Regarding Spanish Citizenship

The Spanish Constitution refers to a separate law that contains provisions on the acquisition or loss of citizenship (Article XI of the Spanish Constitution). This separate law is actually the Spanish civil law, which has a special part, Book I, Title I, entitled "Spaniards and Foreigners."

Article XVII begins to enumerate who is considered a Spanish citizen by birth:

  1. Those born to a Spanish mother or father.
  2. Those born in Spain to foreign parents if at least one of them was born in Spain (exception: children of accredited diplomatic or consular officials in Spain).
  3. Those born in Spain to foreign parents if both parents are stateless or if the laws of neither parent grant citizenship to the child.
  4. Those born in Spain of uncertain parentage.

The law also provides explanations regarding parentage and birth in Spain determined after reaching the age of eighteen. In this case, the individual has the right to opt for Spanish citizenship by birth within two years of such determination (Article 17, paragraph 2). This is considered the principle of jus sanguinis and grants Spanish citizenship by descent.

Nationality by Possession of Status

Article 18 of the Spanish Civil Code states that "possession and continuous use of Spanish citizenship for ten years, in good faith and based on the title registered in the Civil Registry, constitute grounds for the consolidation of Spanish citizenship, even if the title that originated it should be annulled." Interested individuals must have maintained an active attitude regarding such possession and use of Spanish citizenship, meaning they must behave and be considered as Spaniards both in exercising their rights and fulfilling their duties towards Spanish authorities.

The law also considers the case of a foreign person adopted by a Spaniard. If the adopted person is a minor at the time of adoption (i.e., has not reached the age of eighteen), they will acquire Spanish citizenship by birth from the date of adoption. The other situation is when the adopted person is over eighteen. In this case, they must choose within two years whether they want Spanish nationality or not. The law also states that if the minor retains their previous nationality, the Spanish state will recognize it.

Article 20

Article 20 of the Spanish Civil Code discusses individuals who wish to obtain Spanish citizenship (in this case, citizenship can be obtained by option). Included here are:

  • Those who were under the guardianship of a Spanish citizen.
  • Individuals whose father or mother were originally Spanish and born in Spain (parents who have Spanish nationality).

The second paragraph of Article 20 regulates some cases regarding the formulation of declarations. For this matter, the option declaration must be made:

  1. By the legal representative of the person making the option when they are under fourteen years of age or incapacitated.
  2. By the interested party, assisted by their representative, if they are over fourteen years of age or, despite their incapacity, are authorized to do so by a court decision.
  3. By the interested party alone, if they are emancipated or over eighteen years of age (the right to opt for Spanish citizenship expires after two years, but if not emancipated by their personal law upon reaching the age of eighteen, the period to exercise the option is extended until two years after their emancipation).

Some individuals may obtain Spanish citizenship by naturalization under exceptional circumstances. This can be granted by the government through a royal decree after examining the exceptional circumstances.

Article 22

Article 22 states that "the granting of citizenship based on residence requires ten years of residence. Five years are sufficient for people who have obtained asylum or refugee status, and two years for citizens by birth of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, or Portugal, or for Sephardic Jews." Countries with historical ties to Spain where Spanish or Portuguese is the official language have signed agreements allowing dual nationality and a reduced residence period as a path to citizenship. Latin American countries with historical ties include: Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Venezuela.

Spanish Nationality and Citizenship

In addition to this, there are other situations:

One year of residence is sufficient for:

  1. a) A person born in Spanish territory.
  2. b) A person who has not exercised their option right in a timely manner.
  3. c) A person who has been legally placed under guardianship, custody, or assistance by a Spanish citizen.

Two consecutive years of residence are required for:

  1. d) The person who, at the time of the application, has been married to a Spaniard for one year and is not legally or factually separated.
  2. e) The widow or widower of a Spaniard if, at the time of the spouse's death, they are not legally or factually separated.
  3. f) The person born outside of Spain to a parent originally Spanish.

The second paragraph of Article 22 states that in all cases, residence must be legal, continuous, and immediately preceding the application. Additionally, the interested party must demonstrate good civic conduct and a sufficient degree of integration into Spanish society in proceedings regulated by civil registry legislation (Article 22, paragraph 4). There is an administrative appeal process for the situation of denial or grant of citizenship based on residence.

In both cases, naturalization or residence, the application can be made by:

  1. a) The emancipated or adult individual.
  2. b) The person over fourteen years old assisted by their legal representative.
  3. c) The legal representative of a person under fourteen years of age.
  4. d) The legal representative of the incapacitated person or the incapacitated person themselves, duly assisted, as a result of the incapacitation judgment.

It's important to know that applications must be processed and resolved at the Civil Registry of the place of residence.

The following provision states that the granting of citizenship for naturalization or residence will expire after one hundred and eighty days if the interested party does not appear within that period before a competent official to fulfill the requirements established by Article 23.

Article 23

Article 23 presents some common requirements for the validity of acquiring Spanish nationality by option, naturalization, or residence:

  1. a) For individuals over fourteen years of age and capable of independently making a declaration, swearing or promising loyalty to the King and obedience to the Constitution and the law.
  2. b) For the same individual, to declare their renunciation of previous citizenship (except as provided in Article 24, paragraph two).
  3. c) For acquisition, it must be registered with the Spanish Civil Registry.

The Spanish Civil Code presents in Article 24 the situations in which a person can lose Spanish citizenship. Emancipated individuals habitually residing abroad who voluntarily acquire another citizenship or exclusively use their foreign nationality before their emancipation will lose Spanish nationality (first paragraph of Article 24). The loss will occur three years after acquiring foreign nationality or emancipation. Some exceptions are listed. Acquisition of nationality from Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, or Portugal will not be sufficient to cause the loss of Spanish nationality by descent. Emancipated Spaniards who expressly renounce their Spanish nationality will lose it if they have another nationality and reside abroad. Spanish citizens who did not obtain citizenship by birth will lose it:

  1. a) When, for a period of three years, they exclusively use the citizenship they should have declared renounced at the time of acquiring Spanish citizenship.
  2. b) When they voluntarily enter the armed forces or hold public office in a foreign country, in violation of the express prohibition of the Government (Article 25).

These individuals cannot regain Spanish nationality without prior authorization from the government.

Even if a person has lost Spanish nationality, they can recover it, but they must follow certain requirements:

  1. a) Be legally resident in Spain.
  2. b) Declare their intention to recover Spanish nationality before the official in charge of the Civil Registry.
  3. c) Register the recovery with the Civil Registry.

It's important to remember that the Civil Registry establishes some rules for foreigners who want to acquire Spanish nationality. Regarding the birth certificate, the interested party must specify the name that appears on the foreign certificate unless they can demonstrate the habitual use of a different name. Additionally, if the name on the foreign certificate or the name commonly used falls within any of the established limitations, it must be replaced, according to Spanish regulations, with the one chosen by the interested party or imposed by the office. For names coming from a script other than Latin, they will be delivered through their transcription or transliteration to achieve graphic adaptation and phonetic equivalence. Furthermore, in proper names written in Latin characters, orthographic adaptations can be made upon the request of the individual to facilitate writing and phonetics.

Foreign individuals who want to acquire Spanish nationality must submit the following documents:

  • The official application form.
  • The original and a photocopy of the foreigner's identity card.
  • The original passport and a photocopy of every page.
  • Birth certificate, issued within the last 90 days and legalized with an attached sworn translation.
  • Marriage certificate, if the person is married.
  • A criminal record check or background check from the country of origin, issued within the last 90 days and legalized with a sworn translation for both attached documents.
  • A Spanish criminal record certificate, issued within the last 90 days.
  • A government registration certificate, issued within the last 9 days.
  • A DELE certificate showing a minimum of CEFRA2 in Spanish (only for candidates whose native language is not Spanish).
  • A CCSE exam certificate (Constitutional and Sociocultural Knowledge Test), which consists of a multiple-choice test with 25 questions. This will test general knowledge of Spanish culture and laws. The test is conducted by the Cervantes Institute, at its examination centers, once a month.
  • Proof of payment of the application fee.

Documents that must accompany the application of minors or those with legally modified capacity:

  • Individuals under the age of 14 or with legally modified capacity who must act through a legal representative:
  1. a) Application form signed by the legal representative.
  2. b) Birth certificate from the country of origin legalized and translated according to international agreements.
  3. c) Passport or identity card for individuals from Schengen Area countries.
  4. d) Proof of fee payment.
  5. e) Authorization from the civil registry official of the minor's or person's residence who is responsible.
  6. f) Identification documents of the legal representatives.
  7. g) Certificate from the educational center attesting to the sufficient level of integration, mandatory for school-age children.
  8. h) Foreigner's identity card.
  9. i) Registration certificate.

For individuals over 14 years old but under 18 years old, not emancipated or with legally modified capacity who can act on their own, assisted by their legal representative:

  1. a) The official application form must be signed by the interested party and the legal representative.
  2. b) Birth certificate from the country of origin, legalized and translated according to international conventions.
  3. c) Passport or identity card for individuals from Schengen Area countries.
  4. d) Proof of fee payment.
  5. e) Certificate from the educational center attesting to the sufficient level of integration. This is mandatory for minor applicants of school age and requires the minor or person with legally modified capacity to be enrolled in one of these centers.
  6. f) Document attesting to legal representation.
  7. g) Foreigner's identity card, residence card for relatives, European Union citizen registration certificate, or European Union citizen family member registration certificate.
  8. h) Registration certificate.

Additional Documents for Specific Cases


  • a) Identity card proving they are foreigners and will also demonstrate their refugee status.
  • b) Blue passport of the 1951 Geneva Convention, if available.
  • c) Certificate from the Asylum and Refugee Office of the Ministry of the Interior. It will be valid for six months from the date of issuance and will include: name and surname, date of birth and place of birth, parents' names, and confirmation of refugee status.

Born in Spanish territory:

  • a) Literal birth certificate of the interested party registered in the Spanish Civil Registry.

Those who have not exercised the right to opt appropriately:

  • a) Birth certificate of the Spanish parent.
  • b) Literal birth certificate of the interested party registered in a Spanish civil registry or a court ruling attesting to adoption by the Spaniard or recognition of parentage.

Married to Spaniards:

  • a) Literal birth certificate of the Spanish spouse issued by the Spanish civil registry.
  • b) Literal marriage certificate issued by the Spanish civil registry.
  • c) Certificate of cohabitation or joint calculation with the spouse.

Widower/widow of Spaniards:

  • A. Literal birth certificate of the deceased spouse issued by the Spanish civil registry.
  • B. Updated literal marriage certificate issued by the Spanish civil registry, or issued close to the date of the citizenship application.
  • C. Death certificate of the spouse.
  • D. Certificate of joint numbering or cohabitation as of the date of the spouse's death.

Descendant of Spaniards:

  • a) Literal birth certificate of the Spanish parent.
  • b) Literal birth certificate of the grandparent, only when one or both of them are Spanish ancestors. In this case, the birth certificate of the Spanish origin father/mother must also be submitted, whether they are Spanish or not.


  • a) Documentation that accredits Sephardic status according to the provisions of Article 1.2 of Law 12/2015, of June 24, relating to the granting of Spanish nationality to Sephardic Jews by Spain.