Patience is key here because it isn’t an overnight process. In most cases it can take up to 10 years or more to even start the process. However, there is a fast track for certain nationalities! If you hail from one of these qualifying countries then you can apply for Spanish citizenship after just 2 years legally living in Spain. But before we dive into the details of this 2-year expedited route for Latin Americans, let’s break down all the options to Spanish citizenship.
The four main pathways to achieving Spanish citizenship are:
- Citizenship by residency – By having lived legally enough years in Spain, 10 years to be exact, you are eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship. These 10 years could be spent while on work visas or a permanent residency status for example. Any time spent while on Schengen 90-day visas or student visa doesn’t count as the nature of that time is not considered residency.
- Citizenship by marriage – This option shouldn’t come as a surprise. By marrying a Spanish citizen, you have the option to apply for your Spanish nationality after just 1 year. As always, there are a few asterisks to this, but in general the timeline is one of the shortest.
- Citizenship by Descent – If you are a descendant (child or grandchild) of a Spanish citizen you only have to live in Spain for 2 years legally before you can apply for citizenship.
- Citizenship for Latin Americans – Individuals with citizenship from specific Latin American countries (along with citizens of several other nations/territories) are eligible for Spanish citizenship after 2 years of residence within Spain. This last one is what we are going to be diving into today!
Spanish citizenship for Latin America
If you hold nationality from certain former Spanish territories then you may be eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship after just 2 years. You can probably guess off the top of your head countries that would qualify—Mexico, Colombia, etc. But we’re going to lay all of them out for you.
If you are a citizen—or could become a citizen through a parent or grandparent—of the following countries or territories, you may be eligible for an expedited pathway to Spanish citizenship:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Puerto Rico*
*Territory of the US but still counts towards Spanish citizenship fast-track
There are a few countries whose citizens also fall into this 2-year rule, similarly to Spanish citizenship for Latin America:
- Equatorial Guinea
Requirements for Spanish citizenship
Time to get down to the nitty gritty. As with any good legal procedure, there is a seemingly-inexhaustible list of requirements and documents that you must present along with your citizenship application. But don’t fret, with a methodical approach and a good pinch of patience, you’re sure to be able to get your hands on all of the documents.
Starting off with the requirements, other than having Latin American roots, a.k.a. citizenship from one of the qualifying countries, you must legally live in Spain for 2 years, to be able to submit your application. This means you have to find a way to live in Spain legally before applying. There are many visa options to do so, learn more about your options in our guide to living in Spain.
Once you have those two years under your belt, you will need to present the following documents and pass the following test(s):
- Valid Passport(s) – If you have more than one nationality you need to present all passports
- NIE number – This is your Spanish national identification number that you get after you’ve been living in Spain.
- Padrón – The official proof of address that shows where and for how long you have lived in Spain.
- CCSE – This is a 25-question multiple choice exam to evaluate your knowledge of the constitution, society, and culture in Spain.
- DELE Language Proficiency Exam – The current required level test required is A2 or higher to show that you are proficient in the Spanish language unless you are from a Latin American country that speaks Spanish.
- Background Check – These must be current and from your country of origin.
- Birth certificate with apostille – Lastly, as with any good government process, you must provide a copy of your birth certificate along with an apostille affirming its legitimacy.
Note: All foreign documents you include must be properly translated into Spanish and legalized through consular requirements.
How long does it take to become a Spanish citizen?
Just because you can apply for Spanish citizenship as a Latin American after 2 years of living in Spain, doesn’t mean you get it automatically. From the time you submit your documentation to the time you get your Spanish passport, that could take a few years—although when the system was backed-up some people had to wait 5+ years!
An immigration lawyer can really help move things along faster and offer guided support along the way. Paying a bit extra to a professional is a route that many people choose when they’re looking for the lowest wait time possible between submission of documents and having their passport in hand.
Another route that some people take is applying online, instead of in-person, as the Spanish government is required to give you an answer within a 12-month period. Whether you apply online or with a lawyer, if you don’t hear back within a year you can hire a lawyer to file an appeal for the silence. This essentially forces the courts to give you an answer. And if you have all your ducks in a row, it’s often a favorable outcome.
Does Spain allow dual nationality?
Dual nationality depends on what nationality you’d be sharing your Spanish citizenship with. The countries where dual citizenship is permitted include Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela, and France.
***Disclaimer regarding the information below****
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only. Consult an attorney for legal advice.
To obtain Spanish citizenship, US citizens do not need to formally renounce their citizenship but they are required to take an oath to the Spanish government that they give up their US citizenship. This oath is non-binding to the US. From the US government’s perspective, making the statement does not hold any legal weight because you haven’t gone through any formal process and you did not have any intention to actually give up your American citizenship.
This is a personal decision. Do your research, speak to a lawyer, and decide for yourself if you feel comfortable informally renouncing your US citizenship to gain Spanish citizenship.
One thing to note is that when you do acquire your Spanish citizenship, when you are in Spain you are considered a Spanish citizen and when you are in the US you are considered a US citizen. If you were to get into any trouble while in Spain, the US will not help you, and vice versa.
What are the benefits of Spanish citizenship?
Endless sangria, tapas, paell—wait. There’s way more to becoming a Spanish citizen than getting to enjoy their gastronomy. Other than these, and a shiny new passport to show at airports, you’ll have the freedom to live and work in Spain without any time restrictions or the need for visas.
Additionally, you’ll gain access to their healthcare system, renowned for its high standards and comprehensive coverage. As a Spanish citizen, you’ll also enjoy the privilege of voting and participating in the democratic processes of the country. And let’s not forget about the convenience of visa-free travel and work access to 26 other countries within the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
It’s essentially like gaining citizenship to most of Europe, not only Spain. Pretty neat, right?
How to become a Spanish citizen
Now that you’re well-versed on how to become a Spanish citizen, what’s next? If you’re considering Spanish citizenship by Latin American citizenship to fast track your process and want to look more into your particular case, talk to a lawyer about your situation. They can help you understand next steps, give you assurance throughout the process and even in some cases shorten that wait time between application and citizenship.
If you choose to go forward, it is always beneficial to join online forums such as ours at She Hit Refresh, to speak to others who have gone through the process before you.
As usual, I want to leave you with as many resources as possible. If you’re interested in moving to Spain, or Europe in general, check out my digital book I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. I cover the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe based on 50+VIABLE visa options so you can’t cut down on those late night google searches—I know you do them too.
Last but not least, if you’re a woman age 30+ join the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is possible for you!
See you in Spain!