Spain Citizenship by Descent: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: 5 May 2023

Spain is a country rich in culture, history, and heritage, with a captivating blend of ancient traditions and modern innovations. If you have Spanish ancestry, you may be eligible for Spanish citizenship by descent, which would grant you the opportunity to connect with your roots and discover the beauty of this vibrant nation. 

Spain’s citizenship laws are complex, but with the right guidance and information, you can navigate the process and potentially gain access to a new world of possibilities. From the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean to the bustling cities of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain offers a diverse range of experiences and opportunities that can enrich your life and broaden your horizons. 

This article delves into the intricacies of Spain’s citizenship by descent program and explores the benefits and challenges of pursuing this pathway to Spanish nationality.

What Is Citizenship by Descent? 

Citizenship by descent refers to the legal right to obtain citizenship of a country based on one’s ancestral lineage, meaning that if an individual has a parent, grandparent, or sometimes even a great-grandparent who was a citizen of a particular country, they may be eligible to obtain citizenship of that country themselves.

Citizenship by descent is often viewed as a way to connect with one’s heritage and ancestry, and it can provide individuals with a sense of belonging and identity. It can also offer various benefits, such as access to a country’s education and healthcare systems, the ability to work and live in the country without a visa, and the right to vote in national elections.

Although typically being the fastest route to citizenship, citizenship by descent may require complex eligibility criteria that may vary from country to country. It typically involves providing detailed genealogical information and may require the submission of various legal documents. It is essential to research the specific requirements for citizenship by descent in the country of interest before beginning the application process.

Spain Citizenship by Descent

Spanish citizenship by descent is a legal process that allows individuals to obtain Spanish citizenship based on their ancestral lineage. The Spanish government grants citizenship to those who can prove that they have a Spanish parent or a grandparent. 

This pathway to Spanish nationality provides the opportunity for individuals to connect with their Spanish heritage and culture, and it offers a range of benefits, including the ability to work and live in Spain without a visa, access to healthcare and education systems, and the right to travel freely within the European Union. However, the application process for Spanish citizenship by descent can be complicated and may require significant documentation and evidence to prove ancestry.

Spanish Citizenship by Descent Eligibility Criteria

In the pursuit of citizenship by descent, eligibility is the most crucial factor to consider. Without eligibility, any effort put into the application process may prove to be futile. It is essential to conduct thorough research to determine if the applicant is qualified to apply for citizenship by descent in Spain.

Here are three possible scenarios that make an individual eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship on the basis of their ancestry:

  • One or both parents are Spanish citizens.
  • Grandparent(s) lost or were forced to forfeit their Spanish citizenship due to their exile.
  • Being a Latin American citizen with a grandparent born in Spain.

It is important to note that eligibility cannot go further down the bloodline than grandparents. Applicants must ensure they meet the eligibility requirements before proceeding with the application process to prevent rejection.

Individuals who hold citizenship from Ibero-American nations or Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, or those of Sephardic ancestry may be eligible to apply for fast-track naturalization in Spain. To qualify, applicants must reside in Spain for a minimum of two years. This pathway to naturalization offers a quicker and more streamlined process for those who meet the eligibility criteria.

Spanish Citizenship by Descent Requirements

Required Documents

To obtain Spanish citizenship by descent, there are several documents that you’ll need to gather and fees that you’ll need to pay. The specific requirements may vary depending on your circumstances, but generally, the following documents will be necessary:

  • A valid passport
  • A birth certificate for yourself
  • Birth certificates for each ancestor in the direct lineage to the Spanish ancestor
  • Marriage certificates, if applicable
  • Death certificates, if applicable
  • Criminal record certificates for each country of residence over the age of 18
  • Proof of financial support and means of income

Required Fees

You’ll also need to pay various fees, including:

  • Application fee for citizenship by descent
  • Fees for obtaining and translating the required documents
  • Fees for legal representation, if necessary

It’s essential to carefully review the specific requirements and fees for your situation and to ensure that you have all the necessary documents and funds before beginning the application process.

Steps to Applying for Spanish Citizenship

#1 Determine eligibility: Before beginning the application process for Spanish citizenship, it is crucial to ensure that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements. This may involve verifying ancestral lineage or residency status.

#2 Gather necessary documents: The application process for Spanish citizenship typically requires several legal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passport copies. Applicants should make sure they have all the necessary documentation before proceeding with the application.

#3 Submit the application: Once all the necessary documents are collected, the applicant can submit their citizenship application. It is essential to complete the application accurately and thoroughly to prevent any delays or rejection.

#4 Wait for approval: After submitting the application, the applicant will need to wait for approval from the Spanish government. This process can take several months to a year or more.

#5 Attend citizenship ceremony: If the application is approved, the applicant will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony to take the oath of allegiance to Spain and receive their citizenship certificate.

#6 Apply for a Spanish passport and other documents: Individuals can apply for a Spanish passport after obtaining Spanish citizenship. 

Other Routes to Spanish Citizenship

Spanish Citizenship by Birth

Spanish citizenship by birth is granted to individuals who are born on Spanish soil or to Spanish parents. This pathway to Spanish citizenship offers a more straightforward process compared to citizenship by descent. 

Spanish Citizenship by Naturalization

Spanish citizenship by naturalization is a pathway available to foreign nationals who meet certain criteria. To qualify for Spanish citizenship by naturalization, individuals must have resided in Spain for a minimum of ten years by holding a valid residency permit.

Spanish Citizenship by Marriage 

Spanish citizenship through marriage is another route available to foreigners who meet certain requirements, including being married to a Spanish citizen for at least one year and holding a valid residency permit. The marriage must also be recognized by Spanish law. Once these requirements are met, the foreign spouse can apply for Spanish citizenship through marriage. The application process will involve submitting various legal documents, such as marriage certificates, passport copies, and proof of residency. 

Spanish Citizenship by Investment

Spanish citizenship by investment through the Spanish Golden Visa program is a popular pathway for non-EU nationals to obtain Spanish citizenship. 

The Spanish Golden Visa program requires an investment of at least €500,000 in Spanish real estate, which grants the investor a residency permit in Spain. The residency permit allows the investor and their family members to reside in Spain for one year and can be renewed for an additional two years. 

After five years of holding the residency permit, the investor can apply for Spanish citizenship. This program offers numerous benefits, including the ability to live and work in Spain, access to social security and healthcare, and the ability to travel freely within the Schengen Area.

Benefits of Spanish Citizenship

Spanish citizenship provides numerous benefits, making it an attractive option for those seeking to live, work, and enjoy life in Spain and other EU countries.

  • Freedom to travel: Spanish citizenship provides the freedom to travel visa-free to over 180 countries around the globe, including all European Union countries.
  • Right to work: Spanish citizens are entitled to the right to live and work in any EU country without requiring a work permit. 
  • Access to healthcare and social security: Spanish citizens have access to the country’s comprehensive healthcare system and social security benefits, which is particularly advantageous for those who plan to live in Spain during their retirement years.
  • Right to vote: Spanish citizens hold the right to vote in all local, regional, and national elections. This is an important aspect of citizenship as it enables individuals to have a say in the decisions that affect their daily lives.
  • Education benefits: Spanish citizens have access to free or subsidized education in public schools and universities, which is beneficial, especially for families with children who plan to study in Spain.
  • Cultural benefits: Spain is a country rich in culture and history, with many UNESCO World Heritage sites and cultural events throughout the year. Spanish citizens have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the country’s rich cultural offerings.

Spanish Citizenship by Descent: Conclusion

In conclusion, Spanish citizenship by descent is an excellent opportunity for those looking to obtain Spanish citizenship based on their ancestry. It allows individuals to connect with their Spanish heritage and to access the many benefits that come with being a Spanish citizen. However, it’s important to ensure that one is eligible for citizenship by descent and to complete all necessary steps in the application process. 

With careful research and attention to detail, Spanish citizenship by descent can be a rewarding and life-changing experience, as well as a relatively straightforward process. Hence, whether you’re considering applying for citizenship by descent or any other type of Spanish citizenship, it’s worth exploring all the options available by doing thorough research.


Who is considered a Spanish citizen?

A Spanish citizen is someone who has obtained citizenship through birth, marriage, naturalization, or descent and is entitled to the rights and privileges that come with the title.

Can I obtain Spanish citizenship through my Spanish parent?

Yes, you can obtain Spanish citizenship if one or both of your parents are Spanish nationals. You must provide proof of your parent’s citizenship and your birth certificate.

Where can I apply for Spanish citizenship by descent?

You can apply for Spanish citizenship by descent at the nearest Spanish consulate or embassy in your country.

Are citizens of Latin American countries eligible for Spanish citizenship?

Yes, citizens of Latin American countries, including Ibero-American countries, may be eligible for Spanish citizenship by descent.

Can I obtain Spanish citizenship through my Spanish mother?

Yes, you can obtain Spanish citizenship through your Spanish mother if you were born after January 1, 1983. Prior to that date, Spanish citizenship could only be passed down through a Spanish father.

Is there a Spanish citizenship test that I need to take?

Yes, you will need to pass a Spanish language and culture test as part of your naturalization process. The test assesses your knowledge of Spanish society, culture, history, and language.

What documents do I need to provide for Spanish citizenship by descent?

You will need to provide your birth certificate, your parent or grandparent’s birth certificate if applicable, and any other relevant documents that prove your eligibility for Spanish citizenship by descent.

What are the fees for obtaining Spanish citizenship by descent?

The fees for obtaining Spanish citizenship by descent vary depending on your situation and the specific requirements. It’s best to check with the nearest Spanish consulate or embassy for the latest information.

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