The complexities surrounding the maintenance of citizenship and nationality can be confusing and ambiguous, and potentially lead to unforeseen and damaging circumstances.

If you have obtained Spanish nationality, but reside in a country other than Spain, you may be concerned about the possibility of losing your nationality because of time spent outside the country or because of certain actions you take abroad.

Because if you have Spanish nationality, you can legally move to another country and take up residence there without encountering any obstacles.

You may be interested in: Practical guide to the rights and obligations of foreigners in Spain.

Residence outside Spain does not automatically entail the loss of Spanish nationality, regardless of whether you were born in Spain or acquired your nationality in another way.

Persons with Spanish nationality lose their nationality in the following circumstances:

  1. Residing abroad and voluntarily acquiring another nationality. To avoid this loss, individuals may declare their wish to retain their nationality within 3 years. However, acquiring the nationality of Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal does not entail the loss of nationality.
  2. Live abroad and, for a period of 3 years, use only the nationality you renounced when you acquired Spanish nationality. To avoid this loss, you must express your wish to keep your nationality within 3 years. Acquiring nationality in Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Portugal does not automatically entail the loss of Spanish nationality.
  3. Emancipated Spaniards, who have another nationality, habitually live outside Spain and voluntarily renounce Spanish nationality.
  4. Spaniards born abroad who acquire Spanish nationality through their Spanish parents, also born abroad, lose their Spanish nationality if they do not express their wish to retain it within 3 years of coming of age or independence.

According to the Spanish Ministry of Justice, non-native Spaniards, such as persons who have acquired Spanish nationality by marriage or residence, may have their nationality revoked in the following situations:

  1. If, after acquiring Spanish nationality, you make use of the nationality they have renounced for a period of three years.
  2. If you voluntarily join the army or take up political office in a foreign country, despite the express prohibition of your own government.
  3. If a judgment establishes that the person concerned has used falsehood, concealment or fraud to obtain Spanish nationality.

But if you think these loss scenarios are unlikely, here is a real case.

In 2023, a Spanish citizen who became an Australian resident and subsequently acquired Australian nationality used TikTok to inform the public that the Spanish authorities had notified him that his Spanish nationality had been revoked due to his newly acquired Australian nationality.

As an Australian naturalised Spanish citizen, José had up to 3 years to apply to retain his Spanish nationality. Tragically, no one had informed him of this requirement when he became a naturalised Australian, and he was now discovering the consequences of this lack of knowledge.

Moreover, the inclusion of biometric data in most foreign passports, including Spanish passports, allows for international verification of a person's information.

Currently, passports are mainly biometric, which means that information stored in global databases can be easily scanned and verified by border controls and other authorities.

Measures to be taken

What steps can you take to avoid losing Spanish nationality? My advice is to consider the following approach.

To avoid the risk of losing your nationality, it is essential that you demonstrate the active and continuous use of your nationality and express your intention to continue to do so.

But what does it mean to use your nationality? There are several possibilities, such as:

  1. Regularly renew your Spanish passport, as it is often considered proof of your commitment to keep it and to make use of your Spanish nationality.
  2. Take part in the Spanish elections, even if you live outside Spain, as you can do so from abroad.
  3. Take advantage of the freedom of movement within the European Union that your Spanish passport gives you, in particular to travel throughout the EU with your Spanish passport.
  4. Use your Spanish passport to get married abroad.
  5. Apply for visas for other countries that require them, using your Spanish passport.

Non-Spanish nationals considering acquiring Spanish nationality by residence in the future should also be aware of the duration of their stay abroad.


And if I lose my Spanish nationality, can I get it back?

The short answer is yes. However, Spanish nationality can be recovered after it has been lost only under certain circumstances:

  • The person concerned must be legally resident in Spain. This requirement does not apply to persons who have left the country to settle elsewhere, nor to their descendants. In exceptional cases, the Minister of Justice is empowered to waive this requirement. For example, persons who have carried out philanthropic activities for the benefit of Spanish interests or associations may be exempted. This provision is contained in the Order of the Ministry of Justice of 11 July 1991, published in the BOE of the same date.
  • The interested party must formally express his/her wish to regain Spanish nationality before a Civil Registry.
  • The recovery of nationality must be officially registered at the Civil Registry Office.

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