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Descendants of International Brigades to get fast-track Spanish nationality

Spain will give the descendants of International Brigade fighters who fought fascism during the Civil War an expressway to Spanish citizenship and dual nationality, with people from the UK, the US and many other countries eligible.

spanish citizenship descendants international brigades spain
Photo of Yugoslav volunteers in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Spain's Democratic Law extends the citizenship offer to descendants of International Brigade fighters, who can now get Spanish nationality without losing theirs. Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain


The children and grandchildren of fighters who fought for the International Brigades during Spain’s Civil War will be able to acquire Spanish citizenship – and won’t have to give up their other nationality in order to do so.

The fighters themselves have been able to apply for Spanish citizenship since 1996, though they were required to drop their other nationality. Spain’s 2007 Historical Memory Law removed that requirement, though the offer of citizenship was not extended to their descendants.

There was confusion in 2020 when Spain’s then deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias tweeted that descendants of International Brigade fighters would be included in legislation, but when the final legal text appeared, it confirmed that the proposal did not stretch to descendants and only included the International Brigade veterans themselves. 

Now Spain’s new Democratic Memory Law, which passed the Spanish Senate on October 5th and officially became law on October 21st, finally extends the citizenship offer to descendants who can get Spanish nationality without losing theirs.

They will even be able to do it through the fast-tracked naturalisation process – seen as the expressway to Spanish citizenship and used by public figures such as Barcelona footballer Ansu Fati and actress Imperio Argentina.


According to the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI), a group involved with drafts of the legislation, there are at least one hundred known descendants that have been identified so far. They come from around the world, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Cuba, the former Yugoslavia, Argentina, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

As there are so few descendants of international brigade fighters, however, many view their inclusion in the citizenship legislation as a symbolic gesture that is part of the Democratic Memory Law’s efforts to settle historical debts with the past.

Though the legislation does extend citizenship, it’s not thought that a flood of applications will follow. “There will be no avalanche, it is a symbolic measure that has a purely sentimental importance for the relatives of the fighters,” the AABI explained to Spanish news website

Participants wave republican flags during a 2015 march called by the Friends of International Brigades Association to commemorate the involvement of the International Brigades in the Battle of Jarama during the Spanish Civil War. (Photo by CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP)

The International Brigades

Between 1936 and 1939 at least 35,000 international volunteers from around 50 countries, including around 2,500 Brits, fought against Francisco Franco’s fascist troops in the International Brigade during the Civil War. An estimated 10,000 foreign volunteers died in Spain, according to the Spanish Civil War Museum. 

The British novelist George Orwell, who fought with a Communist regiment of the Republican army during the war, described in gory detail the sacrifices of the International Brigades in his seminal work ‘Homage to Catalonia’.

READ ALSO: Remembering the Battle of Jarama and the role of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War

citizenship international brigades spain

Anti-fascist demonstration in London reported on the front page of Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia on September 11, 1936. Photo: Dorieus/ Wikipedia (CC BY SA 4.0)

What is Spain’s Democratic Memory Law?

The citizenship offer is part of the broader Democratic Memory Law that aims to “settle Spanish democracy’s debt to its past” and deal with the legacy of its Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship.

READ ALSO: Spain’s new ‘grandchildren’ citizenship law: What you need to know

In recent weeks, the Spanish government confirmed that as many as 700,000 foreigners with Spanish lineage are eligible Spanish citizenship without having ever lived in the country, including those with ancestors who fled Spain for fear of persecution during Franco’s dictatorship.

Between the end of the Civil War in 1939, and 1978, when Spain’s new constitution was approved as part of its transition to democracy, an estimated 2 million Spaniards fled the Franco regime.


Legislation concerning Spain’s dictatorial past is always controversial, and this law was no different – it passed the Spanish Senate earlier in October with 128 votes in favour, 113 against, and 18 abstentions.

The Spanish right have long been opposed to any kind of historical memory legislation, claiming that it digs up old rivalries and causes political tension. Spain’s centre-right party, the PP, have promised to overturn the law if it wins the next general election.

READ ALSO: Spain’s lawmakers pass bill honouring Franco-era victims

Other aspects of the law include the establishment of a DNA register to help families identify the remains of the tens of thousands of Spaniards were buried in unmarked graves; the repurposing of the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, where Francisco Franco was buried until his exhumation in 2019; and a ban on groups that glorify the Franco regime.

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For members


Common mistakes when applying for Spanish citizenship and how to avoid them

Though Spain has granted citizenship to more people than other European countries in recent years, the application process is incredibly lengthy and fraught with pitfalls. Here are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Common mistakes when applying for Spanish citizenship and how to avoid them

Spanish bureaucracy can be a little convoluted, to say the least, and getting Spanish citizenship can take a seriously long time.

In fact, Spain is one of the European countries where getting citizenship through residency can take the longest – 12 to 13 years if you factor in processing times. The general rule is that if you want to apply for Spanish citizenship, you will have to reside legally in Spain without long absences for ten years. 

Nationals from Ibero-American countries where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela, as well as nationals of the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Andorra or Portugal, can, however, apply for Spanish nationality after legally residing in Spain for two years. 

Marrying a Spaniard also means that the process can be speeded up – from 10 years to just one. 

Despite that, Spain granted 144,800 new citizenships in 2021, which represented 17 percent of all naturalisations in the whole of the European Union. 

READ ALSO: Spain gave citizenship to more people than any EU country in 2021

But aside from being from an Ibero-American country or marrying a Spaniard, the entire process can take a long time.

So if you’re considering applying (and have been in Spain legally for long enough), you’ll want to be sure that your application is absolutely watertight and without any mistakes – prolonging the process is the last thing you’d want to do, after all.

The Local has outlined the most common mistakes people make on their citizenship application (and how to avoid them) below.

READ ALSO: How to quickly get a UK passport for a child born in Spain

Common mistakes to avoid

1. Not having a valid passport

It seems obvious, but without a valid passport, you won’t be able to proceed with a citizenship application. You need a valid passport, and if your passport has expired and is in the process of renewal (when you apply) you must provide some documentation to prove it is in the process of being renewed.

Once you receive the renewed passport, you’ll be able to add it to your application.

2. Failure to provide all passport pages

Staying with the passport theme, it’s very important that when asked for a copy of your passport as part of the application, you must copy every single page, even if they’re blank or without any information or stamps. Do not just apply with the photo page.

Copies should be done professionally and every page must be legible with the page number.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Spain

3. Not uploading CCSE and DELE grades

The Conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales de España (CCSE) is the exam you must take to prove your understanding of the Spanish constitution, culture and society in order to obtain citizenship.

The DELE, on the other hand, is the Spanish exam you need to take to prove you have a basic grasp of the language.

When submitting your application online, the Spanish Ministry of Justice offers the option of transferring your grades directly from the Instituto Cervantes, the body that organises the exams.

Convenient though this is, Spanish immigration experts suggest also uploading your certificates themselves as part of the application, in addition to transferring the grades, as a way to avoid any kind of technical error, either by the Instituto Cervantes or by the Ministry itself, that could slow the application down.

Spanish tech systems and online portals are, after all, notoriously unreliable. 

However, if you don’t choose the auto-transfer option at all, the Ministry will have to request these documents, which will further delay the application, so be sure to cover your bases and do it both ways.

4. Spelling mistakes

Again, another obvious one, but something that slows down a lot of applications. Make sure yours is totally free of errors, above all on the NIE/TIE, name, surname, residence dates, parents’ names and date of birth sections.

Although the government always cross references the application data against those they already have in their possession, such as the NIE/TIE, passport, padrón, and so on, getting your application right the first time around will help speed up the process.

READ ALSO: How long are waiting times for the Spanish citizenship process?

5. Applying with a criminal record

Applying for Spanish citizenship with a criminal record will really hurt your application. Any applicant who has a criminal or police record will almost certainly be denied. Applicants must have a clean criminal record, both in Spain and their country of origin.

Some immigration lawyers in Spain even suggest that things such as unpaid speeding tickets or having failed a breathalyser test could lead to your application being rejected.

6. Expired criminal record certificate

With that in mind, applying for citizenship with an expired criminal record certificate (something you need to prove you don’t have a criminal record or outstanding charges) works in the same way as passports. That is to say: it cannot have expired.

Depending on where you’re from and which company issues the background check and certificate, sometimes they don’t have expiration dates. In this case, it is generally assumed they are valid for six months from the date of issue, according to the official government advice:

“[…] In order to determine the validity in the case of certificates, the term of validity stated in the document itself will be taken into account. In the case of criminal record certificates that do not state a period of validity, it will be understood that they are valid for six months from the date of issue“.

7. Starting your application before the legal residence has elapsed

If the required time of legal residence has not been fulfilled (whether it be two or ten years) your application for Spanish citizenship will be rejected. 

So, let’s say you’ve lived permanently in Spain for nine years and you’re now just one year from the legally required residency period and want to start the application ahead of time, no can do, the requirements of legal and continuous residence must be met BEFORE the application is processed.

8. Not living with (or registering) with your partner for long enough

Although it’s true that marrying a Spaniard is the quickest route to citizenship, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.

An important but misunderstood nuance of this rule is that you not only have to marry a Spanish citizen but fulfill time requirements too. You must have legally lived together for one year, sharing the same address on the empadronamiento, in order to be able to apply for Spanish nationality through marriage.

If the Ministry of Justice doesn’t see sufficient evidence for this or decides that the spouses do not live together, the legal residence will be considered not effective and the application denied.