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At a time when the British are discovering that having double nationality is more than advantageous after Brexit, it’s worth considering whether dual nationality is possible. In this blog post we look at the case for having British and Spanish passports and ask can you be British and Spanish at the same time?

First considerations

In general terms, you can have as many nationalities as you like and as a country’s law allows. This explains why some people have a collection of passports!

However, just because you have a passport, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s effective or that it lasts for your whole life.

What’s the situation for a British national who has Spanish nationality and lives in Spain?

When a British national acquires Spanish nationality, they must expressly renounce their British nationality to the Spanish authorities. However, despite its formality, this step has no binding effects in the UK and in practice, a British national can be Spanish at the same time.

What does this mean in practice?

In Spain, the British national with dual nationality will be considered Spanish and, in the UK, British. A situation that is very similar to a Spaniard with dual nationality living in the UK but with fewer formalities, as we explain below.

What about Spaniards with dual nationality and living in the UK?

If the Spaniard only uses their British passport and have not made a sworn declaration to keep their Spanish nationality or have formally renounced it, they will lose their right to Spanish nationality from 21 onwards.

How can a Spaniard with dual nationality living in the UK keep their Spanish nationality?

To avoid the above situation, the Spaniards should inform the Spanish authorities that they intend to keep their Spanish nationality for three years after they acquire British nationality.

What does this mean in practice?

For practical purposes, a Spaniard with dual nationality and living in the UK will be considered Spanish in Spain and British in the UK.

Is it easy to obtain Spanish nationality?

If you’re British and also wish to have Spanish nationality, you must fulfil a number of requirements, not least a minimum period of residence in Spain.

Find out all about getting Spanish nationality

In general terms, you must live in Spain with a residence permit for at least ten years, although there are exceptions to this. The shortest required period is one year.

How can I get advice about being British and Spanish at the same time?

Get in touch with our immigration team who advise you on how to obtain dual nationality and its implications.  

Maria Luisa Castro

Director and Founder
María founded CostaLuz Lawyers in 2006 and is the Firm’s Director. María is registered Lawyer number 2745 of the Cadiz Bar Association and is licensed to practice in all areas of law throughout Spain. Working closely with her team, María has developed the firm into one of the most highly regarded and trusted Spanish Law Firms acting for English-speaking clients with legal problems in Spain. We’re here to help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation, initial legal orientation.
María Luisa De Castro - Costaluz Lawyers

18 thoughts on “Can you be British and Spanish at the same time?”

  1. Muhammad Javaid Akram Bibi

    I am Spanish National, I am living in UK since last six years , Actually I am thinking to get British citizenship but I don’t want to leave my Spanish Nationality. Is it any recommendations you can provide.

  2. How about triple citizenship is it possible? I got spanish passport, filipino and planning to apply for british passport since im working and living here for several years..? Thanks

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Janine,

      Thank you for reaching out to Costaluz Lawyers with your question about triple citizenship.

      It’s important to note that the policies regarding multiple citizenships largely depend on the specific laws of the countries involved. As such, it’s possible to hold citizenship from multiple countries if each of the countries permits it.

      Spain generally allows dual citizenship for citizens of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal. So, being a holder of Spanish and Filipino passports, it seems you are within the regulations of the Spanish law.

      As for the UK, it generally allows dual or multiple citizenships for individuals who qualify. However, it’s crucial to understand that even if the UK permits multiple citizenships, it does not provide consular protection to UK citizens while they are in another country where they hold citizenship.

      Given these points, it appears that obtaining British citizenship, in addition to your existing Spanish and Filipino citizenships, could be possible.

      However, as laws and policies can change, and since your situation may involve specific conditions or factors that I am not currently aware of, I strongly recommend seeking a current and thorough legal consultation. A consultation would provide you with the most accurate advice based on the latest laws and your individual circumstances.

      If you wish to proceed with a written consultation, please respond to this email, and I’ll provide you with the necessary information to start this process. We are in coordination with UK immigration lawyers.

  3. I have Spanish nationality living in Spain and would like to have British citizenship (I have the right to this as I was born in the Uk) but I do not want to lose my Spanish nationality .

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Subject: Dual Nationality: Spanish and British Citizenship Queries

      Dear Jane,

      Thank you for reaching out regarding your interest in obtaining British citizenship while retaining your Spanish nationality.

      Given your birth in the UK, you inherently have a claim to British citizenship. Now, when it comes to dual nationality, both Spain and the UK generally allow it under certain circumstances:

      Spain: While Spain typically requires renunciation of a previous nationality when a person naturalizes as a Spanish citizen, there are exceptions, especially for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal. For other nationalities (like British), Spain tends to have a stricter stance on dual nationality. However, in practice, Spain does not actively enforce this, and many people manage to effectively have both nationalities without any issue.

      UK: The United Kingdom permits dual citizenship without any restrictions. So, from the British side, there’s no issue in holding both British and Spanish citizenships.

      Steps to proceed:

      British Passport Application: If you were born in the UK, you should already be a British citizen (unless there are particular circumstances that might prevent that, like being born to certain diplomatic officials). In most cases, you can simply apply for a British passport.

      Informing Spanish Authorities: This is where you may need to be cautious. While Spain does not actively enforce the renunciation of the previous nationality for naturalized citizens, it might be wise to consult with a local expert before making any formal declarations about your dual intentions.

      Stay Updated: Immigration and nationality laws can change. It’s crucial to stay updated with any changes in regulations that might impact your status.

      If you need further information or require assistance with the application processes, please let us know. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

      Warm regards,

      Maria L. de Castro
      General Director, Costaluz Lawyers

  4. Dear Maria
    I hope you’re doing well.
    I was wondering if you could please help.
    I am a British citizen by birth as I was born and raised in the UK. I currently live in the UK.

    I wish to permanently move to Spain. However, I do not wish to renounce my British citizenship in order to become a Spanish national. I have read the Spain doesn’t allow dual nationality.

    If I were to renounce my British Citizenship in Spain, in order become a citizen of Spain, would I still be a British citizen in the eyes of the UK government? Or will I have lost my British citizenship altogether?

    I hope you can help.

    Many thanks.

    Best wishes

    Mr Kumar

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Mr. Kumar,

      Good morning and thank you for reaching out.

      To address your concerns:

      Dual Nationality: Spain typically does not officially recognize dual nationality for citizens from countries outside of Ibero-America, which includes countries in Latin America, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, and Portugal. However, the practical implications are a bit nuanced.

      Renouncing British Citizenship: While Spain might ask you to renounce your previous citizenship during the Spanish nationality application process, the UK doesn’t automatically recognize this renunciation unless done formally through UK procedures. So, even if you declare to Spanish authorities that you’re renouncing your British citizenship, you would still be considered a British citizen by the UK unless you take explicit actions through the UK government to renounce it.

      To put it simply: If you were to renounce your British citizenship solely for the Spanish naturalization process, you would still be considered a British citizen in the eyes of the UK government. However, do note that holding two passports requires careful consideration when traveling and dealing with governmental matters in either country.

      I hope this clears up your concerns. If you have any more questions or need further clarification, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. Hi Maria!
    My father is spanish but I am British born. Would I be able to apply for dual nationality? My father lives permanently in Spain now.
    Would My daughter be eligible also?

    Many thanks,

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Carl,

      Thank you for reaching out!

      Given that your father is Spanish, you are indeed eligible to apply for Spanish nationality by origin, even if you were born outside Spain. The fact that your father is a Spanish citizen allows you to have a rightful claim to Spanish nationality.

      Furthermore, concerning your daughter, if you obtain Spanish nationality before she turns 18, she would also have the right to claim Spanish nationality by option, due to her direct descent from a Spanish national.

      It’s important to note that the UK allows dual nationality, so you wouldn’t have to give up your British citizenship. Spain, however, generally requires new citizens from non-Iberoamerican countries to renounce their previous nationality. However, in practice, this often means making a declaration of renunciation without necessarily having to take steps to give up the original citizenship. Since the UK allows dual citizenship, you could potentially still use your British passport when needed.

      If you need assistance with the application process or have further questions, please let me know.

  6. Hi Maria, my situation is similar to Carl’s. However, my mother is Spanish, and wondered if that would make a difference? I was born in England. My mother still lives in Spain. I have a British passport and would like to apply for a Spanish one too. Is this possible without renouncing my British passport/nationality? Look forward to your reply, with thanks Mel

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Mel,

      Given that your mother is Spanish, and provided she was Spanish at the time of your birth, you have a strong claim to Spanish citizenship by descent. Spain recognizes the right to nationality for those with Spanish parentage, even if they were born abroad.

      In regards to your concerns about maintaining your British passport while acquiring a Spanish one: Spain, in principle, does not recognize dual nationality with countries outside of Ibero-America. This means that during the process of acquiring Spanish nationality, you would be asked to renounce your British nationality formally. However, in practice, this renunciation is more of a symbolic gesture. The UK does recognize dual nationality, so acquiring Spanish citizenship won’t lead to the automatic loss of your British passport.

      After declaring your renunciation of British citizenship to the Spanish authorities and obtaining your Spanish citizenship, you can continue to use your British passport for all purposes related to the UK and other countries that recognize it. The renunciation has no practical effect in the UK. This is a common practice for many dual nationals.

      Yours sincerely,

      María L. de Castro
      General Director
      Costaluz Lawyers

  7. Freddie Braddock

    Hi Maria,
    I am British Citizen and hold a British passport, I was born and raised in Spain until the age of 18 when I have moved to the UK to study. I am now 24 and finishing off my studies but still hold my Spanish residency. I am planning to continue to live in UK and work here. I am wondering if it is worth me applying for a Spanish citizenship and passport beforehand, as I guess I will no longer be a resident of Spain. If I do would living and working in the UK result in any issues with my Spanish citizenship in the long run, I assume I would use my Spanish passport for travel, but would need to use a British passport for employment etc in the Uk.
    Many thanks,

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Dear Freddie,

      Thank you for reaching out. Given your unique circumstances, there are a few things to consider:

      Spanish Residency and Citizenship: Despite having been born and raised in Spain, residency in Spain is contingent upon continuous legal residence. If you moved away from Spain 6 years ago and did not maintain your official residency (e.g., by not registering in the municipal register or ‘padrón’, not paying taxes, etc.), it’s possible that you may have lost your legal Spanish residency status. It’s important to note that residency and citizenship are two different legal statuses.

      Applying for Spanish Citizenship: Spanish nationality can be acquired in several ways:

      By birth: Those who are Spanish by birth include:

      Those born to a Spanish father or mother.
      Those born in Spain to foreign parents if, at least, one of them was also born in Spain. Exceptions to this are children of diplomats and certain international officials.
      Those born in Spain to foreign parents if both are stateless or if the legislation of neither of them grants nationality to the child.
      Those born in Spain of unknown parents or whose lineage is not determined.
      By residence: This involves living in Spain for a specific number of years legally and continuously. The generally required duration is ten years, but there are exceptions. For example, five years are required for those who have obtained refugee status, and two years for nationals from Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, or Sephardic Jews.

      By option: A benefit that the law grants to foreigners subject to the parental authority of a Spanish citizen. If the foreigner is or has been under the parental authority of a Spaniard, they can choose Spanish nationality.

      By letter of naturalization: This is a discretionary grant from the Government when exceptional circumstances are present in the individual.

      By possession of status: Those individuals who have possessed and used Spanish nationality in good faith, based on a title registered in the Civil Registry, for ten years without interruption. It is necessary that during this time they have had public activity as Spaniards and have not used the nationality attributed to them before the possession of the Spanish one during the same period.

      Dual Citizenship and Living in the UK: Spain generally allows dual citizenship with certain countries, though not explicitly with the UK. However, in practice, Spain rarely enforces renunciation, especially for EU citizens. Holding a Spanish passport can make traveling within the EU easier. Conversely, using your British passport for activities in the UK, including employment, would be straightforward and would not interfere with your Spanish citizenship.

      Long-term implications: Once you’ve obtained Spanish citizenship, living and working in the UK should not pose any issues to your Spanish citizenship. However, you might need to consider factors like tax implications if you earn income in both countries.

      To clarify your residency status and explore the possibility of obtaining Spanish citizenship, it would be best to consult with one of our immigration lawyers. They can provide guidance tailored to your unique situation and inform you of any recent legislative changes that may be relevant.

      Kind regards,

      Maria L. de Castro
      General Director
      Costaluz Lawyers

  8. My partner & I are currently live in the Uk
    My partner she is Spanish & I’m a British citizen

    Our daughter new born has a British passport isit possible for her to also obtain a Spanish passport (dual) with all of us living in the Uk also

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Hi Adrian:

      Yes, your newborn daughter can obtain a Spanish passport since her mother is Spanish. To do this from the UK:

      You’ll need to register your daughter’s birth at the “Consular Civil Registry” of the Spanish Consulate in the UK.
      For the registration, you’ll generally need the child’s British birth certificate and the parents’ passports or IDs.
      Once registered, you can apply for her Spanish passport at the Consulate.
      The UK allows dual citizenship, so she can hold both passports without issue.

  9. Dear Maria,
    Can you advise me if I would be eligible to obtain Spanish citizenship by descent?
    I am British ( born in the UK ) and hold a British passport. .My paternal grandmother and great grandmother were both Spanish. Both my grandfather and my father were born and grew up in Spain but were registered British as my great grandfather was British ( GGF moved from the UK to Spain).
    (My father has passed away , he was born in Huelva in 1917 and grew up in Cadiz and left Spain to come to the UK approx 1948) .

    1. Maria Luisa Castro

      Hi Therese:

      In regards to your question about obtaining Spanish citizenship by descent, let’s dive into the “Ley de Memoria Democrática” and how it could apply to you.

      Spain’s “Ley de Memoria Democrática” (Democratic Memory Law) allows descendants of Spanish nationals who had gone into exile during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco to claim Spanish citizenship. This provision has been designed to address the historical injustices suffered by those who had been forced to leave Spain during that tumultuous period.

      You should consider a few critical points:

      Exact conditions: Law establishes specific conditions and timelines that need to be met. The key is demonstrating that the ancestor in question (in your case, your father) was forced into exile due to the conditions in Spain at that time.

      Documentation: You would need to provide documents showing your direct lineage and the circumstances surrounding your family’s departure from Spain. This would likely include birth certificates, marriage certificates, and possibly other historical documents.

      Timeframes: The current “Ley de Memoria Histórica” has a limit on 21 st of October, 2024.

      We will be very pleased to assist you with the process. If you need, we can send to you our Terms and Conditions.

      ¡Buena suerte!

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