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How to Apply for Spanish Citizenship – Requirements & Guide

Simon Colwill - April 9, 2021 - 0 comments

Whether you want to escape Brexit, or just feel more at home as a European, applying for Spanish citizenship is more popular than ever. Luckily, there are a few ways to become a citizen of Spain if you’re from the UK.

In a nutshell, here are the three most common ways to get Spanish nationality:

  • By living in Spain for 10+ years 
  • By having Spanish parents
  • By marrying someone Spanish

These are massively simplified, and we’ll explain each in more detail. We’ll also cover the exceptions and other, rarer ways to become a Spanish citizen too. Read on to find out more about Spanish citizenship requirements.

Why trust us on Spanish citizenship?

As notaries, we notarise personal documents to be used abroad on a daily basis. One of the most popular countries we get asked about is Spain. We also have an in-house Spanish translator for documents, for notarised translations.

If you need documents notarised to apply for Spanish citizenship, contact us for more information.

Spanish citizenship vs permanent residency

If you want to become a citizen of Spain, consider if you’d prefer permanent residency instead:

  • You can still live in Spain for as long as you want
  • You can apply for it after 5 years of living in Spain
  • You can move around the EU, with permission

You’ll get many of the same benefits, and won’t have to give up citizenship of your home. However, as a permanent resident, you won’t get the same rights as Spanish citizens. You’ll have to support yourself financially and won’t be able to vote.

As a Spanish citizen, you’re also an EU citizen – meaning you can freely move around the EU and vote.

How to become a Spanish citizen

If you’re sure you want to obtain Spanish citizenship, there are a number of ways you can apply.

The application process often consists of submitting personal documents, passing background checks, and completing tests to prove your commitment to being and remaining a well-integrated citizen of Spain.

Spanish citizenship by residency

The easiest way to become a citizen of Spain is to have lived there for long enough, or citizenship by residency. If you have lived in Spain for a long time, it’s not that difficult to get Spanish citizenship and become a European citizen.

How long do you have to live in Spain to become a citizen? 

The current length is 10 years of legal, uninterrupted residency.

You can also read our guide on applying for Portuguese citizenship, where it’s 5 years.

What are the Spanish citizen requirements for residency?

You have to have had a valid residence permit for the full 10 years that you’ve lived in Spain.

Tourist and student visa stays do not count towards your total residency requirements. Finally, this needs to be uninterrupted – meaning you can’t be living between Spain and another country, or leaving often.

Are there any exceptions to the 10 year rule?

  • If you’re a refugee, the 10 year citizenship requirement is reduced to 5
  • If you’re from a Latinamerican country, Andorra or Portugal it’s reduced to 2
  • If you marry someone from Spain, it’s reduced to 1 (read section below)

Applying for Spanish citizenship by residency

Once you meet the requirements to become a citizen of Spain by residency, by living there for 10 years, there’s an official application process. You will also need to take a Spanish language and cultural test, and prove that you’ve behaved properly while living in Spain. For example, by not having a criminal record.

Common reasons for being rejected include criminality in your background check, lack of integration with Spain (for example not studying or working there), or travelling out of Spain too often and for too long. 

You can find out more about Spanish citizenship by residency on GOV.UK

Documents needed for Spanish citizenship

Here are the types of documents needed when applying for Spanish citizenship. As notaries, we can tell you whether your documents will need to be translated, notarised or legalised by apostille or embassy.

  • Your passport, which needs to be valid and not expired
  • Background records from your home country e.g. the UK
  • A document proving you’ve paid the citizenship application fee
  • Proof that you’re working and can afford to live in Spain
  • Certificate from passing your language and cultural exams
  • Resident register – also known as a ‘empadronamiento’
  • Your marriage certificate and your spouse’s ID (if applicable)

Spanish citizenship by descent or by option

Another way to get Spanish citizenship is by having Spanish parents, known as citizenship by descent.

If your mother or father is Spanish, you’ll have no trouble becoming a citizen of Spain. If you’re an adopted child under 18 to a Spanish mother or father, you can also become a citizen of Spain fairly easily too.

There are also laws around being a grandchild or other relative, and these can be quite complicated.

Citizenship by option is another more complex way to get it, involving being born in Spain to parents of any nationality – as long as one of them was also born in Spain. It’s a good idea to get advice on this route to Spanish citizenship.

To apply for citizenship by descent, you need to have lived in Spain for at least a year and have:

  • Your birth certificate, legalised with an apostille stamp
  • Your parents’ birth certificate, showing they’re Spanish
  • Any documents relating to grandparents, if applicable
  • Relevant forms for applying for Spanish citizenship

Applying for citizenship by descent can be a nightmare of paperwork, but we can help with any translation and legalisation requirements you have. Get in touch with us for more information on documentation.

Spanish citizenship by marriage

Unlike in the movies, you can’t marry a Spanish person and become a Spanish citizen overnight. You still have to prove you’ve lived in Spain for at least a year. However, marriage speeds things up considerably.

Rather than having to live in Spain for 10 years, being married reduces the residency time to just one.

You will still need to do everything listed in the above citizenship by residency section – for example passing the language and cultural tests, background record checks, and proving your integration.

Also, you need to be able to prove you’ve been living together in Spain for at least one year

Read our separate blog on the legal requirements for getting married abroad.

How long does it take to get citizenship?

If you’re applying for Spanish citizenship by residency (living there for over 10 years), the whole process can take a couple of years. However, this can be sped up considerably by applying for citizenship online.

You can speed up the process even more by hiring a lawyer to help you deal with any issues or appeals.

Applying for citizenship by descent (having Spanish relatives) can take around a year and a half, and longer if you have problems or have to appeal. Citizenship by marriage can take a couple of years.

Here’s the website for applying for Spanish citizenship online, to get you started.

After applying to become a resident of Spain online, it will take around a year to get a response. If you’re accepted, you then have around 6 months to complete a pledge of allegiance on the Civil Registry. Spanish nationality processing time varies depending on your circumstances and documents all being in order.

Once the process is done, you’ll be able to get a Spanish passport and all the rights of a Spanish citizen. 

Need help with Spanish citizenship documents? Call 0208 907 2699 or email

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