Having a holiday home in Spain is easy, but if you want to live there permanently you need to apply for permanent residence or Spanish citizenship.
Here’s a quick overview of what this guide covers:
When to apply for Spanish citizenship
Permanent residency or Spanish citizenship – which is best?
Brexit – does it change anything?
How to apply for permanent residence in Spain
How to apply for Spanish citizenship
Other ways to obtain Spanish citizenship
Spanish citizenship by marriage
How much does Spanish citizenship cost?
What about dual nationality?
Both permanent residency in Spain and Spanish citizenship allow you to live in Spain, but there are some differences. First of all, you must live in Spain for 5 years before you can apply for permanent residence. If you want to apply for Spanish nationality, you must have lived in the country for 10 years. There are some exemptions to these lengthy waits, such as if you marry a Spanish citizen.
Becoming a Spanish citizen usually means giving up your original nationality (unless you are exempt from this condition) and becoming a citizen of the EU. This gives you the same rights as other Spanish citizens, including the right to vote in European/national elections, freedom to move around the EU freely and enjoying the same legal rights as Spanish nationals.
Permanent residency allows you to retain your original nationality and passport while allowing you to live as a Spanish resident with mostly the same benefits. You must be able to financially support yourself. With a permanent residence permit, you can move around the EU for limited periods, and for longer with permission.
Brexit has created a great deal of uncertainty, however, reassurances have been given that British expats living in Spain will be protected. In the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, the Spanish Foreign Minister announced in March 2019 that the 400,000 UK citizens living in Spain would be given residency rights. Although the fine details have not yet been sorted out, British citizens would probably have to apply for a “foreigner identity card” by 2020, with approval being pretty much automatic.
Another possibility is that Brits may need a Blue card in future. This is an EU permit that allows highly skilled non-EU citizens to live and work in the EU, including Spain.
Expats living in Spain could apply for Spanish citizenship if they met all the EU criteria, but this would mean giving up their British citizenship.
Any non-EU resident can apply for an EU long-term residence permit allowing them to live and work in Spain under the same conditions as Spanish citizens. However, you must have lived in Spain continuously for 5 years previously.
Next, you must be able to prove you can support yourself and your family by producing documentation of a pension, salary or scholarship.
You must also have health insurance with a company authorised to operate in Spain.
Other supporting documents include:
- A valid passport
- Proof of legal residence in Spain e.g. a long-term rental contractor receipts for rent
- Criminal record certificate issued by the authorities in your home country
- Medical certificate (certificado medico), if not already supplied;
- Marriageor divorce certificate or other papers relating to your marital status (translated into Spanish if required)
Once you have been granted permanent residence in Spain you can enjoy all the benefits including being able to work legally in Spain. You can spend up to 3 months per year in other EU countries.
If you have lived in Spain for 10 years, you can apply for Spanish citizenship. There are some exceptions to the 10-year rule if you are a refugee (5 years) or a member of certain countries including Portugal and Spanish American countries (2 years).
You can also get a Spanish nationality, in certain circumstances, through marriage or birth. You can apply for Spanish citizenship after just one year’s residence if you were born in Spain to legal foreign residents, if you marry, are a widow, child or grandchild of a Spanish citizen.
You must be 18 years or older, or 14+ with legal assistance, or under 14 with a legal guardian in order to apply for Spanish citizenship. It is recommended that you make the application through a specialist immigration lawyer who can help you through every stage of your application
- You need to prove you are a good citizen with no criminal record
- You need to show you are financially sound
- You need to prove you have integrated into Spanish society, for example by speaking Spanish and taking part in Spanish social activities.
You should apply for Spanish citizenship at your local Civil Registry in Spain. Take along your completed application and supporting documentation as listed.
You can apply for Spanish citizenship without a residency period, or a shorter residency period of just one year if any of the following applies:
- You have a Spanish father or mother
- You were born in Spain to foreign parents, if one of your parents was also born in Spain
- You are a child of a Spanish diplomat or consul
- Were adopted by a Spanish citizen
- Were born in Spain to parents who were refugees
- You were born outside Spain but have Spanish grandparents, guardians or a foster parent
If you marry a Spanish citizen, or are a widow/widower of a Spanish citizen, you can apply for Spanish citizenship after one year’s residency in the country.
The fee for a Spanish citizenship application is between €60-€100, plus additional fees for using certificates and documents. In addition, you must pay a lawyer, if you use one. These fees apply even if your application is denied.
You will have to renounce your original nationality unless you are from a Spanish-American country, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal. Sephardic Jews and their descendants can have dual citizenship with their home country.
As a Spanish citizen, you will have to swear loyalty to the Spanish king and promise to obey Spanish laws and constitution.
If you later move abroad from Spain for more than three years, your Spanish citizenship will be revoked. To avoid this, you go to the Civil Registry and declare your wish to maintain your Spanish nationality within that 3-year period.
- Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the official website for the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supplying information on visas and migration to Spain in English
- Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security – information on employment and social security policy in Spain, in Spanish