Do you have to renounce your US citizenship to get Spanish nationality?

Hey y’all…

Today I’d like to get legal.

Let’s talk about one of those huge myths about getting Spanish nationality.

This is mostly applicable to people in the US, but it might be relevant to your case too, depending on where you’re from.

So read on! Today we’ll answer the question: Do you have to give up your US citizenship to get Spanish nationality?

The answer, as with many legal questions, is a bit complicated.

Kind of a “yes and no”. But mostly, it’s a no.

Ready?

Let’s get into it.

What’s up with getting a Spanish nationality?

For people from the US of A, getting a Spanish nationality takes a while.

Basically, you need ten years of living (legally) in Spain before you can apply. After that, it could still take a while for it to be granted.

My advice, as usual, is get a lawyer to tell you all about it. Preferably, a good lawyer. Not Pedro Jiménez, Abogado de Barrio.

(I swear to god, there’s some mofos on Facebook claiming to be lawyers who could just use Google for 5 minutes and be more informed than they actually are. So I repeat: get a good lawyer. Preferably one who specializes in immigration.)

Also, a disclaimer: I read stuff online, and talk to lawyers, but this ISN’T legal advice. Get your legal advice from your lawyer, like I said. See the end of this article for a personal recommendation.

Anyway, to answer the question: what happens when you apply (as a person from the US) for Spanish nationality?

Well, apparently, you have to claim that you’re renouncing your other nationality when you do the “jura de nacionalidad”. But this is just a formality.

The Spanish government doesn’t much care if you do renounce it. They just want you to say it, or check a box on some form.

They’re not going to follow you around, in other words, to make sure you actually do it.

Also, I should note that the citizens of “Iberoamerican countries”, as well as Portugal, The Philippines, Ecuatorial Guinea and Andorra don’t have to renounce THOSE nationalities when they get Spanish citizenship. And some countries have a nationality that’s “unrenounceable” anyway.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

You are technically required to renounce, but… well, just keep reading.

So will I lose my US citizenship with Spanish nationality?

A lot of people also think they’ll just be automatically stripped of US citizenship if they get Spanish nationality. Is it true?

Long story short: it seems extremely, extremely unlikely.

There actually are ways to lose your US citizenship. Mostly, they’re things you’re (probably) not going to do here in Spain. You can lose your US citizenship if you…

  • Run for public office in a foreign country (under some circumstances).
  • Do military service in a foreign country (under some circumstances).
  • Apply for citizenship in a foreign country with the intention of giving up U.S. citizenship.
  • Commit treason against the United States.

Most people who actually lose or renounce their US citizenship only do so in order to go back to their original home countries and become Prime Minister or something. Or they’re discovered, decades later, to have been Nazi war criminals in the 1940s. Probably not your case, gentle reader.

And about the “Apply for citizenship in a foreign country with the intention of giving up U.S. citizenship” bit… well, that’s the ambiguous one.

Because apparently, if you’re doing it for some other reason, you’re okay, as far as the US is concerned. Generally, you have to go to the US consulate in some other country to swear – in front of the Consul – that you’re intentionally renouncing your US citizenship. As long as you don’t do that, you’re golden.

And even then, you have to make an appointment with the Embassy, have two separate interviews, probably pay some large fee. It’s not that easy. Check out the US Embassy in Spain website for a few details about the whole thing.

(There are, of course, some extreme cases. If you go and nationalize in North Korea, which is openly hostile to the US, you’re probably going to set off some alarm bells back in “America”. And if Spain goes to war with the US – it’s happened before, after all – and you decide to become an Admiral in the Spanish Armada, well, good luck keeping your US passport. Other than that, though, you should probably be fine.)

En fin…

What I’m saying is that it’s far from automatic: you don’t just lose your US citizenship the moment you get a Spanish passport. If you feel like renouncing, though, I guess you can.

Anyway I know a couple of US people who have gotten nationalized in Spain and had no problem.

If all goes well, I’ll be doing it soon. Some of my friends – the ones who’ve been here long-term – probably will, too.

The main thing is, don’t take advice from people who have no idea what they’re talking about, and don’t base your life on rumors you heard from someone you met at a pub quiz or a dog park.

Actually take the time to read some government websites, and consult – as I’ve suggested before – a real, good lawyer. And, as always, have fun!

The bureaucracy is never going to end. So you might as well get used to it.

Keep it real out there, kids.

Yours,

Mr Chorizo (AKA Mr Daniel).

P.S. Speaking of good lawyers, the people at Melcart Abogados are multilingual and offer a wide range of services, including immigration, US notary, “homologación” and more. They also helped me by looking over this article to make sure everything is correct… Check them out!

Daniel
 

How did I end up in Madrid? Why am I still here 12 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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