Obtaining Spanish nationality through the new Grandchildren’s Law

Friday 30 September 2022

José-Luis Campillo
JLCA & As Lawyers, Alicante

The legislation known as the Grandchildren’s Law or the Democratic Memory Law was finally approved in the Spanish Parliament on 14 July 2020 after a long period of waiting. This will allow children and grandchildren of Spaniards to obtain Spanish nationality directly, without the obligation of having to reside in Spain for a minimum period of time.

It is evident that this change could have a very positive impact for many Latin Americans, as well as Americans of Spanish origin who reside in the United States.

However, this law is not yet in force; it is in a final phase before analysis by the Senate, which is a mere parliamentary formalism in Spain, waiting then for it to be sanctioned by the King, published in the Official State Gazette and shortly afterwards begin implementation. Once it comes into force, ‘La Ley de Nietos’ will allow many more foreign descendants of Spaniards to obtain nationality, far more than was predicted with the previous Historial Memory Law of 2007 that regulated the same situation.

The new law is more permissive with potential applicants for Spanish nationality, since it is a ‘Nationality by Option’ (through children) that will allow the children or grandchildren of Spaniards to obtain nationality directly from the Consulate or through of the Ministry of Justice (depending on the channel that the Spanish authorities facilitate). Therefore, and without the previous requirement of having lived in Spain for a year, thanks to their direct link with Spain (the family relationship), the law will allow them to be Spanish and, as a direct consequence of being European citizens, gain the ability to move and work freely throughout Europe – it is like obtaining a ‘European Passport’.

The three hypothetical case types who can apply for nationality under the law are:

  1. Children or grandchildren born outside Spain to a Spanish father, mother or grandparent who emigrated, was exiled (having only one Spanish ascendant would suffice) and left Spain for political, ideological or belief reasons or of orientation and sexual identity; and that due to said exile they lost or renounced their Spanish nationality. Their children or grandchildren may apply for nationality by virtue of the provisions of Article 20 of the Civil Code.
  2. The sons and daughters born in other countries to Spanish women who lost their nationality through marrying foreigners before the Spanish Constitution of 1978 entered into force.
  3. The sons and daughters of legal age of those Spaniards whose nationality of origin was recognised by virtue of the right of option in accordance with the Historical Memory Law (Seventh Additional Provision of Law 52/2007 of December 26) or of the present Democratic Memory Law.

This last point is fundamental, since it enables the children of legal age of those who can benefit themselves from the Democratic Memory Law itself to also obtain Spanish nationality.

The law is expected to be time limited and only in force for two years, and an avalanche of applications is anticipated given the potential benefits. Therefore, anyone who is interested will need to apply quickly given the expected deadline. Early preparation is also advised when collecting the documentation that will be required for the application itself, such as documents needed from relatives, both in Spain and in the country in which their grandparents or parents reside or resided, and also to appropriately legalise them.

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