How Spain’s New Democratic Memory Law is Granting Spanish Nationality + Interview with JLCA Lawyers

by Last updated Mar 30, 2023 | Published on Mar 1, 2023Europe, Living in Spain Series, Spain

There is an exciting new opportunity for Spanish nationality thanks to the new Democratic Memory Law. Having come into effect in October of 2022, it is already drawing thousands of Spanish descendants to apply. The new bill encompasses several laws of which the Ley de los Nietos, “Grandchildren’s Law” makes it possible to gain a Spanish passport.

How does this new bill apply to you and could you qualify for Spanish nationality through the Ley de los Nietos? In this article, learn more about the Democratic Memory Law and listen to my interview with JLCA Lawyer Cristina Gaspar.

This post does not constitute legal advice. For professional, legal advice, please consult a lawyer. We collaborate with JLCA Lawyers and we may receive a commission by referring you to their services, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to the Interview

Jump ahead to listen to the IG Live interview with JLCA Lawyer, Cristina Gaspar.

Who Does the Democratic Memory Law Apply To?

Democratic Memory Law - Valencia Torres de Serranos

The Democratic Memory Law applies to those who suffered persecution from the Spanish Civil War and the lasting effects of Francoism that resulted. Today, it is primarily the grandchildren and children of those who fled the Franco regime, who will benefit from the Ley de los Nietos by gaining Spanish nationality.

To sum up what Cristina Izquierdo Gaspar of JCLA Lawyers confirmed, there are three different situations, one of which you will need to identify with to qualify for the Democratic Memory Law’s Ley de los Nietos.

The first is if you were born outside of Spain but are the descendant of a grandparent or parent who had to leave Spain and renounce their Spanish citizenship due to exile. To be even more specific, your parent or grandparent could have been exiled for political, ideological, or sexual orientation reasons. All of these were the case because of the Franco regime.

Another scenario is if you are a son or daughter who was born outside of Spain to a woman who married a non-Spaniard, thus losing her Spanish Nationality. This was not included in the Historical Memory Law of 2007, through which my two brothers and I gained our Spanish nationality.

The final group you may be a part of, is if you are a son or daughter (legal age) of those given Spanish citizenship through the Historical Memory Law or Democratic Memory Law.

What is the Application Deadline for the Grandchildren’s Law (Ley de los Nietos)?

There is a two-year window to apply for Spanish Nationality through the Grandchildren’s Law (Ley de los Nietos). However, it is being highly recommended to apply as soon as possible.

This is because in late November or early December of 2023 Spain will have general elections again. If either the far-right party VOX or the right-wing People’s Party become the leading party in the Spanish government, they have already said that they will repeal the Democratic Memory Law.

How to Apply for Spanish Nationality through the Ley de Los Nietos

Democratic Memory Law - village view in Spain

The Ley de los Nietos application can be conducted through your local Spanish Embassy in your current country of residence. Each embassy may vary on what documentation they require. You can also apply from within Spain, for example if you are already a resident living here. If you do not yet have residency, keep in mind the amount of time you are permitted to be in Spain on whatever visa or tourist allowance you have.

JLCA Lawyer Cristina Gaspar was able to shed some light on how long the application process is taking. Remember that it varies per each person’s different situations, but in general it is taking around two to three months to gather the documents and then around six months for it to be processed and accepted by the Civil Registry.

While you can go through the process alone, you may want to hire the help of a law firm, such as JLCA Lawyers. With the help of a law firm, the document gathering process and dealing with the unique requirements of your embassy are navigated by a team of professionals, relieving you of stress and saving you time and error.

JLCA Law Firm is based in Alicante, Spain and serves all areas of the country. They also have an office in London, Miami, and recently opened a new office in Bogota, Columbia.

JLCA & AS Lawyers - Abogados

Get the best professional, legal help for processing your Spanish nationality and other legal services in Spain.

Other Assumptions About the Democratic Memory Law’s Ley de los Nietos

Gaining Spanish nationality through the Ley de los Nietos does not require you to live in Spain. Perhaps you simply want to get your Spanish passport for the advantages of traveling more freely around the EU, or to benefit your family in some way. Having a Spanish Passport holds a lot of advantages because of the quality of life here in Spain and the access to the EU’s Schengen Zone.

Taking a Spanish language test is not required as part of the application process. Although if you are going to use this opportunity to live in Spain, learning Spanish is highly encouraged if you do not know it already.

Understanding the Democratic Memory Law

Spanish Civil War

Above ImageVillage of Guernica in ruins. Image credit to Wikipedia.

To understand the significance of the Democratic Memory Law, we need to go back in Spain’s recent history. After the dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, the newly Democratic government at that time passed the Pact of Forgetting. It caused Francoism to not be confronted and allowed no prosecution of human rights crimes that were committed by the regime.

Over the years and into the 21st century, even memorials to Franco remained standing. When mass graves of Republicans murdered by the Franco regime began to be found across the country, no resources and very little support was provided to their families to identify the bodies and provide them with a proper burial. Keep in mind, Franco was an ally of Hitler and Mussolini, receiving help from them in the Spanish Civil War and later lending them support during WWII.

So now, to raise up Spain to truly be a humanitarian, first-world nation, the Democratic Memory Law is responding to the consequences of Francoism. This includes the following laws:

  • Offering Spanish citizenship to the descendants of exiles from Spain who fled the Franco regime, which we talked about here as the Ley de los Nietos.
  • In the education system, from secondary school and higher, the dictatorship will be taught about.
  • Convictions of military rebellion against Franco from 1936 to 1938 will be made void, of which there are tens of thousands.
  • The government is now responsible for the exhumation and identification of bodies murdered by the Francoist regime and found in unmarked graves.
  • A registry will be created to help connect information and provide DNA testing to help locate surviving relatives.
  • The Valley of the Fallen monument is being redefined as a national cemetery for those killed on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, with no particular grave set apart as more important than another. Already, the remains of the dictator Francisco Franco, for which he built the mausoleum, have been removed and relocated to rest beside his wife in their village cemetery.
  • The removal of any remaining Francoist symbols from around the country and imposing fines for any promotion of Fascist symbols and any attempts to humiliate victims of Fascism.
  • Abolishing nobility titles given by the Franco regime.
  • Dissolving the Franco Francisco National Foundation.

You and the Democratic Memory Law

Spanish Civil War

Above ImageMy abuelo (grandfather) in his Republican uniform during the Spanish Civil War.

Maybe the Democratic Memory Law relates to you and your family, your ancestors. Even if it does not directly, one can see that it is a very personal matter and a significant mark of progress for Spain as a nation.

I know first-hand what it is like to go through this process and the meaning it can have for a family. A sense of restoration and reparation exists; a sense of returning that I and many others feel their ancestors can be honored by.

For me, it is not about sides or opening up old wounds. It is about acknowledging those wounds because they were actually never closed. History will continue to teach us as it has before, that rarely can acts against humanity be hidden away and suppressed. The truth is revealed and overcomes oppression eventually.

Listen to the Interview with JLCA Lawyer, Cristina Gaspar

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Written by Amalia Maloney Del Riego

Written by Amalia Maloney Del Riego

Fora Advanced Travel Advisor & Content Creator

I love living in Denia, Spain and traveling worldwide. My idea of a great time is ‘eating and drinking’ my way around a new place and meeting the people. As a Fora Advanced Travel Advisor, I specialize in custom travel planning for trips throughout Europe, as well as scouting trips for moving to Spain. Here on you can enjoy our Europe travel resources to experience Europe and live in Spain.


  1. Jona

    My father’s uncle was a member of Garibaldi Batalion and he died at the age 27 and he had no chance to get married and have his own family. He was from Albania. He is the only who the state of Albanian gave the title “HERO of the people”. In our family, every year presidents and primeministers have paid respect to his figure and contribution. According to the Democratic Memory Law, it is specified grand children for them that have a spanish grandmother or grandfather, but for members and volunteers worldwide says descendants. According to the Civil Code of Spain, in case of no children, wife, parents, the legal heirs are brothers and sisters or their children. Since my father’s uncle has no direct heirs, and one clause says that we should confirm that we have further refined the ideology and spirit of the war of Spain and the heroic acts of my uncle. Are we eligible to apply?

    • Amalia and Eric

      Hello Jona. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and great question. It is wonderful to hear about your uncle’s amazing legacy. I am not sure if you would be eligible but based on how much you already mentioned, I think it could be possible. I highly recommend consulting with a law firm that I partner with, JLCA Lawyers, to find out for sure.

      I’m also happy to do an email introduction if you like. I hope that helps and to see you on our site again soon. We wish you all the best in your journey!

  2. Joyce Kostenbader

    Can you tell me cost for obtaining Spanish citizenship through this new law? I also need to find my grandfather’s birth certificate somehow. Thanks

    • Amalia and Eric

      Hi Joyce. Thank you so much for being on our website and for your great question. I cannot quote the cost for obtaining the Spanish citizenship through this new law, because it varies depending on whether you try to process it yourself or hire an immigration law firm to help you. The process can be complex and takes time so I highly recommend hiring a professional like JLCA Lawyers here in Spain. They can give you an idea of how much it may cost and are so helpful with obtaining your birth certificate, which can be especially challenging for this process.

      You can learn more about them on our website (see link below), but please let me know if you would like me to do an email introduction as well. Thank you and we wish you the best on your journey and that you continue to enjoy our website and resources.


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