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Citizenship

Axel Kreienbrink

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Until now, Spain's citizenship policy has had a clear ethnic bias, one that favours naturalisation for Latin Americans. A satisfactory level of integration in Spanish society, proof of legal residence and proof of good civic conduct are required.

Spanish citizenship law has been amended several times in recent years (1982, 1990, 1995 and 2002). Unfortunately, all of these reforms have had nothing to do with the immigration issue or the facilitation of immigrant integration in general.

While more recent amendments have focused very much on integration, they have been limited above all to persons who were once Spanish or were descendants of Spaniards, making it easier for such people to reapply for citizenship and thus (re)integration. The most recent reform extended this privilege to grandchildren of former citizens. Mostly, this affects people from countries that were major destinations for Spanish emigrants in the 20th century, such as Argentina and Venezuela. Some figures estimate that as many as 400 000 Argentineans might be eligible for Spanish citizenship under this law. For the legislative period 2008-2012, however, the new Minister for Labour and Immigration has agreed to look into citizenship reform. This would benefit immigrants as it provides for a reduction in the necessary period of residence.

Naturalisation in Spain, 1975-2006 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Until now, citizenship policy has had a clear ethnic bias, one that favours naturalisation for Latin Americans. In contrast to the usual ten years of residence one must first fulfil in order to apply for citizenship, Latin Americans must reside in the country for just two years before applying. Dual citizenship is permitted on the basis of agreements between Spain and numerous Latin American countries, or mutually recognized in the absence of such an agreement. Accordingly, naturalisation figures between 1975 and 2006 show that almost two thirds (62%) of Spain's approx. 379 300 naturalised citizens come from Latin America – and mostly since the beginning of this decade. During this same period, 19% came from Africa and 11% from Europe.

To be eligible for citizenship, a satisfactory level of integration in Spanish society, proof of legal residence and proof of good civic conduct (conducta cívica) are required. In order to determine the level of integration, information on language skills is obtained regularly from the civil registers, which likewise places Latin Americans at an obvious advantage.

Fussnoten

Fußnoten

  1. Bisaccia 2003. Applicants for Spanish citizenship only have to prove one year's residence. The Law of Historic Memory passed in December 2007 extended to 2010 the opportunity for third generation Spaniards to opt for Spanish citizenship even without one year's prior residence.

  2. Reacquired Spanish citizenship is not included in the figures.

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