How to Obtain Spanish Citizenship By Descent

Spain is a highly desirable place to live that needs no introduction. 

One of the world’s hottest destinations for high-net-worth individuals, it also offers a variety of ways to obtain its residence, not lest by selling residency to investors.

And while the Spanish Golden Visa might be a popular way to get into this European country, it’s clearly pricey. You’d need to put at least €500,000 into Spanish real estate, business, or financial assets to be eligible. 

Are its golden beaches, tapas bars, and exquisite culture worth the half a million euro investment? 

Maybe.

But if you happen to have Spanish ancestry or are from a Spanish-American country, you could get your Spanish citizenship for a fraction of that cost instead. 

Read on to find out how you can get Spanish citizenship by descent. We’ll guide you through the eligibility criteria as well as the application process, which can sometimes take up to three years.

And don’t forget that we recently started offering our premium citizenship by descent program to personally help you navigate the whole process. 

What Is Citizenship by Descent?

In the world of Nomad Capitalists, second (and subsequent) passports are some of the most coveted assets. 

They don’t just expand your options – lifestyle, residence, investment, and others – but additional citizenships also mean that you’ll be able to live life on your own terms.

Has a particular citizenship become too burdensome because the government just raised your income tax rate? Renounce it and (after properly exiting the system) you won’t be liable to pay the tax anymore.

Easy as pie. 

If you’ve been chatting with your great-aunt or a second-removed cousin and they have casually mentioned that your family has ancestry in some far-away country (usually European), you could do worse than check it out.

Many countries offer citizenship by descent, programs that let one use their parent(s), grandparent(s), great-grandparent(s), and sometimes even more distant relative(s) to claim citizenship.

You must prove that you’re eligible by gathering all of the required documents – a process that usually involves lots of digging around in national archives and document boxes in attics. 

After that, submitting your application is usually a straightforward, albeit dragged-out process. 

Spanish Citizenship by Ancestry

Barcelona Spain Sagrada Familia

Have Spanish ancestry? Then you just might qualify for Spanish citizenship.

Spain is one of the countries that has offered citizenship by descent for a long time. Some recent changes to their law have expanded eligibility options, too. 

Spanish citizenship is based on jus sanguinis, which is the right of blood. In other words, citizenship is not based solely on the location of where an individual was born if the bloodline to a Spanish citizen can be established. 

One such way to establish a bloodline to Spain is by taking advantage of the Spanish Law of Historical Memory

Like many other European countries, Spain’s citizens faced injustices, persecution, and even exile during the Spanish Civil War as well as the dictatorship period

So, to slightly compensate for people losing their land, homes, and sometimes even life, the Spanish government has set up this program to let the descendants of Spanish citizens obtain citizenship in Spain. 

Eligibility 

The most important thing to wrap your head around in the entire citizenship by descent business is eligibility.

You could spend months putting the paperwork together, only to later find out that your ancestor upon which you wanted to base your application for citizenship by descent is excluded from the law.

Or, you could think that you’re eligible on the basis of your great-grandparent(s), but later find your application rejected because you can only go down to your grandparent(s) when tracing down the bloodline.

It truly pays to do your ‘heritage homework’ and make absolutely certain that you’re eligible to apply for citizenship by descent in Spain. 

Who’s eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship on the basis of their ancestry? Anyone whose parent(s) or grandparent(s) are of Spanish heritage. You cannot go further down the bloodline.

There are three scenarios, each of which will make one eligible:

  1. One or both of your parents is a Spanish citizen
  2. Your grandparent(s) lost or were forced to forfeit their Spanish citizenship as a consequence of their exile
  3. You’re a Latin American citizen with a grandparent born in Spain

None of these really fit the bill? Don’t despair. 

We would advise you to still get some professional advice. That’s because there are various exemptions and nuances to the Spanish citizenship law that are too complicated to set out here.

It would be worthwhile to check in with us if you have a Spanish ancestor and are really desperate for a European passport. 

The Application Process 

We won’t be the first ones to tell you that legal processes in Spain take an eternity and can be terribly frustrating. 

Efficient it is not; think roadblocks, indifferent bureaucrats, and giant stacks of paperwork – all translated and apostilled, of course. 

There is even a saying in Spain that loosely translates to ‘all things take time.’ 

One can expect their citizenship by descent in Spain to take at least a year and a half, but it can take double that. 

Yet, wherever there is a will, there is a way (or, you can opt to take advantage of our all-inclusive citizenship by descent service and we’ll make it happen for you). 

Luckily, all applications have a low government fee of approximately €100 and can be fully submitted electronically. Or, you can opt to do it in your nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate. 

You will need to book an appointment several weeks out and put together a stack of paperwork:

 Form I when applying through parents (FORM I).

Form II when applying through grandparents (FORM II).

Your birth certificate, issued by a local Civil Registry Office abroad, legalized with an apostille.

The birth certificate of the Spanish parent, issued by a Spanish Civil Registry, consular or municipal, or by a foreign Civil Registry.

The birth certificate of the Spanish grandfather or grandmother of the applicant, issued by a municipal Civil Registry in Spain. If they were born before 1870, a Spanish baptism certificate may be presented instead.

The birth certificate linking the father or mother with the grandfather or grandmother, if applicable.

Documentation that proves the exile status of the grandfather and grandmother, if applicable.

After your application for citizenship is submitted, the officials legally have 12 months to get it all processed and get back to you with either a positive or a negative result.

If, after all these months of waiting, your application gets rejected, don’t despair. While we haven’t heard of anyone needing to appeal their decision, it’s still an avenue that’s open to you. 

You can lodge your appeal either directly with the Ministry of Justice or at your nearest Spanish consulate.

If you’re successful in getting your application approved, you will need to give an oath to obey the Spanish constitution and laws, as well as swear your loyalty to the King of Spain. 

The very final step will be applying for a passport; a citizenship isn’t worth much if you don’t have the document that proves it. 

The Pros and Cons of Spanish Citizenship 

Spanish citizenship by descent

While there are certainly a lot of drawbacks to obtaining Spanish citizenship, one thing is for certain: the country is stunningly beautiful!

You shouldn’t get Spanish citizenship just because you can. 

Even if you have a grandparent that clearly connects you to the country and you would love to spend your winters at Costa del Sol, there are both pros and cons to each citizenship that you assume.

Needless to say, the best part of having Spanish citizenship is that you would be getting a European passport

Spain hasn’t toyed around with the idea of ever exiting the European Union a la Great Britain, so it’s pretty safe to say that you would have access to the entire region.

You would be able to freely travel, work, study, and – most importantly – live in any of the countries in the European Union. 

It’s a major pro. 

Say you get tired of Spain and want to travel to move to Germany for a year. You would be able to do that with your Spanish passport, no questions asked. 

However, to get such an advantage, the Spanish government requires you to give up your existing citizenship or citizenships as you obtain your Spanish one. 

In other words, there is no dual citizenship in Spain, so your relationship with the country must be ‘exclusive.’

There are exceptions for the citizens of Ibero-American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico Uruguay, Venezuela), as well as Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal.

All of these countries are either former colonies or a lot of Spanish people were exiled or fled to them. 

Plus, Sephardic Jews and their descendants who obtain Spanish citizenship will also be able to retain both citizenships. 

Another slightly negative thing about Spanish citizenship is that you stand to lose it if you take up another citizenship or if you reside abroad for three years.

To avoid losing your newfound nationality by accident, you will need to declare your intention of keeping your Spanish nationality at the Civil Registry.

For example, if you get your Spanish citizenship by ancestry and then move to Georgia for 3+ years, you could theoretically lose your Spanish passport. 

And then, of course, there are the taxes if you decide to live in Spain a substantial part of the year.

As nuanced as Spanish citizenship is, you must weigh up its pros and cons before deciding if you should take the plunge.

Is Spanish Citizenship by Descent Worth Your While? 

Spain is a country that’s highly desirable among expats, tourists, and Nomad Capitalists alike. Seafront villas, delectable cuisine, the wines… 

There are some real lifestyle pros when it comes to residing in Spain. No wonder, then, that some people want to take it one step further and obtain Spanish citizenship. 

There are many ways to do so: you can invest in the country to get residence and start the naturalization timeline, you can marry a Spanish national, or – by far the cheapest and arguably the simplest method – you can get Spanish citizenship by descent if you have ancestry in the country.

Before you go around digging to determine whether you have a Garcia or a Martinez in your family tree, you’ll have to consider whether it’s actually worth your while.

If you have always wanted European citizenship and wouldn’t mind renouncing your original one, the answer may be yes. You could roam freely all across the continent and live and work anywhere you please. 

However, Spanish citizenship could also put a spoke in your wheel if you don’t plan it right. Spanish tax rates, both personal and corporate, are some of the highest in the world, although there are ways to circumvent them legally

All things considered, Spanish citizenship by descent offers an extremely cheap, if extended, way to a European passport. 

Let us navigate through the labyrinthine bureaucracy and get you the passport quickly and with ease. Take advantage of our new citizenship by descent service today. 

Jovana Vojinovic
Last updated: Oct 22, 2020 at 10:33PM

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