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Spanish citizenship applications up by a third
NUMBERS of foreign residents choosing to take Spanish nationality have risen by nearly a third in the last two years, and anecdotal evidence hints that the figure may go up even more after Brexit at the end of March 2019.
As yet, British citizens do not figure in the top 11, since there is rarely any need for European Union nationals to acquire a Spanish passport – although an increasing number of Brits say they are considering doing so once the UK leaves the EU if their existing rights are not retained in full.
Moroccans were the most likely to obtain Spanish citizenship, based upon figures for the year 2016 – the most recent on record at present – which is unsurprising, given that two of Spain's provinces border by land onto the North African country.
They totalled 37,009, a long way ahead of any other national group.
Morocco's historical cultural ties with Spain make it inevitable that the country would be among the top for producing new Spanish nationals, and all the others in the 10 most frequent are either former colonies or, in the case of Brazil, at number nine with 3,427, an immediate neighbour of an ex-colony.
Bolivians were the second-largest national group to acquire citizenship in 2016, at 15,802, followed by Ecuador (15,255) and Colombia (14,299).
Although foreign resident statistics show that these three nationalities, once the most prolific in Spain, have dropped considerably in the last 10 years or so, it is likely this is due to high numbers of them 'becoming Spanish' rather than returning to their countries of origin.
The Dominican Republic is fifth, with 9,176 becoming Spanish, followed by Cuba (4,353), Argentina (3,716) Brazil, and Paraguay (3,358).
Number 11 on the list, and the highest of all Asian countries whose citizens have taken Spanish nationality, is Pakistan, with 3,148.
After three years of consecutive decreases, 2016 saw Spanish citizenship applications go up by 32%.
Of these, just over half – 53.3% - were female, with the average age group being 30 to 39.
A total of 117,994 successful applicants, or 78.2%, were able to acquire citizenship based upon having been legally resident in Spain for a continuous 10 years or more prior to their application.
Another 21.7% acquired Spanish nationality through other means, such as being married to a Spaniard or having a mother, father or both born in Spain – the latter being largely the case in the under-20s.
The regions with the highest numbers of 'new' Spaniards were Catalunya (33,857) and Madrid (28,559), between them accounting for 41.4% of the national total, whilst those with the fewest new Spanish nationals were La Rioja, with 1,205 and Cantabria, with 1,227.
In terms of percentage of the population, the greatest proportions of inhabitants becoming Spanish were based in Navarra and the Basque Country, at 7.1% and 7% of their headcount respectively, with the smallest percentages being in Andalucía (2.4%) and the Canary Islands (2.5%).
Acquiring Spanish nationality typically requires 10 years' legal residence in Spain and successful completion of a multiple-choice 'sociocultural knowledge' test, with 25 questions of which 15 must be answered correctly.
Those not native to one of Spain's former colonies must also pass a written, spoken, reading and listening test in the Spanish language, although the level required is not high – at A2 on the Europe-wide competence scale, which ranges from A1 to C2, Spanish language ability needed for citizenship is roughly the equivalent of a good GCSE or O-Level grade.
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