SPAIN: Dual Citizenship Dilemma for UK Nationals

July 21, 2016

Following the Brexit vote, various foreign government authorities have reported an overwhelming influx of citizenship applications from UK citizens. From healthcare and pensions matters, to hypothetical future restrictions on studying and working in the EU, obtaining an EU passport appears a safe option for Britons living in the continent.

In the Brexit aftermath, the main objective in obtaining an EU passport should be obtaining dual nationality (also known as dual citizenship). This means holding citizenship of two countries concurrently, and being subject to the rights and obligations imposed by the two countries.

While many countries in the European Union allow applicants to have dual and multiple nationality this is not the case for Spain, one of the countries most populated by British expatriates.

Dual nationality in Spain

Spain only has agreements for dual citizenship with countries with which it shares a colonial history or by proximity, for example, several countries including; South American countries, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Andorra and Portugal. For the passport holders of any other country, obtaining Spanish nationality requires renouncing their nationality of origin.

On the contrary, citizens that are Spanish by birth and are in the process of obtaining another citizenship, do not face this difficult choice. If the acquired nationality permits the dual nationality status (such as the UK does), Spanish law grants them the right to maintain their nationality. The only requirement is to inform the Spanish authorities of the intention to maintain their Spanish citizenship in the following three years from the moment they acquire the new nationality.

In spite of this disparity, the law currently is clear and for the thousands of Britons permanently living in Spain, this process can lead to a key question: are they willing to renounce their citizenship in order to become Spanish nationals?

Our advice

There may be other options besides obtaining Spanish citizenship to prove your continuous residence in Spain when Brexit is completed.

All EU nationals living in Spain must obtain a Certificate of Registration as an EU national. This is a mandatory process for every EU citizen and must be completed within the first three months of residence in Spain.

This document does not have an expiration date. Nevertheless after five years it grants the possibility to apply for a long-term certificate valid for 10 years, renewable. In practice this long-term EU Registration Certificate has not been used as it didn”t change the status of EU nationals. However in light of Brexit it may be worth obtaining continuous and long-term residence in Spain, should it be needed in the future.  

We cannot ensure at this time that having any of these documents will be enough documentation when Brexit is completed. Other regularisation processes may be required depending on the terms of the agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

In relation to obtaining Spanish citizenship, it is important to understand that it is indeed a lengthy and complex process that usually takes several years. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if they wish to avoid potential immigration problems after Brexit is completed.

We have a dedicated European legal team providing advice and assistance with all queries and concerns in relation to Brexit. For further information please contact us at [email protected].