The right to citizenship by birth in each country

Each country has its own legal quirks in terms of nationality and immigration, among which we can find the rules that determine who has the right to obtain citizenship. In this respect, few issues establish a clearer dividing line than the criterion regarding people’s access to citizenship at the time of birth. We can focus on two concepts which, as their Latin names indicate, are rooted in ancient Roman law: jus soli and jus sanguinis. Since people who need a lawyer specializing in international law turn to our firm, we are quite familiar with concepts such as those we are reviewing today.

In general terms, jus soli (“right of the soil”) is understood to refer to the right of anyone born in a specific territory to obtain its citizenship, as per the provisions of its laws. In contrast, jus sanguinis establishes access to citizenship by blood, with a newborn obtaining the nationality of their parents, regardless of their specific birthplace.

In practice, jus sanguinis is recognized with different conditions in most countries around the world, while only some grant jus soli, especially when it is granted without restrictions. In this regard, it is interesting to note that jus soli is applied unconditionally, and is essentially confined to countries in the Americas, where it tends to be the norm (one of the best-known cases is that of the United States, where a child is considered a U.S. citizen due to the mere fact of being born in any of its states, regardless of their parents’ nationality). However, as any lawyers specializing in international law can explain, several other countries do have specific scenarios or exceptions in which citizenship is not automatically granted to those born in their territory who have foreign parents. Spain is one of them, because it applies jus sanguinis.

The right to Spanish citizenship by birth

What are the conditions governing this matter in Spain? According to article 17 of the Civil Code, along with full recognition of jus sanguinis (“those born of a Spanish mother or father are Spaniards by birth”), there are some very specific instances in which children born without any Spanish parent are entitled to citizenship. They are the following: that one of their parents was also born in Spain despite lacking citizenship, that neither of their parents has a nationality or the legislation of their respective countries doesn’t grant the child one, or that the identity of both of the parents is unknown. We must not forget that every child has the right to a nationality.

Of course, beyond birthrights, there are various mechanisms provided in order to obtain Spanish citizenship, and at ICN LEGAL you can always find our team of lawyers who are former judges trained to advise you in detail in this regard.

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