Today I’d like to get legal.
Let’s talk about one of those huge myths around getting Spanish nationality.
This article is mostly applicable to people from the US, but it might be somewhat 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.
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 your nationality application be granted.
When I say “a while” I mean a couple of years.
This could be faster if you’re married to a Spanish person, but still. We’re talking about years.
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 according to what I’ve read, this is mostly 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 – for example, Spain’s southern neighbor Morocco – have a nationality that’s “unrenounceable” anyway.
Like I said, it’s complicated.
So you are technically required say that you renounce your citizenship, but… well, just keep reading for the details about that.
So will I lose my US citizenship with Spanish nationality?
A lot of people also seem to think they’ll be automatically stripped of their US citizenship if they get Spanish nationality. Is it true?
Long story short: No.
Or at least, it seems extremely, extremely unlikely.
From the State Department website:
U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. A U.S. citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to his or her U.S. citizenship. However, persons who acquire a foreign nationality after age 18 by applying for it may relinquish their U.S. nationality if they wish to do so.From state.gov, retrieved 22 June 2023.
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. The State Department doesn’t have an office full of people sitting around trying to guess your intentions.
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 to convince them it’s something you really want, and 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 become a full citizen of 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… US / Spanish double nationality is possible
What I’m saying is that double nationality is possible, and losing your US citizenship is far from automatic: you don’t just lose your US it 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.
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!
P.P.S. Recently, the issue of renouncing US citizenship was – briefly – in the news because of the death of Tina Turner. Looks like Tina gave up her US passport after years of living in Switzerland. I can’t find any good explanation of why she did this, but it’s at least possible it was for financial (tax) reasons. Or, maybe Switzerland actually makes you renounce other countries when applying. I’m not sure. In any case, if you’re Tina Turner wealthy, you’ve probably got a different set of priorities than most people.