Clearly if you are reading this you want to know more information on how to apply for Spanish citizenship after you’ve been in Spain for a while. If you are married to a Spaniard and have been living in Spain for at least 1 year, this is the easiest way to apply.
There are other avenues, but they are more convoluted and the requirements change over time (this is Spain after all) – on average most Non-EU citizens will need to have legal residency in Spain for at least 5 to 10 years (without marriage – sorry “Pareja de Hecho” doesn’t count) in order to apply for your Spanish nationality.
The below steps and suggestions are written as a US citizen in Spain married to a Spaniard who lives in the center of Madrid and speaks pretty good Spanish. I´m going to try to keep it as general as possible, since everyone is different, but clearly this article is not for “one size fits all” situations.
Now onto information overload (It’s a long process and so will this blog post be) – continue ahead if you dare…
This is the official link with a breakdown of what you need from the Ministerio de Justicia
Most people will opt for Nacionalidad por Residencia
For more details on how to apply in person or via the internet – be sure to see the information on this website
You can look at the requirements of what is needed, I have them divided below as to what’s the hardest/most time consuming to do first, then the easier/less time consuming to do at the end. This can help you backwards plan since the exams are valid for 2 years and the other documents are only valid for 3 months. So backwards planning is important for this!
Although getting the certificado electronico is pretty straight forward, I would highly recommend to get it earlier than later in order to tramitar things other than applying for nationality: such as doing your declaración de renta, applying for various certificates and citas previas, etc. More details on that below.
What takes the longest time to get:
I would start with the exams you need to take, wait for the results, then apply for your birth certificate and the criminal background check of your home country.
Everyone needs to take the Prueba de CCSE (Conocimientos Constitucionales y Socioculturales de España). It is an exam that exemplifies that you know enough about Spain in order to apply for citizenship. The exam is in Spanish only. Depending on your level of Spanish and how familiar you are with Spain, you can take the exam with little to no study. However if your Spanish isn’t the best and you’ve only been here a year I would highly recommend you study. You need a 15/25 in order to pass and I found the exam quite easy however for someone new to this country, I don’t think they would find it easy.
I had to wait 3 months to register for a convocatorio in the center of Madrid and when I finally took it in September 2016 the cost was €86.
The results are valid for 2 years, and you don’t get your exact exam result back (it is just pass/fail). So if you get 25/25 you wouldn’t get that score on your result, so it’s not like you can brag on your CV or anything (yes I thought about that).
Here is the website of the CCSE exam. You will have to create a profile in order to register and through that profile you get a PDF version of your results through the website.
There are also apps that you can download to help you prep for the exam. And practice questions and answers can be found online, which you can memorize.
This is the official 99-page study guide for 2016 (2017 would be different I would imagine but that hasn’t been made available online yet). Use the chuleta (answer rubric) in the back to study the answers to the questions:
If you are from a non-Spanish speaking country you will have to have a DELE score of at least A2. If you are from a Spanish speaking country the DELE exam is not necessary. I took the B1 exam because a montón of people were doing the A2 exam – I would have had to have waited 8 months to do the A2 exam in the center of Madrid.
I took the DELE B1 test in October 2016, the cost was 160 euros and I bought some books for the exam for 25 euros. Every test has a different cost, so check the website for more details on prices.
The test itself was over 2 days, one after another. One session was listening and presenting and the other session was reading, writing and more listening. Session timings vary at either 9am or in the afternoon and you can sorta choose when but not really – the school chose the sessions I would take. I took both days off work in order to study.
The results of this exam are valid for 2 years.
Here is the website on how to register for the DELE exam.
I chose International House Madrid for both the CCSE and DELE exams and other than super small desks for writing, I really liked the school. I had to email them in order to register for the DELE exam because I had difficulty registering online through the Instituto de Cervantes website and they got back to me really quickly.
Obtaining your birth certificate with Hague apostille, translated into Spanish with a traductor jurado.
You can go to your state/province/national website to apply for your birth certificate. I had to go to the US embassy and pay 50 euros for a notary in order to apply for my birth certificate and then 15 dollars for the birth certificate copy itself.
In case you need to notarize the application form, you will need to make an appointment at the Embassy for the notary here (wait time can be up to 1 month)
Once you receive the birth certificate you have to apply to have it Hague Apostilled. I used a vital records expeditor, details below.
Once you have the birth certificate with the Apostille, you need to use a traductor jurado to translate it. I used Tridiom near Sol to translate the documents, more details below.
Obtaining your national background check, translated into Spanish with a traductor jurado
You need to apply for your background check from your home country to show you never had a criminal record. For US citizens this means to get a FBI background check.
If you need your fingerprints done and stamped on a specific paper, you can either print the paper out or request a paper card from the Embassy. However now that Trump is president, I don’t think they give out the cards anymore. Here is the website for US citizens.
SpainGuru did an article on this, I would recommend having a look.
I went to the Scientific Police Station (near metro Pinar del Rey) to get my huellas (fingerprints) on the card. It is walking distance from the metro, but I took a taxi because they are only open 9:00 to 13:00 and that’s pretty far and I like to sleep in. Here is their Yelp page.
You will need to bring a fingerprint card or the print out of the fingerprint card. Bring 2 just in case and tell them that the company you are using requires 2, just in case.
You need to go to the main building to go through security and then you are given a badge to walk inside the police station premises. You need to walk down the street and to the left to a blue building in the distance. Then enter the blue building, talk to another officer in the reception, and then you will be escorted upstairs to a CSI looking office where they will make you fill out a form and fingerprint you.
Once you get fingerprinted send it all off to the FBI to apply for the background check. I used Nationalbackgroundcheck.com.
Then once you get the results in the mail, you need to use an expedited service to get the Apostille. I used Zertifica for both my birth certificate and the FBI background check and it took about a month turnaround time.
Once you get the Apostille on the FBI background check and the birth certificate, you will need to use a traductor jurado. I used Tridiom near Sol. To translate my original background check, original birth certificate, and the 2 apostillas from English to Spanish it was 50 euros total.
Prices vary per state for the birth certificate apostille and the FBI apostille, so doing a breakdown here isn’t helpful, but I would “guestimate” it is about €50 each, to be around €200 in total approximately.
Once you have done/completed or finished the CCSE, DELE, birth certificate with apostille and FBI background check with apostille, take a deep breath because that was the hardest part! Have a night to relax and celebrate, and move on to the easier parts below.
Stuff that is pretty easy to get (Yay!)
These items are straight forward and although some are not necessary because when you do the online application it goes through the registry to find out your Spanish criminal record (antecedentes penales de España), your empadronamiento, and other consent things, I don’t trust it being all comprobado online so I allowed the official application website to check my statuses and also uploaded PDFs of the physical scanned copies just to be sure. If my paranoia is apparent through these steps, it’s because I am paranoid.
Empadronamiento with you and your spouse on it
Not necessary to provide a PDF document of this because when you do the application online it verifies your empadronamiento for you, but I still got a scanned paper version of it and uploaded it into the application. You could apply for a cita previa online to get a paper copy of the empadronamiento.
Antecedentes penales de España
Like above they do a check online for you, so it is not necessary to do it yourself but I always want to double check just in case. Here is the website for the certificate, you can do it online if you already have a digital certificate:
If you don’t have a digital certificate just yet you need to go to the office on Calle Bolsa 8 (Sol metro).
Download the application form beforehand, fill it out, print it out and go to the bank and pay the 3.70 euro fee.
Then go to Calle Bolsa, wait in line, go through the metal detectors, get a number, give the form and your NIE en vigor and they will give you a printout of the result of your criminal background check. I scanned this paper and attached it to the application.
(For those married….)
Certificado literal de matrimonio
This is needed if you are married to a Spaniard, and there is no online verification. Here is the site where you can get a copy mailed to you if you were married in Spain.
Spouse’s literal birth certificate
My husband called his ayuntamiento for this and we received it 3 days later in the mail. You can also apply for this online. If you apply online you will need to know your spouses’s tomo and hoja of his birth certificate.
Paying the application fee (Modelo 790-Código 026)
You need to download the tasa online (apparently 1 tasa code per applicant), fill it out, print it out, and pay it at any bank (before 11am of course).
It costs 100 euros. The website states that in the future you could pay online, but as of now that is not possible.
On the main page, scroll down to Modelo 790 and download the form (only once).
Not required but it sure does look nice to back up your application. You apply online and get it in the mail in less than a week.
Certificado electronico/online certificate/Autofirma
Since you have to apply online you need to have a certificado electronico on your computer and your browser in order to verify your identity.
You do this first by downloading a lot of stuff on your computer and going to an office to verify your identity. It’s a coñazo but not all that bad.
You need to download the digital certificate to your computer so you can apply online. The computer cannot be a Mac and you must use Firefox or IE (if you did it on a Mac you are a wizard or you must have a new Mac because it wouldn’t work on mine for the life of me).
Here are some websites and a video on how to get the digital certificate:
I installed it in Firefox on my work PC, because the Mac instructions were a nightmare. Apparently you can export the certificate and switch it over to another computer cross platforms…I tried but was unsuccessful.
There are a few steps for the certificate, follow the instructions online, modify your Mozilla browser as instructed on the website, download all the add ons, modify your settings as instructed, and download Auto Firma. Then apply for the certificado electronico with your name, NIE and email address and then you will get an email with a reference number.
Then make a cita previa on the Agencia Tributaria website for the person in the office to confirm your ID and release an email for you to download the certificate:
These are the instructions I received to make a cita previa:
“Take the email you received with the code to the closest office they state for you to go to and show your NIE en vigor. Once they verify that you are you, you will get another email to download the certificate.
But remember: you need to download it on the same computer, same browser, same everything.”
Now here are some things that are ridiculously simple to provide for the citizenship application! (Finally! Am I right?!?!)
Stuff that is super, super simple:
Copy of TIE front and back
Scanned into PDF to upload to the website.
You need to scan every page of your passport into a PDF. The page numbers need to be visible in the scans.
If your passport is about to expire, a new passport may be needed for this. A new US passport costs 110 dollars. A US passport is now 52 pages and I couldn’t scan all of those with the scanner I had because it keep giving me error messages, so if that happens to you try to use a PDF application to combine the pages together.
I provided separate PDF versions of my new passport and my old passport with my Spain visas just to be sure. My new passport had no stamps so I thought providing the old passport was a good measure to show.
Once you actually start applying:
Once you got all your goodies together and you are ready to apply, you sign in to the site with your certificado electronico. There are 5 tabs on the site called:
- Solicitud – Where you fill out your normal details
- Documentación – Where you upload all the documents
- Tasas – Where you upload the PDF of the paid tasa
- Examenes – Where you allow them to look up your CCSE and DELE results (I did that and provided PDF backups too).
- Resumen y Envio – Where you go over the application and make sure it’s all neat and hit send. If there is anything pending, it will not let you hit send, so go over it with a fine tooth comb and check everything.
In the uploading process, be careful of the name of the PDF document:
- No spaces
- No special characters
- No long titles – make it super minimal or they won’t upload
I would do last name and what it is all together like: NameCertNac
In case the PDF is too large, you can use an online compression tool to shrink it down.
It does take a while for the Instituto de Cervantes to approve that you have taken the exams, at least for me. I hit the comprobar button and I had to wait 24 hours and then hit comprobar again and then it worked. I still uploaded the PDF proof of me passing the exams just in case there is a server error or something – it is always helpful to have backup.
Once you have successfully applied you just need to wait. Some sites say it should be less than a year, some people have been waiting 3+ years before it was a digital application process. So it’s just a waiting game.
Here is a breakdown of the prices when it comes time to start applying. Please note every situation is different, so yours won’t be as difficult/easy as my situation, so investigate on your end as needed.
|ITEM||expense low end||expense high end|
|DELE Exam (B1)||160||185|
|Birth Cert Notary Application||50||50|
|Birth Cert Spouse||0||0|
|FBI Background check||56.6||60|
|Apostille Birth Cert||40||100|
|Apostille FBI Background Check||40||100|
|Translat. Jurado: Birth Cert and FBI Check||50||100|
|Spanish Marriage Certificate||0||0|
|Antecedentes Penales España||0||0|
Once you have successfully submitted, you can check the status online here.
I applied April 20th 2017 and I am currently waiting. Once there is an update on my end, I will make sure to share the news (whether good or bad).
Best of luck and stay patient!