There are several criteria foreseen by the law for obtaining the Spanish nationality:
- Spaniards of origin: applicants born from a Spanish national mother or father, or applicants born from foreign parents but who have at least one parent was born in Spain.
- Residence in Spain: which vary depending on the nationality and status of the applicant. These are:
- 5 years for refugees and 10 years for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection;
- 2 years for nationals of Spanish American countries, Andorra, Philippines, Guinea, Portugal or Séfardies;
- 1 year for applicants who were born in Spain and those who were under public guardianship for a period of 2 years, applicants married to Spanish nationals for at least 1 year, widows of Spanish nationals, and Spanish descendants.
- Possession: applicants of Spanish citizenship during 10 years continuously;
- Option: applicants who are or have been under Spanish custody (patria potestad) or with Spanish nationals or born parents.
The management of the naturalisation process is undertaken by the Directorate-General for Registers and Notaries. The procedure is exclusively administrative and Civil Registers participate in the final oath taken by the naturalised person.
The application is submitted through an online platform, a website which will allow starting the process immediately with the request of the necessary documents and the assignment of a registration number.
Another feature of the procedure of acquisition of Spanish nationality by residence is the replacement of the interview on integration with two examinations or tests to be carried out at the Headquarters of the Cervantes Institute. The first test assesses the knowledge of the Spanish language (except for countries that are already Spanish speaking). The second test is on knowledge of constitutional and socio-cultural aspects of the country (CCSE). This second test consists of 25 questions, 13 of which must be correct to pass the exam. Neither disabled persons nor children go through these tests. 5 calls are scheduled for the taking of the first test and 10 for the second.
The CCSE tests have been subject to several critiques due to the type of information that can be asked, as it seems not to be relevant to assessing the degree of integration of the applicant, and as many organisations and newspapers have pointed out that most of the Spanish population would not know to answer either.
Costs foreseen under the whole procedure include around 100 € tax for naturalisation, plus €80 and €120 for taking the first and second exam.
The whole naturalisation process is known to be quite tedious and overall very long. The average duration of the process reaches a minimum of 1.5 years. In November 2018, the Ministry of Justice announced a plan with measures to resolve the backlog of around 360,000 of pending applications, including through the possibility of contracting about 100 professionals. As a result in 2019, around 115,000 applications were solved, but the backlog continued. According to available information, there were 200,000 applications pending at the Ministry of Justice as of May 2020. The Spanish Ombudsman has informed that between 2020 and March 2021 there were 289,846 pending applications for nationality. The Government launched a new plan for 2021, which implied the granting of the nationality for residence to 163,946 persons in 2021.