Gaining Spanish citizenship with a dual nationality in 2023

Note: This post is based on a specific case about Spanish citizenship and is taken from an answer by Paul Cox on the SpainGuru Q&A forum on Facebook.

Am I eligible for Spanish citizenship?

A SpainGuru poster has dual American/Mexican citizenship, and entered Spain with her US passport. After two years here, she began thinking about applying for Spanish citizenship, which she is eligible for through her Mexican nationality.

If she took this path, would she have to renounce her American citizenship?

The Answer

There are two main issues at play here, which we will address in turn.

Issue one: The law

While there’s nothing in the law that explicitly states citizens must remain with the nationality they entered Spain with, this is how it’s traditionally done.

Generally, this is a non-issue as most people have no reason to switch between nationalities. However, in this specific case, citizens of “Países Iberoamericanos” (*) (Mostly former Spanish colonies like Mexico, Philippines, but not all, like Brazil)) have rights that other nationalities don’t. This means that Mexican citizens can apply for Spanish citizenship after only two years of residency in Spain—not including time as a student, as they are generally on an estancia rather than residencia.

Rights with dual citizenship

Deputy Assistant Director of Nationality and Civil Status, Doña María del Mar López recently held a meeting with some Spanish immigration attorneys regarding this issue of dual citizenship. At this meeting she indicated that the government would accept these applications where someone entered with one nationality but wants to apply for citizenship with the other.

Furthermore, when applying for Spanish nationality, the form indicates that someone with multiple nationalities is eligible. Under the nacionalidad section, there are two boxes:

  1. Nacionalidad con la que obtuvo el N.I.E. (Nationality you obtained your NIE with)
  2. Indique si tiene otra nacionalidad que le exime del DELE. (Indicate if you have another nationality that exempts you from the DELE)

What this means

Essentially, this says that there’s good news for our original poster. If someone holds dual nationality, such as US and a former Spanish colony, and enters and resides in Spain using their US nationality, they can apply for Spanish nationality after two years under their second nationality.

They will be exempt from taking the DELE language test (except countries where Spanish is not an official language, like Philippines) and will only have to pass the CCSE civics test (a.k.a Nationality test) to be eligible.

Issue two: Renouncing citizenship

When someone gains Spanish citizenship, Spain requires them to sign an oath renouncing their former nationality.

Citizens of the Países Iberoamericanos (*) like Mexico, etc, are an exception to this, and can retain their citizenship. As of yet, we cannot find any examples of anyone with a dual nationality status (US/former colony) who have been required to do this; or required to do it for their US citizenship but not the other.

The US stance

That said, from the viewpoint of the US government, this is essentially meaningless. In order to renounce your US citizenship, you must do it in person, in the US, at a consulate or at an embassy. This requires filling out forms and affirming that you fully understand—in person—what you’re doing.

On the State Department’s website, there is advice on losing US citizenship. They go into more detail about what happens if you have to renounce your US nationality. When you take Spanish citizenship and then want to renew your US passport, you’ll see a section on the form asking if you’ve been naturalized by any other nation.

You say “yes,” and the State Department will ask if you renounced US citizenship and meant to. Here, you say “no, I did not have the intention to relinquish US nationality,” as explained under Potentially Expatriating Acts, in the link provided above.

What this means

Long story short, the State Department asks if you really intended to renounce your US citizenship. You say “no”—and that’s the end of the matter. You get the best of both worlds.

From then on, Spain and the US treat you the same way, as a citizen of each nation. For Spain, you said you would renounce your citizenship, so they’re happy. Yet for the US, it has to be done in person, in the States or at a US embassy, so you’re still a US citizen.

The only condition to keep in mind is that if you get into trouble in Spain, the US is no longer able to help you out.

Benefits of Spanish citizenship

Are you in a similar situation and are wondering whether it’s worth going through the process? Well, it’s up to you but gaining Spanish citizenship—while retaining your other—brings a lot of benefits with it.

Aside from gaining more rights in Spain, you will also gain EU citizenship. This means you can live or work anywhere in the union, and will also have the right to vote. You will be guaranteed to basic rights under EU law, and can even benefit from cheaper (or free) third-level education.

So, if you are eligible for Spanish citizenship and thinking of moving to Spain for the long term, it’s definitely something you should look into.

Please note that all answers were based on internet research and should not be considered legal advice.

*Países Iberoamericanos: Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Philippines and Equatorial Guinea.