Children and grandchildren of Spanish citizens can now apply for Spanish passport without having to renounce British citizenship

November 16, 2023
Claudia Font


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Every time that we were asked by a client whether they could apply for Spanish passport without having to renounce their previous nationality, the answer was, regrettably, “it depends”.

And believe it or not, the “depends” was linked to whether or not they were born before 1978 and whether they were the children of a Spanish mother or father.

Before the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978, only men would transfer the nationality to their children, and although this was clearly discriminatory, the revocation of those articles did not have retrospective effects.

This meant that, although, since 1978 both men and women transfer their nationality to their children, those born before 1978 from a Spanish mother, would not be considered Spanish by origin. Therefore, when it comes to children of a British father and Spanish mother born in the UK before 1978, they were only given UK citizenship and not considered Spanish by origin.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

  1. UK citizen born before 1978, from a Spanish father and a British mother who has never had Spanish passport and now wants to obtain it. They are considered to be Spanish by origin but have lost Spanish citizenship. They can now file an application to recover their Spanish citizenship. They can keep their UK passport and will be given a Spanish passport.
  2. Same situation, but the mother is the Spanish citizen, and the father is the foreign national.

Those under these circumstances are not considered Spanish by origin and although they can still apply for Spanish citizenship, it is not classified as them going to recover it but instead seen as them opting for Spanish nationality. It is here where we find the main difference i.e. when opting for Spanish nationality, they will be asked to state that they renounce to their British citizenship.

Thankfully this has now changed.

After a long wait with the bill sitting at the Senates table, the new “Ley de Memoria Democratica” (LMD) was approved and entered into force in October 2022. With the new LMD, and more  importantly, with the interpretation made by the higher authority of Registrars in Spain CGRN, who made a wider interpretation of some articles of the LMD that were still a bit restrictive, we can now  say that the children and grandchildren of Spanish citizens (without this time any distinction or, in other words, any discrimination by gender) can apply (opt) for Spanish nationality by origin, without having to renounce their previous nationality.

It is not that we are writing about a new law one year later out of laziness, we are doing it when we have seen several applications submitted on behalf of our clients that were successful. We now have all the information to confirm that yes, it is possible and our clients have managed to secure Spanish nationality without having being asked to renounce their UK passport. Once the applicant is granted Spanish citizenship, they can then apply for a Spanish passport.

It is important to note that the law has given a window of two years to apply for Spanish nationality. Therefore, those interested in obtaining Spanish nationality through this new scheme, should submit their applications before October 2024.

Last but not least, those who already applied for Spanish nationality and had to state that they renounced their British nationality because they were the descendants of Spanish mother and applied with the old law, they can now use this new law to “convert” their nationality onto a nationality by origin.

Claudia is a Spanish Lawyer and English Solicitor, to read more about her or her practice, click here.

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