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There are different ways to acquire Spanish Nationality and these include:

  • When Spain is your country of origin
  • Nationality by adoption
  • Nationality by residence
  • Nationality by naturalisation
  • Nationality by choice
  • Nationality by presumption

Spain is your country of origin

Spain is considered to be your country of origin if either:

  • One of your parents is Spanish
  • If you were born in Spain and although your parents are foreigners at least one of them was born in Spain (except for diplomat’s children)
  • If you were born in Spain to foreign parents who are stateless or without nationality and neither of them attribute nationality, in this particular case Spanish nationality can be registered by simple presumption at the registry office where you are domiciled
  • Children born in Spain to parents whose identities are unknown
  • Children are presumed born in Spain where their first known residence is Spanish territory.

Nationality by adoption

If a minor is adopted by a Spanish national then the child can have Spanish nationality, if over 18 they can choose Spanish nationality within two years of being adopted.

Nationality by residence

To obtain Spanish nationality by residence you have to be a legal resident in Spain for a continuous period of ten years immediately prior to the application and show good citizenship along with sufficient integration into Spanish society.

In some cases this period can be reduced to:

  • Five years for refugees
  • Two years for nationals of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or people of Sephardic origin
  • One year for those:
    1. Born on Spanish territory
    2. Those who have not exercised their option right correctly
    3. Those subject to legal protection, foster care by a Spanish citizen or institution during two consecutive years
    4. Those who at the time of the application have been married to a Spanish national for more than one year and are not separated either legally or de facto
    5. Those who are widowed by a Spanish national from whom they were not separated either legally or de facto at the time of the spouse’s death
    6. Those born outside Spain to a Spanish parent, or grandparent as long as they had all originally been Spanish.

The application can be done by the applicant himself or by his legal representative depending on his age and legal capacity.

Nationality by naturalisation

Nationality by naturalisation is either granted or denied at the discretion of the Government. One example of this was the Royal Decree 453/2004 18th March, BOE nº 70, 22nd March 2004, after the terrorist attack in Madrid in 2004 where the ministers granted Spanish Nationality to the victims and immediate family members of the injured and deceased. The application has to be supported with documents which must include proof of the exceptional circumstances, birth certificate, and marriage certificate where applicable; these documents have to be legalised and given an apostille from the country which issued them and have an official translation where necessary.

Nationality by choice

Nationality by choice is for those who:

  • Are or have been in the custody of a Spanish national
  • Where either parent was originally Spanish and born in Spain
  • Where the relation or determination of birth in Spain is done after coming of age
  • Those who have been adopted as adults

This choice has to be made before the applicant reaches 20 years of age, although there are exceptions where the limitation is two years as from the date of determining adoption when the person is over 18 years of age or as from the date when the relation or birth in Spain was determined for an adult.  The right of nationality by choice, for those people whose parents were originally Spanish and born in Spain, are not subject to an age limit.

People who parents were of Spanish origin and the grandchildren of those who lost their Spanish nationality or had to renounce it due to exile can apply for Nationality by choice according to the Law 52/2007 of the Historical Report.

There are three different applications:

  • Where the father or mother was originally Spanish and in this case the historical report extends the possibility to obtain Spanish nationality to the children whose parents were of Spanish origin but who were not born in Spain
  • Another application is where the grandchildren of those who have lost or renounced their nationality due to exile; this includes cases where the mother or father were born after the grandparent’s loss of nationality meaning that the closest Spanish relative is a grandparent, and is not necessary for the grandparent to have been of Spanish origin
  • The third application can be made by those who chose derivative Spanish nationality, where either their mother or father was originally Spanish and born in Spain, can now chose Spanish nationality of origin.

Nationality by presumption

Article 17c) of the Civil Code states that if both parents are foreigners and are stateless or without nationality, or the law does not attribute nationality, then the children are Spanish of origin. Children born in Spain whose parents are from any of the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guinea Bissau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Sao Tomé and Principe and Uruguay, can apply for citizenship by simple presumption. The parents must either come from the same country or from a combination of them.

There are some exceptions and special cases.  For example this law applies to children born prior to 20.10.2008 to parents from Ecuador, but not afterwards. For Morocco, only where the mother is from Morocco and the father one of the above mentioned countries, and Palestine the laws vary a great deal and each case will have to be considered separately due to the complications.

Loss of Spanish Nationality

Spanish nationality can be lost to those who habitually live abroad and voluntarily take on a different nationality or who only use the foreign nationality that they have. The loss of Spanish nationality will occur three years after taking on the foreign nationality or from emancipation. This loss of nationality can be prevented by declaring your Spanish nationality at the Civil Registry. However acquiring the nationality of countries in Latin America, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal does not automatically mean the loss of Spanish nationality, a deed expressly renouncing it is necessary. Spanish nationality will not be lost if the countries are at war.

Spaniards who are not Spanish by origin will lose their Spanish nationality if they only use their foreign nationality during a period of three years and renounce Spanish nationality and when they volunteer for military service or take on a political office in a foreign country prohibited by the Spanish government.

If a person is found guilty of misrepresentation, concealment or fraud regarding the obtaining of Spanish nationality, then the application will be denied, as long as there are no subsequent detrimental effects on third parties who have acted in good faith.

If someone has lost their Spanish nationality they may regain it by becoming a legal resident in Spain, although this does not apply to immigrants or the children of immigrants. They will also have to make a declaration before the Registrar to recover their Spanish nationality and then register this declaration with the Civil Registry.