Applying for Spanish Nationality (Pt 1)

I should lightly preface this entire post by saying it is going to be the first part of an extensive series of posts oriented towards a select group of people who may be interested and eligible for Spanish nationality.  As usual, I try to keep it real, up-to-date, and clear and concise about what you need to do (so you don’t have to make those pesky phone calls).

The criteria that I meet are the following:

  • A resident of Spain who has been married for one year to a Spaniard
  • Applying as an American
  • Applying on-line via the Ministry of Justicia’s website (more on this in a bit)
  • I currently live in Madrid, am employed, and ‘en alta’ in Social Security. 

There are other ways of achieving Spanish nationality. For a more detailed look, consult the Ministry of Justice’s page.

First Steps:


A Digital Certificate is a life saver that can often help you skip long queues and unnecessary trips to the town hall or government office.  It is a tool that requires a bit of footwork, but is worth the payoff and its weight in time saved and headaches avoided.  The idea behind it is that your identity has been manually verified by a government worker and that your NIE is linked to the software.

The process of getting your hands on one is fairly simple (explained further below). Ensure that your computer meets the software requirements (I use both a Mac and a PC on a daily basis).

The first step to go to the FNMT website and fill out the page with your details.


Upon submitting, the FNMT will send you an email to the email you had provided with a code.

cert dig 2

Upon receiving this message print out a copy (or six) and get ready to sit around a waiting room for the following step: verifying your identity. You can do it at a number of different places such as any Oficina de Atención al Ciudadano (OAC), also know as Línea Madrid in Madrid. If you take this route, it is by appointment only.  You can make your appointment online easily through the Madrid government website.


Once you have your appointment confirmed through e-mail (and you can have the option of having them send you a text message as well), print out the appointment sheet. When the day rolls around, show up a good ten minutes early with the following documents:

  1. TIE, NIE, or passport and photocopy
  2. Email confirmation code from FNMT
  3. Email confirmation from appointment


They will verify your ID and plug some things into their system. They will ask you to check over the document they give you (names, spelling, DOB, etc) and then tell you, you are ready to go. The process from start to finish takes about ten minutes tops.

Next, click on this link to download your digital certificate.

cert dit 2

Fill in the spaces with the information you provided. This is SUPER important: you must do this step on the same computer and the same browser (I personally use Firefox).  If you do not, the certificate will not be recognised.  Once you submit, the digital certificate will download.  Open it and install it onto your computer. The browser will probably restart. In order to ensure that your digital certificate is properly installed, you can check it out in your Firefox settings by clicking on the settings bar (the three vertical lines on the top right of the browser). Follow the order:

Preferences — Security and Privacy — Digital Certificates — See All Certificates.

cert dit 3

Now you can test your digital certificate before you get to the fun joys of dealing with the Ministry of Justice and their website. I use mine frequently for Madrid related paperwork, the DGT, Hacienda, and Social Security websites. It can be used to order copies of your empadronamiento, your affiliation with Social Security, seeing how many points you have on your license, see if you have any parking fines, etc.  Anywhere you see the logo below is free game to access a government service with your digital certificate.





I will begin by saying that I am fairly technology savvy, but I do try to abstain from dealing with software, programs, apps, and other potential burdens. Autofirma once again is a reminder that the path to hell is paved with good intentions because it works depending on the weather, the time of day, and if you are using the correct computer specs as specified by the government.

Download it here.

Honestly speaking, it works much better on a PC than a Mac and it works wonderfully with Firefox and has spotty moments with Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

You need this program in the process of requesting nationality for one reason: it is to virtually sign your documents. When you are in the system and uploading your documents, you will see in huge letters that IT IS REQUIRED TO HAVE AUTOFIRMA DOWNLOADED and to submit them, you have to click on a button that roughly translates to SIGN YOUR DOCUMENT.


The installation process is fairly straight forward, so I am not going to give a step by step guide on how to do so.

This is a fairly new addition to the Ministry of Justice and their migration to processing nationality digitally. Prior to July 2017, when you could still turn documents into the Civil Registries, you did not need to use Autofirma to sign your documents. It was a quick upload and submit sort of gig that was much easier and less of a headache.  It could be an extra layer of security, but it works sporadically at best.


The important question: do these two pieces of software ensure an easier process of applying for nationality?

My immediate answer is a firm, yet honest, it really depends. The actual process of starting the application (which I will detail in the third post) is fairly simple, easy to follow, and a lot of the requirements can be verified virtually with a simple tick of a box.

The biggest on-going issue is if the Ministry of Justice website is working or not. It seems to stop working and produce error messages on Friday (404, 502, etc) and seems to get back up and running on Tuesday around noon. I tried on a Mac and it works sometimes, I tried on a PC and it works most of the time.

Here is an example of an error message that I have been getting on both PC and Mac, Firefox, Chrome, and Edge:



Get used to it: error systems are abound. I have confirmed with two other individuals who went the virtual route that this is a routine song and dance that is just part of the experience.

Next Part: Documents required.



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