Before Britain’s official departure from the EU in 2020 there was no need for Dual Citizenship or a visa to live in Spain, as the right to work and travel was assured. Since then however, what once seemed relatively painless has become a source of confusion and headache among the approximate 290,000 British expats already living in Spain, and even more so for those who are debating making the move over. The British are now in the same place as many US and Canadian citizens, without the right to work and travel freely within the EU. As a result, many are faced with the possibility of eventually applying for Spanish citizenship to gain that right, and in the process, become a dual citizen. But, what does that entail exactly?
Routes to Citizenship in Spain
To begin, there are a few routes to gaining Spanish citizenship. The first option is citizenship by naturalisation, colloquially known as citizenship by residency. This pathway requires you to have been resident in Spain for more than 10 years, prove that you have no criminal record, and have all the documentation translated and legalised by the relevant authority. In addition to this, two tests are required: The first test is to prove proficiency in the Spanish Language (The A2 DELE); The second, is the CCSE, which is a test on Spanish culture, designed to test your assimilation. A residency requirement of 10 years is by no means an easy path to the right to work and travel within the EU, but if your long term goal is to remain in Spain and the EU, it is definitely worth considering.
Staying resident for 10 years isn’t the only option. If you have found your partner in Spain and have recently got married, after being a legal resident for a year you may be entitled to citizenship by marriage. The rules on this can vary a little, as depending on where you got married, sometimes the validity of the marriage can be called into question. If you didn’t get married in Spain, we recommend researching whether or not the marriage would be recognized in the country. The other popular option is citizenship by option, which requires no residency, but rather requires a Spanish mother or father (biological or adopted), or for you to have been born on Spanish soil.
Can I have Dual Citizenship in Spain?
So now that you’re eligible for Spanish citizenship, the big question is: Can I actually have dual citizenship?
A quick Google search will often lead to confusion, as it seems that depending on where you look, you get a different answer. According to their government websites, British, Canadian and US citizens are permitted to become dual citizens. Essentially meaning that once you have met the requirements listed in the previous section, you can apply for citizenship in the secondary country. The big caveat here though, is that the secondary country in which you wish to apply for citizenship MUST recognise dual citizenship.
Spain, for example, only recognizes dual citizens from a few countries and origins (Spanish-American countries, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and Portugal, Andorra, and in some instances if you can prove Sephardic Jewish origin), which is all to do with technicalities of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. It’s important to research depending on the country you are coming from however, as the rules and regulations vary from place to place.
If you’re not on the list of countries above, it doesn’t mean you can’t become a Spanish citizen. It is possible, however, as part of the application process the Spanish Government requires you to denounce your original nationality in order to obtain Spanish nationality. In theory, this means cutting all ties with your citizenship of origin, and in the eyes of the Spanish government you would be Spanish, and ONLY Spanish.
Do I need to give up my other Passport when I become a Dual Citizen?
At this point, the big question is ´Do I really need to give up my other Passport?´. As part of the paperwork which you need to submit for your citizenship application, you must sign a declaration stating that you renounce your secondary citizenship, and that while in Spain you will only be recognised by your Spanish citizenship. However, at no point during this process do you need to actually surrender your passport to Spain. In the case of the UK, it would all be processed through the relevant British authorities (and you’d need to pay the British!)
That being said, possessing and using an unrecognised passport once you are a Spanish citizen is not permitted within Spain. To the Spanish, you are Spanish and therefore your identity documents or rights as a British passport holder do not apply in Spain. If used, it could ultimately lead to the Spanish citizenship being taken away. Furthermore, to maintain Spanish citizenship you must not live abroad for a period of 3 years or longer. Otherwise, the Spanish citizenship can be revoked. Another stipulation is if you choose to have children and they are born within Spain, they will not be eligible for your original citizenship.
Ultimately, it is possible to get dual citizenship in Spain, however, it may not be the right choice for you. We recommend consulting a lawyer in both Spain, and your home country to decide what the right path is for you. At Just Law Solicitors we have a Visa lawyer who can assist with any queries you may have about your move to Spain, or perhaps in gaining Spanish citizenship.
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