Do you really have to give up your original nationality if you become Spanish?

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One of the most frequently asked questions from those applying for their Spanish citizenship by residency is whether Spain allows dual nationality.

This is a tricky question, as even though there are set rules, understanding them fully is often difficult and some aspects are somewhat grey areas.

Every year, the Spanish government receives an average of between 80,000 and 100,000 requests for citizenship.

Many people want to become Spanish, but one of the requisites they are most worried about is having to renounce their original nationality in the process. 

Legally speaking, Spain only allows dual nationality with countries with which it has a specific connection. These include nationals from 12 Ibero-American countries: Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Colombia.

In addition to these countries, the deal is also applicable to people from Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and Portugal, as well as those who have applied using their Sephardic Jewish heritage.

Last year, Spain and France also made an agreement to allow dual nationality between both countries.

READ ALSO – Exclusive: How Spain’s dual nationality deal with France gives hope to other foreign residents

People from the above countries only have to live in Spain for a period of two years (except for France, where it’s still ten years) before applying for citizenship through residence, while everyone else must have been resident in Spain for ten years to qualify for nationality.

It is compulsory that everyone wanting to obtain Spanish citizenship pass both a language and cultural test.

READ ALSO – Quiz: Can you pass the Spanish citizenship test?

Do I have to renounce my original nationality?

Legally speaking, anyone else obtaining Spanish citizenship such as Britons or Americans would need to renounce their original nationality.

The last step in applying for Spanish nationality includes going before a judge to swear allegiance to the Spanish constitution. During this time, they will also ask you to renounce your original nationality.

However, the crucial point is that you will not be requested to physically hand over your other passport, so it will remain in your possession.

READ ALSO – Step by step: how to apply for Spanish nationality

What will happen if I use my original passport?

Be careful, as although your original passport isn’t taken away from you, you won’t be able to use it within Spain.

According to  the website of Spain’s Justice Ministry, Spanish nationals who are not nationals by origin (for example, those who have acquired Spanish nationality through residence) shall lose their Spanish nationality if:

  • After acquiring Spanish nationality, they use the nationality they renounced during a period of three years.
  • When they join the armed forces or take on a political role for a foreign state which the Spanish government expressly prohibits.
  • When a court sentence finds that the person committed perjury, concealment or fraud in the acquisition of Spanish nationality.

Although Spanish law mentions that three-year period, the wording “durante un periodo de tres años” is ambiguous. Does it mean that if they are caught once using their original passport in the first three years after acquiring Spanish citizenship they face losing their Spanish nationality? Or is it if they are caught doing so regularly or exclusively? Is it alright to use your original passport after that three-year period has elapsed?

Whatever your interpretation, you probably shouldn’t use your non-Spanish passport when travelling into Spain or for other official processes in Spain. You also can’t necessarily claim to be from your original country to get help from one of its embassies, for example.

In a recent article in the Daily Mail, UK MP Michael Portillo explained how he leaves Britain on his British passport and arrives in the European Union with his Spanish passport, although his case is different in that he’s a dual national because he has both a British and a Spanish parent.

In any case, you should consider playing it safe in this sense and sticking to your newly acquired citizenship in most cases.

According to Spanish legal firm Echevarría Abogados, “once Spanish nationality is granted, Spanish law is indifferent to how the other country in question deals with its citizen”, and that “much more important than analysing Spanish legislation, it is necessary to study the rules of the country from which the applicant in question comes”. The renouncement of your original nationality is a “mere formality” according to them.

Will my native country make me renounce my citizenship and give up my passport?

This will completely depend on which country you’re from. There are several countries in the world that will make you renounce your citizenship if you become a national of Spain.

These include Austria, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Kuwait and Laos, as well as several others in the Middle East and Africa.

Check with your embassy to find out if your country recognises dual citizenship or not. 

US citizens

According to the US government, “the acquisition or retention of foreign nationality does not affect US citizenship”. This means that the US will not force you to give up your US citizenship if you get Spanish nationality.

“A person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both” the US government states.

While you do have to officially renounce your US citizenship to the Spanish government, the US government will not make you do the same, and because of this legal loophole, you can in fact hold on to it.

Canadian citizens

According to the Canadian government, Canadians are allowed to take foreign citizenship while keeping their Canadian one.

British citizens

Similarly, for those from the UK, “Dual citizenship (also known as dual nationality) is allowed in the UK. This means you can be a British citizen and also a citizen of other countries,” said a spokesman from the embassy in Madrid.

As far as the British government is concerned, you have not renounced your British nationality and will continue with the right to hold a British passport and apply for a new one once your current passport expires.

READ MORE: Do I really have to give up my British passport to become Spanish?

What are the risks?

Besides not being able to use your original passport in Spain, if Spain and other governments start sharing information in the future regarding citizenship, this would put you in a precarious position.

The Spanish government could force you to give up your Spanish nationality if they found out that you were still a citizen elsewhere. 

READ MORE: What are the reasons for losing Spanish residency or nationality and can I get it back?