5 Reasons for taking Spanish nationality (and 5 reasons not to)

It’s a question facing all long-term expats in Spain – should you take Spanish nationality? And it seems to have become more topical recently – Facebook posts are full of British expats asking themselves if it’s worth becoming Spanish given the uncertainty over whether the UK will remain part of the EU.

The answer of course is extremely personal. Changing nationality isn’t something you do lightly (or quickly if you’re going for Spanish nationality – see below) and it requires plenty of consideration. To give you food for thought and based on my personal experience, here are 5 reasons why you should take Spanish nationality and 5 why you shouldn’t.

Taking Spanish nationality

Reasons for taking Spanish nationality

 

  1. You want easier paperwork

Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously fussy and time-consuming. It has admittedly improved over the last couple of decades but becoming Spanish and having a Spanish ID card complete with microchip suddenly makes things that much easier. Filing taxes online, checking social security details, seeing how many points I’ve got on my driving licence… all can be done quickly and easily via my own pc.

And the size of the Spanish ID card is handy – just like a credit card but more durable. Spanish nationality means no more tatty bits of residence permit papers or flimsy NIE cards.

  1. You’d like easy border crossings

This is admittedly only an advantage in the EU but I really like travelling with just my ID card rather than a passport. It’s smaller and easier to carry, and there’s no fumbling over passport pages when you’re showing your boarding pass to get on the plane.

  1. Spanish nationality is cheap and easy to renew

An unexpected advantage this but definitely a real plus. Spanish nationality documents (ID card and passport) need renewal every 10 years. But all you do is book an appointment at your nearest National Police station (and the online booking service works really well), go along and your documents are renewed in a few minutes. And it’s cheap – €10.60 for an ID card and €26.02 for a passport (not sure why the extra 2 cents there).

  1. You want to be really part of it

One of the disadvantages of being an expat is that you’re often on the periphery and it can be difficult to take a full part in the life of your chosen country. I think there’s a sort of temporary status to being an expat and a way of making your status more permanent is to go truly native. I certainly feel more part of Spain now that I have Spanish ID, although there are of course things about life here that I will never quite get or agree with. But maybe that’s because you’re always an expat?

And I think there’s more justification in complaining about life in Spain if you’re Spanish. Spanish nationality sort of gives you a legitimate excuse!

  1. You want a vote

Expats often find themselves in a voting limbo. This is especially true of those British expats in Spain who have been living here for more than 15 years – they can’t vote in the EU referendum. Nor can they vote in Spain other than in local elections.

This all changes with Spanish nationality and you get a real chance to decide with a vote in all elections in the country. The down side to this is that as a Spanish national you can be called for electoral duty – this involves spending the entire Sunday at the voting station and staying for hours afterwards while you count the votes. I’ve been there and done that, and have my fingers permanently crossed that I’m not called again.

 

Reasons for not taking Spanish nationality

 

  1. You don’t speak the language or know the culture

Taking Spanish nationality used to involve an interview at the police station with one of the officers who would choose (seemingly) random questions to ask you and then decide if you were fit to become a Spaniard. That has recently changed and new applicants now have to sit a formal exam with 25 questions on many different aspects of Spanish life. And some of them are challenging (plus they’re all in Spanish – obviously).

How many would you get right? Find out here in last year’s exam.

  1. You object to being on file

Spanish nationality involves finger printing – your prints go on to police records – and of course getting a number. If you don’t like the idea of ‘being on file’ then this isn’t for you.

  1. You don’t want to give up your own nationality

Or feel you aren’t ready to. Getting Spanish nationality means giving up your own nationality unless you’re from Latin America (except Brazil), the Philippines and (rather incongruously) Andorra. I don’t think you’re required to hand in your old passport when you become Spanish – I wasn’t asked for my British passport – but in theory, you’re not allowed double nationality.

  1. You’re not ready to be a Spaniard

Of course you don’t have to suddenly start talking loudly and quickly, keep your children up until the wee hours, gesticulate wildly when you’re talking or embrace life to its absolute fullest. But if you do take Spanish nationality there is an element of having to ‘play the part’ so if you’re not prepared to go some of the way towards being a true native, this isn’t for you.

Double nationality with Spanish nationality

  1. You can’t face the hassle or the wait

In true Spanish style, becoming a Spaniard involves plenty of paperwork and a good dose of patience. To give you an idea of what’s involved, check out this list of required documents. You also need to pay €100 so it isn’t a cheap process either.

 

PS I took Spanish nationality over 15 years ago. My main reason for taking it was that I felt I was in Spain to stay and wanted to ‘join’ my husband and daughters who are all Spanish. I haven’t regretted my decision ever.

25 responses to “5 Reasons for taking Spanish nationality (and 5 reasons not to)”

  1. Miguel Angel says:

    I wish only one passport… the european.

    Saludos 🙂

  2. joana says:

    i took on spanish nationality about 30 years ago. at the time british authorities told me that as long as i didn’t renounce my british nationality to the british authorities i would retain it. but for spanish authorities i would be spanish. i’m not sure if this is still the case.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      I’m not sure to be honest. Probably 1 of those things where there’s the official line and then real life practice!

    • Peter says:

      It is still the case that you won’t lose British citizenship unless you file the appropriate paperwork with the British authorities. It’s also worth noting that even if you do renounce British citizenship for the purpose of acquiring another citizenship, you can regain your British citizenship (once only) at a cost of about 90 quid.

  3. Brian McLean says:

    Whilst it is true that Spanish authorities do not recognise double nationality for British citizens you retain your nationality everywhere except Spain. I acquired it over 30 years ago and have never regretted it. BTW, it was then free and far easier and quicker than renewing work and residence permits.

  4. Shaheen says:

    I second what Brian said! It’s a common misconception that you have to “give up” your current nationality to become a Spanish citizen.

    Spain requires you to pledge allegiance to Spain to become a Spanish citizen, and they will turn a blind eye to any other nationality you hold. But that has no bearing on your citizenship status in the eyes of the rest of the world.

    In my case, as an American, the only way I can renounce my American citizenship is by doing so in front of U.S. authorities and paying a hefty fee. Short of that, I’m still an American citizen in their eyes no matter what other nationalities I obtain.

  5. David Wright says:

    You can have both

    A few years ago i married a Spanish girl and was told by the British consulate that if i wanted a Spanish passport i would have to give up my British one but once i did and i had a Spanish passport it was the British law that if i wanted To get another British passport that they had to give me one so if fact i could have both passports at the same time.
    I did not and still have my British passport and last month as i entered The USA I was standing in line at immigration after my flight from Madrid full of Spanish people and i was asked by a passing official if i had a British passport, and when i said yes i was passed by everyone else to the front of another line with just a few people in it and was processed very fast , not sure why this was but i will keep my British passport for now.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      That’s true – you never have to hand your old passport over. But I wonder if the Spanish let the British know? Thanks for your thoughts

  6. bob says:

    Applied over two and a half years ago and still waiting………..ah well……..

  7. Julian Ward says:

    With exceptions shown in the article, when one takes Spanish nationality they must renounce their former nationality. OK they can cheat and not do so in the country of birth but do not believe that is legal in Spain. To swear you have denounced the other nat-onality when you have not means the equivalent to perjury. A criminal Offence. If it is discovered by the Spanish authorities you have retained the nationality which you have sworn to renounce, be warned, you could be in real trouble.

    Do not be naive (stupid). Getting away with a crime does not make it legal.

    PS Another disadvantage to taking Spanish nationality is that you must leave your assets as determined by Spanish law. Non Spaniards can make their Wills according to the laws of the country of their nationality. As a Brit and Irish national, I can leave all my assets to say my wife.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      Hi Julian, Thanks for commenting. Yes, you are correct re the nationality, although I’m not sure in practice how strictly it’s applied. And yes too, you are right re the leaving your assets, it has to done as under Spanish law.

  8. Lucy Wolfe says:

    Thanks for this Joanna. Mine has just come through after having lived here for 25 years and it took a whopping two years and four months (so hang in there Bob!). To be fair, the woman behind the counter at the Registro Civil made a bigger fuss over my having to accept that my new surname would be the traditional double barrelled “daddy’s surname then mummy’s maiden name” set up than clarifying what was to become of my British Passport. In fact, when I asked her she just shrugged. She also shrugged two and a half years ago when I asked her who exactly corrected the “How Spanish Are You?” written test.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      Hi Lucy,

      Yes, the double-barrelled bit is rather funny. I was hoping to take my husband’s surname so I wouldn’t have to spell out 2 surnames, but it wasn’t possible. However, my grandfather would have been proud to see his surname back in use – an all-girl family meant no one uses it. Thanks for commenting and congrats on getting the DNI!

  9. Taking Spanish nationality would make life much more convenient, but I cannot in good conscience join myself to a country so smugly rife with animal abuse, sexism, elite rule, and government corruption… and now a new gag law to protect them all from public complaint.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      Interesting take, Rebekah, although from your comment it sounds as if your best option might be to leave altogether!

  10. angela segade sims says:

    Thank you so much for including last years test it is such a relief, learning the constitution info filled me with absolute horror. At 65 I was happy that studying and exams were things of the past.
    My dad was spanish but i had no idea that i would have to take the tests. Now i have seen it i am much more relaxed about the whole thing. I got twenty correct without studying anything.
    Best regards
    Angela

  11. Mags says:

    Wow. I just got 22 of the 25 questions correct – (88%) straight off the top of my head. After almost 34 years of living in Spain I would like to apply for Spanish nationality and the only thing that is holding me back are the inheritance laws. My husband and I have both been married before and want to ensure that we can leave our half of the house etc. to each other first. The kids from both marriages can have what’s left when we’re both gone.

    • Joanna Styles says:

      Hi Mags, Thanks for popping by and congrats on the big score! Re your inheritance issue, maybe getting some good legal advice would help you with that one. ¡Suerte!

  12. aurora Naranjo Lasine says:

    I was born in Spain and have both U.S.A and Spanish. My question is the issue of residence in Spain. My mom is loosing her vision and is 87 years old.
    How long can I stay there in Spain. I read somewhere that only 183 days.And I woul lique to stay and take care of my mom.
    Thank you for your help

    • Joanna Styles says:

      Hi Aurora,
      If you’ve got Spanish nationality, surely you can live in Spain with no limits on the number of days? But you should definitely check this with your nearest Spanish Consulate and find out. ¡Suerte!

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