Thousands of Spanish descendants will be able to obtain Spanish nationality if their grandparents were exiled from Spain during the civil war and dictatorship.

The waiting time has been eternal 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 is now a reality. With it, those who are children or grandchildren of Spaniards will be able to apply for Spanish nationality, even if their ancestors have lost it for political, ideological, beliefs or sexual orientation and identity reasons.

The Law of Democratic Memory, as it is officially called, comes to settle a little more the debts that Spain has 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 principles, values and constitutional freedoms".

Last June, 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 has now been fulfilled. It has now been published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), and has officially become law.

The areas of action of this new regulation are very diverse. But for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, especially in the American continent, the Grandchildren's Law means, above all, an opportunity: access to Spanish nationality without the need to reside in Spain for a certain period of time.

The law on grandchildren and Spanish nationality

Before this draft Law of Grandchildren (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. As stated in 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 grandchildren", 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, corrects this previous regulation. 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 originally from Spain. In the event that they, as a result of having suffered exile for political, ideological or belief reasons or for reasons of sexual orientation and identity, have lost or renounced Spanish nationality.
  • If you are the son or daughter born abroad of a Spanish woman who lost her nationality (i.e., the possibility of passing it on to her descendants) because she married a foreigner before the 1978 Constitution came into force.
  • Or 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.

It should be noted that this new Law does not establish an age limit for applicants. In addition, from its entry into force, interested parties will have two years to apply for Spanish nationality by option, with the possibility of extension for one more year.

The precedent: Historical Memory Law of 2007.

The Law of Grandchildren or Law of Democratic Memory is not born out of nothing, but is heir to a law that already opened the doors of Spanish nationality to numerous children and grandchildren of emigrants in this country: the Law of Historical Memory of 2007. In fact, in a sense, this 2022 legislation is something like its evolution.

From its approval in October 2007 until the expiration of the deadline granted in 2011, the Law of Historical Memory has already opened the country's doors to numerous descendants of Spaniards born in Latin America. 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 reasons for the increase in the number of Spaniards living abroad.

It would be logical to expect that, now, with this new Law of Grandchildren, the consequences will be similar to those of 15 years ago.

The controversy: 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, already committed itself to repeal it. It did so through its secretary general and candidate for the next general elections, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

So, although the Grandchildren's Law is undoubtedly good news for Spanish descendants around the world, it cannot be said to be something that is here to stay. Increasingly, the world is a place that is very susceptible to change. So we will have to keep our eyes open.

Interesting notes

As we are starting to get more information on how to get started with the Spanish nationality process under the new Law of Democratic Memory, it is necessary to point out that you will only have one chance to apply, yes:

  1. You are the son/daughter or grandson/granddaughter of a native Spaniard who emigrated between July 18, 1936 and 1978.
  2. You are also entitled to it if your mother was born in Spain, emigrated and lost her Spanish nationality when she married a non-Spanish citizen.
  3. Or if your father/mother acquired Spanish nationality under the previous Law of Historical Memory.

The Law of Democratic Memory aims to preserve and maintain the memory of the victims of the Civil War and Franco's dictatorship. To this end, it considers as victims, among others, those who went into exile as a result of the War and the Dictatorship, people who suffered economic repression, sexual orientation or sexual identity, among others. All this regardless of whether or not the authorship of the violation of their rights is known.

Your application must be submitted through the Spanish Consulate corresponding to your place of residence. And at the moment, it does not seem to be necessary to pay any fee for the processing of the nationality.

You may have to prove your mother's, father's, grandfather's or grandmother's exile status. To do so, you must provide one of the following documents:

  1. Documentation that accredits having been a beneficiary of the pensions granted by the Spanish Administration to the exiles that proves directly and by itself the exile.
  2. Documentation from the United Nations International Refugee Office and the Refugee Offices of the host States that assisted Spanish refugees and their families.
  3. Certifications or reports issued by political parties, trade unions or any other entities or institutions, public or private, duly recognized by the Spanish authorities or the State of reception of the exiles that are related to the exile, either because their members have suffered exile, or for having excelled in the defense and protection of Spanish exiles, or for currently working in the moral reparation and recovery of the personal and family memory of the victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship.

On the other hand, the documents numbered 2) and 3) above will constitute proof of exile if they are also presented together with any of the following documents:

  • Passport or travel document with entry stamp in the host country.
  • Certification of the registry of the Spanish Consulate.
  • Certifications from the Consular Civil Registry proving residence in the host country, such as marriage registrations, birth registrations of children, death registrations, among others.
  • Certification from the local Civil Registry of the host country certifying having acquired the nationality of that country.
  • Documentation from the time of the host country showing the year of arrival in the host country or arrival by any means of transport.

Please note that exile status will only be considered for those persons with Spanish nationality who left Spain between July 18, 1936 and December 31, 1955; as well as, between January 1, 1956 and December 28, 1978. In all cases, you will have to prove your exile status.

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