Thousands of descendants of Spaniards can access nationality with the Grandchildren's Law of Spain.

The waiting time took forever and the negotiations between the Spanish Government and its partners in Parliament have been long, controversial and exhausting. So much so that the process seemed to have run aground months ago. However, the Grandchildren's Law has been a reality since October 2022. With it, those who are children or grandchildren of emigrants with Spanish nationality will be able to apply for Spanish nationality.

The Law of Democratic Memory, as it is officially called, comes to settle a little more of Spain's debts with its most recent past. Its objectives are clear. The recovery, safeguarding and dissemination of that memory so mistreated by 40 years of dictatorship. And, by extension, "to promote cohesion and solidarity among the different generations around the constitutional principles, values and freedoms".

In June 2022, the text of the new law promoted by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), was approved by the Congress of Deputies, but needed the approval of the Senate, which was subsequently also fulfilled, giving way to its publication in October in the Official State Gazette (BOE), to officially become law. The areas of action of this new regulation are very diverse.

In addition, from its entry into force, the interested parties will have 2 years to carry out the processing of the Spanish nationality by option.

For hundreds of thousands of people around the world, especially in the American continent, the Grandchildren's Law represents, above all, a window of opportunity to access Spanish nationality without the need to reside in Spain for a certain period of time.

The Grandchildren's Law and Spanish nationality

Before the Law of Grandchildren of 2022 (it was so called during the drafting process, but today it would be included in the so-called "Law of Democratic Memory"), access to Spanish nationality was much more restricted. According to the civil code, it could not be obtained if one was "20 years old or older" (in some cases), nor if one was "a descendant of Spaniards to the degree of grandchild, great-grandchild, great-great-grandchild and/or successive" (unless one had one year of legal and continuous residence in Spain with residence authorization), even if the "father/mother had acquired it after his/her birth or could still acquire it".

The new Law of Democratic Memory, through its eighth additional provision, provides new cases in which Spanish nationality can be acquired, although only during the validity of the law. It adds at least three new cases in which Spanish nationality can be requested:

  • If you were born outside Spain and you have a father, mother, grandfather or grandmother of Spanish nationality and that, as a consequence of having suffered exile for political, ideological or belief reasons or for reasons of sexual orientation and identity, you have lost or renounced Spanish nationality. Although when the Law was passed it was understood that proof of exile was a necessary condition, when the Instruction that developed the text of the Law was approved, it was understood that all those born outside Spain, of a father, mother, grandfather or grandmother originally Spanish, could apply for nationality, without the need to prove exile. And this is how the clients we advise are submitting their applications for Spanish nationality and they are being granted without any problem.
  • If you are a child born abroad of a Spanish woman who lost her nationality because she married a foreigner before the entry into force of the 1978 Constitution. Normally we do not recommend this assumption to our clients, since if you have a Spanish mother, the aforementioned route is used directly, as a son/daughter of an originally Spanish woman.
  • If you are the adult son or daughter of Spaniards whose nationality of origin was recognized by virtue of the right of option with the Law of Historical Memory of 2007 or with the current Law of Democratic Memory. This is a route that is being used quite a lot, since many children of those who acquired Spanish nationality with the 2007 Law, at that time were already of legal age, and were excluded from the possibility of applying for Spanish nationality. Not so their minor siblings, who could apply for Spanish nationality through another route established in the Civil Code. We also recommend this route for the children of parents who have just applied for nationality under the current Law of Democratic Memory. That is to say, if my father has just applied for nationality as the grandson of a Spanish citizen, with the Law of Democratic Memory, I, as the adult daughter of my father, can also apply for my Spanish nationality. In many cases the Consulates allow this application, without the need to wait for the resolution of my father's application. But not all of them allow it.
  • If one has opted for Spanish nationality by virtue of the section of the Civil Code provided for persons who have been subject to the parental authority of a Spaniard. These last two cases, for which Spanish nationality was granted "by option", it is now possible to acquire it "by origin", which can benefit certain children of legal age when applying for a residence permit in Spain in a simple way, by means of the so-called "family roots".

It should be noted that this new Law does not establish an age limit for applicants.

The precedent: Historical Memory Law of 2007

The Law of Grandchildren, officially the Law of Democratic Memory, is not born out of nothing, but is heir to a regulation that already opened the doors of Spanish citizenship to numerous children and grandchildren of Spanish emigrants. We are talking about the Law of Historical Memory of 2007. In fact, in a sense, the legislation passed in 2022 is something like its evolution.

From its approval in October 2007 until the end of the deadline granted in 2011, the Law of Historical Memory allowed many descendants of Spaniards born in Ibero-America to acquire Spanish nationality. Without going any further, some 150,000 Cubans were able to access Spanish nationality during those years, and this law was one of the main causes of the increase in the number of Spaniards living abroad.

According to data accessed by the newspaper La Razón, revealed by the Government in response to a legislative question presented by the Popular Party and signed by the deputy José Antonio Bermúdez de Castro, up to December 31, 2022, the Law of Historical Memory has granted Spanish nationality to a total of 373,616 people who have applied for it. In the same period of time, a total of 491,177 applications have been processed, with 97,671 being denied.

Havana (Cuba), with 186,830 approved applications, has the highest number of people who were granted Spanish nationality, among all the cities evaluated. Buenos Aires (Argentina), Mexico City (Mexico) and Miami (USA) are far behind Havana in the number of people who opted for the benefits of the Historical Memory Law.

And as was logical to expect, now, with this new Law of Grandchildren, the consequences are similar to those of 15 years ago.

According to consular statistics, only in Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico the number of petitions exceeded 425,000 requests. Meanwhile, descendants' organizations believe that the number of new Spanish nationalities exceeds 400,000.

The controversy: The Popular Party (PP) and repeal

Of course, this Law of Democratic Memory is not exempt from controversy and criticism. A few days after the way was opened for its definitive approval, the PP, the main opposition party with the capacity to govern, already committed itself to repealing it. It did so through its secretary general, the former presidential candidate Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

A judicial process is currently underway in which the Association for Reconciliation and Historical Truth has filed a contentious-administrative appeal against the instruction issued by the Ministry of Justice on October 25, 2022. It argues that this approach exceeds the legal provisions and that it promotes a generalized and indiscriminate granting of Spanish nationality to a large and unconnected group, which does not correspond to the political exile that resulted from the end of the Civil War.

The lawsuit is now in the appeal phase before the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid.

Notes of interest

As we already have more information on how to start with the process of Spanish nationality under the new Law of Democratic Memory, it is necessary to highlight that you will only have the opportunity to apply for it if:

  1. You are the child or grandchild of an originally Spanish person.
  2. Your mother was born in Spain, emigrated and lost her Spanish nationality when she married someone without Spanish nationality.
  3. Your father/mother acquired Spanish nationality under the previous Law of Historical Memory or has applied for it under the Law of Democratic Memory.

Please note that the condition of exile will not be required as a prerequisite in this type of application.

In our office we have extensive experience in processing applications for Spanish nationality for foreigners residing in any country in the world, so do not hesitate to contact us so that we can know your specific case and provide you with the best advice to obtain your Spanish nationality by the Law of Democratic Memory.

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