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Getting Spanish citizenship and permanent residence

This article will discuss how to get Spanish citizenship and permanent residency.

Whilst some things might have changed, or at least have slowed down due to coronavirus, we have done our best to give an accurate picture.

If you are looking for second residency/passport services, or expat-specific financial advice, you can contact me here.

Through our partners we have options for 350,000 Euros, which is lower than the 500,000 Euro typical threshold.


As the economy is becoming more and more globalized, at least before coronavirus, we are experiencing a growth in interests for the exotic, especially among youngsters and adults or retirees.

Many of these people prefer to change their residence and live in countries that offer much more, at much more affordable prices, have friendlier taxation, or maybe you just do not like the mentality of the people of the country you are currently living in.

It is quite easy to fall in love with a specific country, you book a flight, you step on its soil, and everything else will just leave you speechless. 

For some rather personal or emotional structures, it always happens, at least during the first weeks, that your brain will start comparing your original country with the new one finding all the surprising good qualities that you realised you cannot live without from now on.

Therefore, on the basis of your analysis you would wish to prolong your pleasure and step here, again and again, buy your house, find a spouse, invest, go bowling, learn the language of the locals, play with them, laugh together, go partying, starting a new life. 

Spain in recent years has been welcoming millions and millions of tourists. If you look at statistics it is impressive to see how France, Italy and Spain fight so much in Europe to get the best chunk of the market with appealing tourist attractions, tourist advertisements that promise you a piece of heaven at a reasonable price. 

Though Italy and France surely are respectable with all their food culture, history, art and science, the newer generations may tend to look after cheaper and funnier options such ‘’bailar en la playa con los amigos’’ (dancing on the beach with friends) and Spain is literally top leader in Europe with extremely charming, active, vibrant people that will make you move even if you do not want to.

After some research, it seems that Spain was, among all the other 194 countries, to be the option you are seeking to find your meaning in.

And therefore, this article will cover in detail, step by step how to get a residence permit in Spain and how to get the Spanish citizenship as a foreigner. 

All the methods to apply for a Spanish Permanent Residency Card

There are several ways in which you can obtain the Spanish Permanent Residency card, arguing to the Spanish laws and here we will be analysing 8:

  1. Golden visa through investments in Spain

Recently a law was made official to support entrepreneurs. Foreign investors had the opportunity not only to invest in Spain but also at the same time to live and work in the country.

It is surely a limited condition as many of you reading this article do not have that much money in their wallet, but here how much you have to invest if you have the money:

  • Investing €500.000 in residential or commercial properties without a mortgage, by owning a mortgage you have debt (visado de residencia por adquisición de Inmuebles), RIV/RVT;
  • Investing €1.000.000 through a Spanish bank, if you find any cheap and reasonable investment for your time preference as surely you can expect low returns.
  • A much more appealing option is to buy Spanish shares worth €1.000.000 (visado para residencia por inversor de capital (RIC)).
  • Or invest as much as €2.000.000 in Spanish bonds.

The Golden visa through investments will grant you living in Spain for 2 years. At the end of this period, the residence can be further extended.

An advantage you can consider is that with this visa you can include part of your relatives to the residence permit too, such as wife/husband, children, parents and grandchildren.

Generally, you can apply for a Spanish golden visa both in Spain or in your original country provided that you have all the documents that state your investments in Spain.

The documents you will have to provide to apply for an investor golden visa in your country in a consulate will be:

  • Passport
  • Documents that show that you have bought €500.000 worth of residential or commercial properties and/or the documents that prove you bought €1.000.000 in shares or €2.000.000 in Spanish bonds.
  • A confirmation that proves that you have sufficient money in a Spanish fund to live comfortably in Spain. 
  • Medical insurance, Spain will not provide any sanitary covering of your bills.
  • A certificate of authorisation from the police with relative signatures and seals
  • You may have to bring also fiscal documentation to prove that you are not a fiscal evader and certificates that prove whether you possess any property outside of Spain.
  • Other to all the above-mentioned documents, you should call your consulate or embassy to see if any other document is needed.

What does this Investor Permanent Residence or Golden visa offer overall? What are the advantages?

  • You can obtain your Permanent Residence Card in Spain.
  • The visa is valid 2 years, after 2 years you can prolong it 5 more years.
  • If you wish to renew this Permanent Residence Card, it is not needed to live 183 days continuously in Spain, you can fly abroad too.
  • You do not have to show anything ‘’fiscally speaking’’ to Spain. It is not necessary to fill any income tax declaration if you are living less than 183 days in Spain in a year. 
  • Right to work.

PRC for Entrepreneurs that want to work in Spain with work permit

The same rule that deals with investments offers foreigners the opportunity to open a business on their own or to participate in an entrepreneurial project involved in growing the Spanish economy. The main requirements to be granted this kind of residence permit for entrepreneurs are:

  • You have to provide a financial plan that will support your business and your business project in detail and write down and have the documents that prove what your intentions are in the foregoing years.
  • Create job places in Spain and hire Spanish people.
  • You have to be evaluated and granted as being a potential ‘’brick’’ to the Spanish economy, offering your innovation, creativity and investments.

And therefore, if you want to be granted a PRC this way, consider that the Spanish Minister of the Economy will have to approve your project. So it is not straightforward and not sure.

You can live but forget about working, PRC without the right to work nor willing to

By purchasing a property such as a house or an apartment you have the right to have a PRC but not to work with it, just for tourist purposes.

Generally, this rule should apply to renting too.  It lasts one year and it can be prolonged 2 times more of 2 years and 2.5 years respectively. 

After these two prolongings, it becomes permanent. A requirement you will have to prove, giving that you will not work during this period is that you have sufficient money with you and confirm of the solvency of the house, flat or renting, some of the documents necessary may include:

  • Passport with at least 1 year of validity with a photocopy of the page with the biographical data and two blank pages.
  • Documentation to verify the perception of periodic and sufficient income,  a minimum of 1,075.68 euros per month or €12,908.16 per year and an additional 537 euros per month or € 6,444 per year for each relative you want to bring in with you. If you want to further check this detail you should see the value of the IPREM the year you want to move to Spain.
  • Criminal record certificate or equivalent document
  • Public or private health insurance
  • Foreigner Identity Number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) also called NIE which has to be REM if you are an entrepreneur, RPE as an investor, REP as director and RIV if you purchased properties.
  • Payment of consular fees.
  • Documents of the family members

Do you have a relative you would like to be able to touch for a period?

The foreigners who have been granted a PRC have the right to add relatives to their residence. This could be the case of the spouse and kids or older parents, but in any case, these people are not allowed to work and have to depend fully on the PRC owner. Moreover, the validity of this PRC and the required documents depend on the type of PRC contracted. 

PRC for students

If you want to study at a University in Spain, these are the documents you have to bring with you:

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  • Passport or ID card if you live in the EU
  • DSE international certificate that proves your knowledge of the Spanish language or grants you admission to the Cervantes Institute to study it.
  • Proof that you have been accepted by the school/university you applied to
  • A certificate that proves you have sufficient money to live in Spain during your studies

Long term PRC in Spain

In order to obtain the Long term PRC in Spain you will have to:

  • Live in Spain for more than 5 years or
  • Marry a Spanish citizen

If you want to be granted the long term PRC, you have to keep in mind the 183 days rule. If you travel outside of Spain for more than 6 months and a day and want to be granted that PRC, you just lost it. 

The long term PRC will grant you similar rights to those of a Spanish citizen except:

  • You will not be allowed to vote
  • You cannot join the army and/or join the police

One step further, getting Spanish citizenship

For those who live in the EU, having a European passport means already having a PRC. Hence, unless you want to be 100% Spanish or 100% the citizen of another country, join its military or police force, it is almost irrelevant to have the citizenship of another European country, but maybe we are wrong and it could bring you some advantages.

Lately, the UK abandoned the EU and for those that come outside of the EU, this part of our article will focus to solve your problems if you want Spain to become your new, definitive home, also because, if you are granted the Spanish citizenship, you also have free travel and PRC in European countries, therefore it could be an extremely important change for you.

The Spanish Citizenship

We will be examining this in two parts, the theory and the process of obtaining citizenship, step by step. Citizenship is a bond between the citizen and a country, generally, all of us have citizenship except the stateless people who have no documents. 

There are two types of citizenship: the original and derived citizenship. The original citizenship is almost ‘’by birth’’ (not location) in fact, you can acquire citizenship even if you were to be born outside the country where your parents live/lived, given that you have both parents or one parent which is Spanish, in this case.

You do not need any form of declaration or will to it to be granted and no requirements involved. The ‘’original’’ Spanish citizenship cannot be lost in any case, but the derived one yes, if we do not use it for more than 3 years. This means that if you live outside of Spain without informing your embassy prior to your departure, the countdown could cancel your citizenship if you live, i.e in Italy.

Original and Derived Citizenship

The original citizenship can be further divided by its acquisition in two, Ius Soli and Ius Sanguinis.

Some foreigners wrongly believe that if their son is born in Spain, but generally almost everywhere in the world except North and South America, Pakistan in Asia, Chad, Lesotho and Tanzania, they will be granted sudden citizenship, but that is not how it works. Citizenship by birth is rare and it is called Ius Soli and there is no Ius Soli in Spain. If a child is born from both parents born outside the EU, the child will be granted the citizenship of the parents. 

The Ius Sanguinis, on the contrary, it’s the citizenship by blood when you transfer ‘’philosophically’’ from you as a parent to your children and there’s no way to be granted an Ius Sanguinis citizenship except if you were born by a Spanish father, mother or couple.

There are exceptions in which the Ius Soli can be granted:

  • If the parents have no citizenship, the child will get the Spanish citizenship if born on the Spanish soil.
  • We do not know who the parents of a child are, and therefore this child is granted citizenship.
  • If the father or mother has been born in Spain, even if they have a foreign background.

The Derived Citizenship and how to obtain it

There are several ways in which you can obtain it but let us focus on the first three more common:

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  • Being adopted by a Spanish citizen;
  • Child of a Spanish parent that lost his/her citizenship when they abandoned it while accepting the citizenship of the country that welcomed them. That is the case of emigrant children who lost citizenship.
  • By living in Spain. This may depend a lot on the circumstances that bring the immigrant to Spain and the time he or she spends in Spain (and or citizenship).

If you are Italian or Romanian you can apply for citizenship only after 10 years, but if you come from South America from a Spanish speaking country, from an ex-colony of Spain such as the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or closely related such as Andorra, Portugal or Sephardic countries. 

What type of circumstances are involved?

If you are married to a Spanish citizen, you have the right to gain citizenship after 1 year of marriage and given you have PRC already. It is not the marriage in itself that enables you to have it but an ‘’award’’ for having lived a year in Spain.

Generally, the economical spectrum is not considered, if you hold a PRC means that you are, generally, already independent with money or work.

Spanish citizenship through grandparents

Generally, it is really difficult as there is a generational gap between you and your grandparent, meaning your father that did not apply for it or lost it in the process, being an emigrant or similarly. If you want to try, you will need your grandparent to be with you in the process.

All the requirements to be granted citizenship

The most complicated thing when it comes to processing the citizenship is precisely coordinating all the documents so that they are up to date since sometimes expire before you can have all of them together. Therefore, it is very important to know what documents matter and where they should be requested. The process is really simple but quite complex:

  • You will have to have an email just for all of this;
  • Your birth certificate. You must apply for it in the city where you were born or where you were registered. It generally needs to be legalized by the Foreign Ministry of the country of birth.
  • Have passed the exam of the Cervantes Institute, meaning that you know how to speak proper Spanish (Spanish language, culture and constitution)
  • Photocopy of the identification number of foreigners or the residence card.
  • Photocopy of the passport on all its pages.
  • You do not have to bring anything that certifies your economic background and how do you maintain yourself.  But as you have already a PRC you surely have a document that proves that you have livelihoods to reside in Spain. For example, an employment contract or a bank guarantee.
  • In certain specific cases, it is necessary to provide documentation that proves your situation. For example, in the case of being married to a Spanish citizen, the marriage certificate, the civil registration and the birth certificate of our partner.

If we have some kind of Spanish of origin, the birth certificate of our ancestors. All this makes it often easier with the support of a lawyer who can process the papers and tell us what we have to provide depending on our specific situation.

  • The fee you have to pay for the exam is €105
  • The citizenship fee is €100
  • Certificate of registration. It is requested at the town hall of the town in which we reside.
  • Certificate of legal residence in Spain. It must be requested at the corresponding government subdelegation.
  • Criminal record certificates. You need two, one from the country of origin and one from the Spanish authorities. The first must be issued in the country of origin of the document and legalized diplomatically and notarized. 

To request the second, it is enough to buy an official criminal certificate form in a tobacconist and send it by mail to the Registro Central de Penados y Rebeldes together with a photocopy of your documents.

The Spanish Citizenship and the exam, tips for British people and what you can expect

When you want to apply for citizenship of any country, it is necessary to pass a test about language, history, culture and constitution.

Some of the questions you would expect to face, I found on an online test are:

  • Who is responsible for calling a general election in Spain?
  • Where does the King of Spain live?
  • How many colours are there in the Spanish flag?
  • What is the highest mountain in Spain?
  • The main characters in the novel Don Quixote are Don Quixote and whom?
  • Juan Ramon Jimenez was awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in which discipline?
  • In what year did the Catholic kinds conquer Granada?
  • How much maternity leave is a woman with one child normally granted in Spain?
  • Between Marzipan, Churros and Turron, which of the following sweets is not typically eaten during Christmas in Spain?
  • What is the emergency number in Spain?
  • Which is the largest fishing port in Spain?

As we see half of the questions above mentioned, obviously in Spanish, are half general and/or obvious and half quite detailed and you have to have some background having studied the history, language and cultural identity of the country. 

Therefore, after you managed to collect all the documents you need, do not forget to study, after all the work you have done, you must pass it, generally, it is not difficult and most people pass it.

Further Reading




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