Applying for Spanish nationality

Updated 14 November 2018: In case anyone has been thinking about applying for Spanish nationality, HERE is the actual nationality test, the latest available, from September, to get an idea of what these tests are like. There are 25 questions and some with a choice of three answers allow you to have another go for a partial credit if you get them wrong first time; others with only two answers are, obviously, either right or wrong. Those taking the exam must get a total of 15 complete right answers to pass the test.

Original post 24 June 2016: It’s not just David Cameron, who has just announced his resignation, who has been considering his position this morning. Many living in Tenerife might be doing just the same themselves, and applying for Spanish nationality is an option for anyone who feels that their position might be vulnerable as a non-EU national living within the European Union.

The position for those considering becoming a Spanish citizen is that Spain will require the applicant to renounce their British nationality. The UK, however, does not recognize such a renunciation made to Spain (it would only recognize the renunciation of British citizenship if a formal declaration were made direct to the UK – see HERE) , and so, technically, one would in effect have two nationalities, rather than dual nationality. Spain could require the applicant to hand over their British passport, but the UK will not consider it surrendered as far as it itself is concerned.

Those who wish to apply will have to have been legally and demonstrably resident in Spain for a continuous period of ten years, of good character (i.e. can produce criminal record checks from the UK and Spain), and must show what is called good citizenship and integration, which obviously includes being able to understand and speak Spanish – a diploma from the Cervantes Institute is required showing a pass in both a language and a socio-cultural test. The full procedure is described on the Ministerio de Justicia page HERE.

One particular factor to consider which might weigh quite heavily with British applicants for Spanish nationality is that their testamentary situation would come under Spanish inheritance jurisdiction. These laws restrict the testator’s freedom when drawing up a Will, particularly in respect of “compulsory heirs” (herederos forzosos), with the result that two-thirds of an estate must be left to the deceased’s children – half of that two-thirds in equal parts between all children and the other may be left unequally but must be left to a child or children: a a surviving spouse has a life interest (usufruct) in that second half of the two-thirds. The final third of the estate can be left to whomever the testator desires – and assuming this would be a spouse, would be the only part of the estate that could be directly inherited by a spouse.



  1. I passed the exam with 24 correct answers (a few guesses in there) but unfortunately I haven’t lived in Spain for 10 years. With a bit of study of the Spanish constitution anyone should be able to pass if they have some Spanish.

    1. Author

      exactly Stewart, it’s not onerous, and what I like is that they need 15 out of 25 correct answers, so someone into one category, eg history, or culture, or politics, would have a shot even if they weren’t interested in the other areas of social or cultural life here.

  2. Janet, thank you for a thoughtful and helpful article.

    I was wondering if you or any of your readers could recommend an advisory service here in south Tenerife that I could employ to help me navigate through the process of obtaining Spanish citizenship and thus avoid any pitfalls and much of the ‘paperchase’ inherent in any such procedure.

    I expect there must be a lawyer firm or an ‘asesoria’ with the relevant experience and that specialises in this?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Author

      I don’t know of any individuals or firms offering this service but I’m glad you asked the question because we might now find out!

  3. I am curious about the question of surnames if one changes to Spanish nationality, especially in view of a comment above of someone who was given an extra surname. The Spanish have two surnames, one from their father and one from their mother, and a married women does not change her surname to the same as her husband, so, if for example an English married women, living in Spain 15 years, who has done all her paperwork, deeds etc in Spain under her married name, what happens upon receiving Spanish nationality – does she lose her married surname, and if so, how does one prove that you are the same person as in the deeds, now you have 2 new surnames??

  4. I took early retirement and I will be entitled to a UK state pension in 9 years time and I expected then to ask the UK an S1 for healthcare to be paid in Spain by the UK. If I applied for Spanish nationality, would I then lose the right to have healthcare paid for by the UK via an S1. I will not be able to build up sufficient contributing years here to ever receive a Spanish pension so I don’t expect that Spain would pay my healthcare even if I had a Spanish passport. It’s only this healthcare question that’s stopping me applying for one.

    1. Author

      Within the EU, if a pensioner does not receive a pension from the country where they live, they belong to the healthcare insurance system of the country where they were insured for the longest period of time. This is the basis on which S1s are issued, and on the basis that changing your nationality wouldn’t result in you losing your pension, it should mean that you would remain entitled to an S1 so that the UK paid for treatment you received in Spain even if you are no longer British. This is something, however, that you simply must check with the Pensions Dept in the UK *.

      For me, though, a major concern would be how the Brexit procedure might change the picture. The entire system at present is predicated on the UK’s membership of the EU, and with that about to change, I wouldn’t make any assumptions at this stage as to what structures will be in place at the end of the negotiation period in a year’s time, or beyond. Given how much time you have before official retirement age, I would recommend sitting it out to see how the negotiations develop, or what other arrangements might be put in place for British national pensioner healthcare in EU countries.

      *Contact details for the Overseas Healthcare Team at the Department for Work and Pensions:

      Overseas Healthcare Team
      Room MO401
      Durham House
      Tyne & Wear
      Newcastle upon Tyne
      NE38 7SF
      Tel: 0191 218 1999 from the UK or +44 (0)191 218 1999 from abroad, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm

  5. Two things
    Where can you get a criminal records check? A DBS checks can only be applied for by an employer, you can apply, but it must be on paper if you live outside the UK, for a Basic Disclosure. Is this considered valid?

    As to language tests I was a bit miffed, as I passed the highest level in la Escuela Oficial de Idiomas twenty years ago, and I didn’t really want to pay again to do it at the Instituto de Cervantes. However, if you have an EOI exam or any other Official exam they will now accept this.


    1. Author

      The links for the criminal records checks are on the Resources page. I’m afraid that I don’t have any information about how the system works, so it’s probably best to ask the Consulate for more specific information.

  6. @Bob – when you signed the document to renounce your British nationality, did you also hand over your British passport, or do you still have it ?

    I have a similar appointment coming up, asked to bring my passport, and want to know what might happen. I would like to keep the British passport (not least as I need it for upcoming travel)

    Thank you

  7. I meant the criminal records check front the UK! Thanks

  8. I have been trailing the internet for days trying to find answers to my questions and maybe I will here!
    I have been living in Spain for 28 years, I’m married to a Spaniard, 2 grown-up kids and I work for the (spanish) civil service. After Brexit, I am considering getting spanish citizenship…

    To Bob, above, where did you get the criminal records check because it seems only emplyoyers can apply for one, and I have searched the page of the British Consulate and there is no mention of it there.
    Also, is it absolutely obligatory to do the language test??? After 28 years, I don’t think I need to prove it!

    1. Author

      Anyone can apply for a criminal records check … the link is on my Resources page, or just click HERE. As to the language test, I’m afraid that yes, it’s obligatory – as shown in the Ministerio de Justicia page that I linked to above.

  9. Author

    All the details for the test are described, with a link, in the post above.

  10. In anticipation of the U.K. leaving the E.U., almost three years ago, both the Boss and myself submitted the application Spanish nationality, this was done at our local court house. We needed to submit birth and marriage certificates, certified, and officially translated, copies of passports, Criminal records check in the U.K. translated.

    Two character witnesses were needed.

    In April this year, I was granted Spanish nationality, I attended at the Court house, where I signed a document renouncing my U.K. nationality, I was then given papers to take to the Delegation Insular,along with a photograph, where I was given an appointment to see the Policia National the following week. This I did, where I surrendered my green residents card, had my fingerprints taken, and was given an additional surname, and a D.N.I. number. Two weeks later I was presented with a Spanish D.N.I. card.

    Please note, the system has since changed, now you have to pass an exam. Plus the Boss is still waiting for her application to be granted

  11. Author

    I have heard from someone who did actually alternate their passports – it was more convenient for queue avoidance on the return and they didn’t realise there would be implications. Their Spanish passport was cancelled because they were perceived to have left the country on it, and not returned.

    As to visas, I can’t really imagine that between the UK and their ex-EU partners, though nothing can be dismissed out of hand entirely, of course.

    The main consequence, as I see it, for those who have property in both countries will be fiscal. Certainly in terms of inheritance tax on property owned here but with heirs in the UK (the normal situation with British property owners whose children are not resident here), there will be a significant negative tax impact.

  12. I would be interested to know what kind of consequences there might be to obtaining Spanish nationality with regard to entering the UK should visas become necessary. Even if you get to keep hold of your UK passport, clearly you couldn’t alternate passports depending which country you’re entering without raising some questions.

    Also what consequences there might be for anyone who still has property or other assets in the UK.

  13. Hi Janet
    As with a lot of Brits in Spain I’ve been looking into this question over the past week. The best source of information I could find was this:

    This dates from 2011 so I don’t know if it’s still the same, but basically the practice seems to be you renounce your old nationality in front of a judge/registrar but that is all, you don’t seem to have to provide a document of renunciation. According to this article therefore there is something of a legal void. Spanish law does not allow non South American Spanish citizens to have double nationality, but no one forces you to renounce your old nationality.

    This what you need according to the Ministry of Justice:
    The language qualification is A2 level which is fairly low level. For anyone who is an English teacher, it’s equivalent to the Cambridge English Exam KET. You also have to pass the cultural test of 25 questions (15 must be correct).

  14. Hi Janet

    According to the UK government, you can renounce your citizenship. Here is the link with information on how to do it.

    Of course, there is another way to do so. Simply inform the government that you have revoked your consent to be governed by statute (the UK is governed with the consent of the people, and therefore if you give your consent to be governed in a particular way, you can revoke that consent), and in the same letter, renounce your citizenship.

    I only mention the second method of renunciation, because the renunciation process set out in the link is founded in statute. So, if you are no longer governed by statute, you can renounce your citizenship in an way to see fit.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Author

      Thank you Paul. This is, of course, an official renunciation TO THE UK of British nationality. It’s important to distinguish it from the renunciation TO SPAIN when acquiring Spanish nationality. The latter renunciation is not recognized by the UK, so as I say in the post, one would have two nationalities, rather than “dual nationality”.

  15. Thank you Janet.

    We will think about this, but feel more at ease with the present situation.

  16. Janet,

    Me and my Husband are pensioners living here in Tenerife and have held a green “Certificado de Registro since August 2010.

    We have been registered with the “Hacienda” since January 2011, so we have been fully fiscally resident for 5 years.

    We understand that after 5 years, you can go to the Police station and have your certificate stamped up with a “permanent” stamp. This has not been necessary up to now, because after 5 years you are automatically considered a permanent resident.

    We cannot apply for Spanish Citizenship until we have lived here for 10 years.

    My question is that in view of the Brexit vote, would it be beneficial to have our certificates stamped officially permanent or would this still not make any difference.

    1. Author

      It won’t make any difference, other than it could feel reassuring. Have a read HERE where I explain. I hope it helps clarify that your original registrations and Registros are and will remain permanently valid.

  17. Dear mister Mike Ashcroft,
    Leaving the “Oligarchy” will bring Britain even closer to this system, eventually.
    Within two years EU will have the screenplay ready and the UK will have to comply or break.
    You should have stayed (((

  18. All the information you need is on the site of the Spanish Ministerio de Justicia and clearly indicates that a certificate A2 level from the Instituto Cervantes is necessary

  19. Just as there is no point in criticising the choice of those who wish to apply for Spanish nationality, whatever their motives 😉

  20. Nova, you say that the British Government is in a state of crisis……and the Spanish Government. isn’t ? What’s done is done so now we have to accept what will come. There is no point in criticising the choices people have made.

  21. It simply comes down to the fact that a majority of voters seemed to think, and hope, that the advantages of living in a democratic and imperfect UK will hopefully outweigh the advantages of living in an imperfect EU, and that in 15 years time the decision will have been proved to be a reasonable one. Not right; not wrong; but one which suited the UK.

  22. Mike Ashcroft, if you mean to suggest that I voted selfishly while you voted in the best interests of the British Nation, you are very much mistaken and I would first remind you that 48% of the voting public also disagreed that leaving the EU would be in their best interests. I considered my vote more carefully than you will ever know, and in the end I voted in favour of human rights, workers’ rights and the rights of Britain’s young people to enjoy the same opportunities I have to work abroad and live the dream. I never doubted that Remain would win because I naively thought those things were important to everybody. Clearly I was wrong and just over half the UK don’t care about their rights or their young people who themselves voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

    I understand how democracy works and that a majority, however small, is still a majority, and at this point, in all honesty, I’m ok. I am fortunate to have been living legally in Tenerife long enough that I have the right to remain in Spain permanently while remaining a British citizen. However, faced with a referendum outcome that I never saw coming, I now have to think about protecting my rights further. I can remain in Spain, but will I still be able to enjoy full EU benefits? Will I still be able to travel freely to other member states if I choose to? Those basic rights that I have always taken for granted will now have to be renegotiated by a national government that I don’t trust and didn’t vote for, and which is itself in a state of crisis.

    I was part of the first generation to grow up with the inspiring prospect of knowing I could travel, live and work freely wherever I chose throughout Europe. It’s natural that I should now want to protect those rights for myself but also to try to protect those opportunities for my baby niece in the UK, who may just have had them snatched away from her. I can’t do anything for the students in the UK who have been working towards goals that may now never be achievable, but if I can help keep options open for my niece by taking Spanish nationality myself, then that is what I shall do.

    I’m glad you feel you made the right decision. I respect your right to vote whichever way you wish and I’m aware that if the EU breaks up and new treaties are made, the result could ultimately turn out to be beneficial to all, but even if that happens, these things take a very long time which could be too long to factor in. I can make moves to protect myself now.

    Good luck with your choice to entrust your rights and your future to a Tory government.

  23. I can understand why people who think they are going to be extremely inconvenienced by the referendum result are angry. But I am surprised that, having been brought up in a true democracy (though not a perfect one) they are willing to consider leaving it.

    I own property in Tenerife which now has an uncertain future; possibly my owner’s rights will be compromised; possibly the value will plunge; possibly I will need a visa each time I visit. But I voted for my daughter’s and my granddaughter’s futures in the UK in ten or twenty years time. I voted for what I believed was right for Britain, not was best for me.

    I doubt whether, after a period of turmoil, there will be permanent, horrific change – the wheels of government grind exceeding slow.

    Please don’t take this as criticism of any comments – just a reminder that, based on previous experience, the future is likely not to be as scary as many have prophesied.

  24. Well said. Thank you for the information which I have shared to face book.

  25. You will make your choices to suit your life.
    That is what WE just did.
    I don’t belittle you for what most people would see as a bizarre choice.
    Please extend the same courtesy to Great Britain, for our choice against the anti-democratic EU.
    You voted for YOU.
    Good luck with your choice to remain in an Oligarchy.

  26. Yes, Donut, some of us left the UK because we took advantage of the rights and privileges that EU membership provided us as British and EU citizens. I suppose it’s understandable that somebody who has no interest in enjoying those same privileges would find it difficult to appreciate the value of them, but I am curious as to how somebody like that would find their way onto a Tenerife-focused website…?

    Oh, and you do realise that many of us had a right to vote? And that the result affects us directly! So yes, after many months of educating ourselves and carefully considering the options, we do have every right to express our opinions on the result and to protect our own personal interests where we feel that the (marginal) majority of the Great British Public has failed to.

  27. Hello Janet, very sad a unsettling news of the referendum today, I would like to ask you a question, do you actually physically hand over your passport to the Spanish authorities when you renounce your British citizenship? Very many thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Let me answer it by saying “they can ask for it”. That does not mean “they will ask for it”. I have heard some who have been asked for it, and others not. If they don’t, then you keep it and it remains valid. If they do, they may hand it to the British authorities – who will hand it back to you – or keep it, in which case you just apply for a new British one.

  28. You all left The UK for various reasons and have no right to critisize Brexit now.

  29. Why would you want to be a Spanish citizen, when being a fiscal resident is sufficient
    As previously said you won’t be able to give up British citizenship.

    1. Author

      I was just talking to someone, as it happens by coincidence, who feels so upset and disgusted (her words) with the UK that she no longer wants to be British. Now OK, she won’t be able to renounce British citizenship, but in Spain she will feel, and be, Spanish. Different people have different views, and some feel more secure against what they perceive as a risk of being asked to leave (this is a non-risk because anyone who could apply for citizenship would already be in a position of being able to remain under general EU and Spanish law) … but it’s all a perception of safety and a personal assessment of risk.

  30. Hi Janet,

    Really disappointed with the results this morning, we have been arranging to move to Tenerife for some time now, and Our planned date is in April 2017. We have family there, who have been there for over 11 years. We are looking for any advice you can give us! Do you recommend we continue with our plans? Do you have any ideas how this is going to effect us?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Author

      For the moment, and as far as seems likely, nothing will change during the two-year period for processing the UK’s departure. There are those who say it will take longer. The British ambassador to Spain himself told me that beyond that, the UK would work at negotiating settlements and agreements … so it’s a matter of speculation at present, I’m afraid.

  31. great articles again janet just a question if you can answer if my mum applied for nationality would this affect her UK pension i dont think it should as she worked all her life in UK my mum would have been her 10 years next year

    1. Author

      With the caveat that I am not a pensions or tax adviser, my understanding is quite clear that a pension is payable to a pensioner wherever they might be, and their presence somewhere other than the UK is no barrier to it being paid. It is not a question of “nationality” but of entitlement to a pension that has been created by contributions. With all these “financial” issues, I recommend seeking professionally qualified advice, but this is my understanding.

  32. Hi, Janet. Sad news on the referendum. If Lester applied for citizenship (he speaks Spanish) would I as his wife also be regarded as a citizen by marriage? My Spanish is not great.
    Also how does he go about applying.
    Thanks for all your hard work.
    Regards, Sue.

    1. Author

      As far as I know you would need to apply in your own right, but if Lester applied first being married to a Spaniard would probably speed up your own application. This along with other questions like how to apply is something I’ll be trying to get clarified over coming weeks. You’d need the Spanish though.

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