Theresa May has finally triggered Article 50 which officially opens the way for formal Brexit talks.  The uncertainty that surrounds this whole issue has left the British ex-pats in Europe facing unforeseen challenges.  Brexit changes their position completely and they face momentous choices, whether to stay put and hope they can ride it out or become European citizens or come home.

Spain in particular has attracted thousands of British citizens over the years and due to cost effective house prices which offered the attractive opportunity of a retirement in the sun.   The vast majority of British ex-pats in Spain are over 65 years.  The idea of uprooting themselves and returning home is far less attractive than remaining where they have lived for many years.  At the moment there has been no indication whether a satisfactory agreement will be made to protect the mutual rights of British and European citizens living throughout Europe and the UK which will be acceptable to all parties.

One solution that a number of British ex-pats appear to be considering is becoming a Spanish citizen; anyone embarking on this course will be required to give up their existing citizenship.  The principal criteria that allows foreign nationals to take this step are: residency, marriage or birth: 

  • A person who has lived in Spain as a main place of residence for ten years or over
  • Or is married to a Spaniard
  • Or is the child of a Spanish parent

can apply for citizenship. 

Alternatively, there is another option of applying for an EU long-term residence permit for individuals who have lived for five consecutive years in Spain. 

Financial stability and absence of a criminal record are also key requirements to obtaining Spanish citizenship. Also the authorities will have to recognise a 'sufficient' degree of integration into Spanish society, relating to Spanish proficiency and participation into social activities that are part of the Spanish way of life.

Spanish citizenship - a Brief Guide

Who can apply –  The Criteria

  • If you are 18 years or older, 14 -18 years with legal assistance, or by the legal guardian of a person under 14 years.
  • If you have had a period of residence of one year if born in Spain to legal foreign residents.
  • If you are married to a Spaniard.
  • If widowed following marriage to a Spaniard
  • The child or grandchild (even if born outside Spain) of a Spanish national by birth or residence.
  • If you have lived in Spain for ten years or more
  • If you were born in Spain to foreign parents whose origin is unknown, they can be considered Spanish by origin.
  • If under 18 and you were adopted by Spanish parents
  • If over 18 and you were adopted by Spanish parents within the last two years.  

What Evidence you will Need to Provide

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of legal residence e.g. a long term rental contract or receipts for rent
  • A criminal record certificate issued by the authorities in your home country
  • A medicial certificate (certificado medico) in cases where the applicant did not present it when applying for temporary residence
  • Proof that health assistance is guaranteed during your residence in Spain e.g. private health insurance with a company authorized to operate in Spain.
  • A marriage or divorce certificate or any other papers relating to your marital status
  • Proof that you have adequate financial resources to provide for yourself and your family (if applicable).

Documents may be required to be translated into Spanish.

Citizenship application can be fast-tracked if you are married to a Spaniard. In this case, you can become a Spanish citizen after a one-year residence period in Spain.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.