It is an open secret among Filipinos in Europe that the easiest way to get a European passport is to go to southern European countries like Spain.
Spain requires Filipinos to have only two years of residency to be eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship. Same requirement applies to nationals of former Spanish colonies, Andorra, Portugal and people of Sephardic origin.
Once you acquired a Spanish citizenship, you will automatically be a European Union citizen as Spain is a member country of the European Union. This gives free movement and opportunity to live and work in other countries within the European Economic Community including Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
After getting a Spanish passport some Filipinos would look for greener pastures in other European countries. Some would also opt to stay in Spain which relatively has good quality of life and better climate compared to Northern European countries.
*Everything might sound so easy in paper but in reality getting a Spanish passport is not a walk in the park. The two-year residence requirement is just one of the many requirements.
Filipinos who have already acquired nacionalidad española or the Spanish citizenship would always say that it was easier to get it before.
Like Baicel Agdan just got her Spanish citizenship after waiting for more than five years.
“Mabilis pa noon, hindi pa masyadong mahirap, ang sa interview ang tatanungin lang tungkol sa datos mo let’s say yung pangalan, simple lang, walang mga tungkol sa Constitution, walang tungkol sa social issues, so madaling madali.”
Nowadays, the government conducts interviews to test whether the applicant knows how to speak Spanish and gives exams to test the applicant’s knowledge on Spanish history, society and laws. These tests were once criticized for being too difficult that even Spain-born citizens could not answer. There are also more and more applicants for Spanish citizenship. It was once reported that there are truckloads of applications (approximately 500,000 applications in just four months) that the Ministerio de Justicia could no longer accommodate.
Despite all these obstacles, not to mention long processing time and paper works, it seems that getting a Spanish citizenship is still the easiest considering the two-year residence privilege Filipinos have. What important is to know how to get it in the “usual waiting time”, which lasts for another two years, and prevent further delays.
I got my Spanish citizenship months ago after more than four years of waiting. Bureaucratic processes always take time and we have to deal with it. The only thing we can do is to avoid further delay. Let me share my experience and tips on how to avoid it.
Have a fix mailing address for notifications. Once you fill out your mailing address in the application form for citizenship, it is recommended not to change it anymore. Although they allow you to send them a copy of your empadronamiento stating your new address, it takes months for the government to update it.
They sent a notification letter to my old address but since I had changed address I was not able to receive it. I changed address a couple of times and notified them but it took them months to modify and update it. If you can’t avoid changing your address, you may ask a friend or somebody whom you think will never ever move out, use their address as your mailing address, and of course ask them to give you the notifications that they will receive.
Learn to speak and write Spanish. Personally, I don’t find it logical for someone who wants to be a Spanish citizen when he/she can’t even speak the language. Processing takes time and I think that waiting time gives you ample time to learn Spanish. Your Spanish will also be evaluated in an interview and the exams could have an essay part that will require you to write in Spanish.
According to Atty. Chona Abiertas Tenorio of Barcelona-based CAT Law Firm, Filipino’s lack of social integration in Spain is one of the main reasons why their application for citizenship gets denied.
“Most of the reasons ay yung kanilang integración social. Anong ibig sabihin nung integración social? Kailangan nakaka-speak sila ng Spanish at kailangang may knowledge sila ng culture ng Spain.”
Know Spain. How can you be a Spanish citizen if you don’t even know the major cities in Spain or you don’t even know Spanish food? These are very basic information. The exams, which demand more than that, include questions on Spanish history, Spanish laws and society.
It will help a lot if we are aware of things beyond what’s happening in the Filipino community.
There are many ways to do this—read Spanish newspapers every day, watch the news, watch Spanish programs, participate in local activities, travel in Spain, etc.
“Pag-aralan nyo yung geografía ng Espanya. Itatanong sa ‘yo, nasaan ang Andalucia, nasa norte, nasa sur, ‘di ba nasa sur? Kaya kailangan alam natin. Kung wala rin lamang kayong ginagawa, pagkagising nyo, buksan nyo ang telebisyon at kayo ay kumakain, por lo menos ‘wag kayong manood ng mga telenovela, yung panoorin nyo yung mga telediario, importante yun kasi pag lagi nyong nakikita yun mareremind ninyo yun,” Atty. Abiertas suggested.
Precy Brandia, who recently took the dreaded exam, shared her experience.
“Yung examination, oral exam. Una, ano yung naachieve ko dito at ano yung activities ko tapos may interview sila kung sino yung king and queen sa Spain, tapos ano yung Catalan food dito tapos sino yung president na gusto ko rito at sino yung president sa Catalunya, president sa Spain tapos ano ang side ko sa politics.”
Familiarize yourself with the process. Unless you have a lawyer or somebody is processing the application for you, you should be very familiar with the application processes as well as the most recent updates and laws. Is it approved? Denied? Avoid getting information through hearsay since each applicant’s experience may be different from yours. All important information are provided on the Ministerio de Justicia website. They also have hotlines which you can call if you have questions or need more information.
Make sure that the requirements are complete and correct. Incomplete and expired documents can further delay your application.
“Dapat tama lahat ng dokumento. Bukod sa mahaba ang proseso at kinailangan mo pang magpasa ng papel dahil expired na ang mga pinasa mo o magpapalit ka ng address o dahil nakita ng gobierno na maraming beses kang lumabas ng bansa, mas lalo pang tatagal ang proseso,” CAT Law Firm Atty. Miguel Ángel Cilleruelo Andrés said in Spanish.
And if your application gets denied, don’t worry, there’s still a chance to file an appeal. You will just have to wait for the response from the government or the court decision for almost a year, an ample amount of time to sharpen your Spanish language skills and improve your integración social to help you get your nacionalidad española.
Daniel Infante Tuano has been living in Spain for eight years and recently acquired his Spanish citizenship. He is very active in the Filipino community in Barcelona where he gives free Spanish lessons to kababayans. He is also Barcelona’s correspondent for ABS-CBN Europe and one of the editors of Ang Bagong Pilipino, an online magazine for Filipinos in Spain.