Frequently Asked Questions


Passports

No.  U.S. citizens outside of the United States must apply for their passports at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you are currently present.

Yes.  You are required to make an appointment online for routine (non-emergency) services, including passport applications and notary services.  To make an appointment, please visit this link.

If your child is under 16 years of age:

  • Bring a completed DS-11 Form (PDF 100K) – do not sign the application.
  • Bring the child’s original birth certificate showing all parents’ names.
  • All parents who appear on the birth certificate must also appear in person with the child to sign the application before the consular officer.
  • Bring all parents’ valid photo identification.  (A foreign passport, resident card, or Spanish Documento Nacional de Identidad [DNI] are all acceptable).

If your child is over 16 years of age:

  • Bring a complete DS-11 Form (PDF 100K) – do not sign the application.
  • Any passport applicant over the age of 16 may sign his or her own DS-11 Form.  We ask that these “first-time adult” applicants also present a secondary form of identification, apart from the U.S. passport.  (A foreign passport, resident card, or Spanish Documento Nacional de Identidad [DNI] are all acceptable). Also see the Passports & Reports of Birth pages.

The Embassy can provide emergency replacement of lost/stolen passports if the applicant has documented proof of urgent travel (generally within1-2 weeks).  These emergency passports are processed on a walk-in basis from 8:00 to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on weekends, U.S. holidays, and local holidays.  For more information, please consult this link.

If your inquiry concerns an urgent issue involving an American citizen, such as arrest, death, missing person, accident, or hospitalization, please call +34-91-587-2200.  For more information, please visit this link.

Passports are printed in the U.S. and can take  from a week to ten days to process.

Yes, you may renew your passport at any time that is convenient for you. Please ensure that you have enough time to receive your new passport before you need to travel.

Your passport may be used for travel to and from the United States within the validity date displayed on the passport. Certain countries may demand that your passport is valid for longer than 6 months. Please see Travel.state.gov and Consular Information Sheets [under International Travel] to find out each country’s entry requirements.

U.S. citizenship is for life. No child has to do anything at any age to retain, choose, affirm, or confirm U.S. citizenship. In the 1980’s the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship is a Constitutional right, which cannot be taken away from a citizen who does not want to relinquish it.

No. Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. citizens to use a valid U.S. passport when entering or leaving the United States.

Generally, citizens are allowed to carry only one valid passport as a time. In some cases, the issuance of a second passport is possible: frequent travel and the delays due to visa applications, the presence of a stamp from one country that causes problems in another country. We will ask for justification from an employer or proof of compelling reasons for personal travel.


Legalizing/Obtaining Official Documents

Below please find the series of steps to take in order to legalize your U.S. document:

  1. Obtain the original and official documents from the county clerk’s office where the document was issued.  You may also request government issued documents online via a private service called Vitalcheck.  Please note this is a privately owned company that is neither part of nor endorsed by the U.S. government.
  2. Contact the corresponding authentication unit in the state that issued that document and arrange for the documents to be authenticated with the Hague Apostille either in person or by mail. You may find contact information by state on this website.
  3. Once you obtain the duly authenticated documents (with the Hague Apostille) from the Secretary of State, have these documents translated in Spain by a certified translator (“traductor jurado”).  An updated list of certified translators may be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

You will likely need to consult a private attorney.  See the following web page for a list of some English-speaking lawyers in Spain.  If you live close to Barcelona, see the following web page for a list of English-speaking lawyers in the Consular District of Barcelona (PDF 962K).

Legal or notarized documents and academic records or certificates of birth, death or marriage, issued by Spanish authorities will need the Apostille of the Hague (Apostilla de la Haya) to be used in the United States. The competent authority to execute the “Apostilla de la Haya” on notarized documents is the Colegio Notarial in Madrid atCalle Ruiz de Alarcón 3, Bajo Izquierda, Tel: 912 130 000. Web page.

If the document is a judicial document or one issued by the Registro Civil, it must be taken to the Secretaria de Gobierno del Tribunal Superior de Justicia: (Calle General Castaños 1, planta 0, Tel: 914-934-034).

The Registro General del Ministerio de Justicia executes the Apostille on other official or academic documents in Madrid: Calle San Bernardo, 45, (using the entrance located at Calle Manzana 2), Tel: 913 902 011. See the Spanish Ministry of Justice for more information.

Yes, all U.S. citizens must report world-wide income by filing an annual U.S. income tax return, regardless of whether they also pay taxes elsewhere. For more information see Internal Revenue Service web page.

Please see our section on Social Security. It is important that every U.S. citizen have a social security number, especially as you are unable to file your U.S. taxes without one.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that unless a child is accompanied by both parents or legal guardian(s) when traveling, both parents/legal guardian(s) should sign a statement acknowledging they are aware of the travel.

Sample language: “I acknowledge that my spouse / etc. is traveling out of the country with my son / daughter.  He / She / has / They / have my permission to do so.”

Specific example of a grandparent traveling with a grandchild without the child’s parents:  “I acknowledge that my mother, Jane Doe, is traveling out of the county with my child (her grandchild), Julie Doe.  She has my permission to do so.”

While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if they do ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the child’s travel circumstances can be fully assessed.  If there is no second parent or guardian with legal claims to the child (deceased, sole custody, etc.), any other relevant paperwork, such as a court decision, birth certificate naming only one parent, death certificate, etc., would be useful to have with you while traveling with the child.

Please refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for more information.

Airlines may have their own requirements regarding minors travelling without one of their parents/legal guardians, so you should contact the airline as well. For questions regarding U.S. citizen minors traveling to Spain without both parents/legal guardians, please contact the Spanish Embassy in the United States for additional information.

U.S. citizen minors living in Spain:  Spanish legislation effective September 1, 2019, mandates that all Spanish minors travelling internationally without their parents or legal guardians must have written, notarized permission from a parent or guardian to do so. The legislation requires that foreign minors resident in Spain also have written authorization to travel, if the country of their nationality requires them to do so. Written permission for U.S. citizen minors to travel without a parent/legal guardian is recommended but not obligatory under U.S. law. Therefore, according to Spanish authorities, this requirement does not apply to U.S. citizen minors.

However, some U.S. citizen children have been prevented from traveling by airlines and Spanish authorities under this law. Parents/legal guardians may want to provide written permission for their U.S. citizen minor children to travel abroad unaccompanied or with a third party. For more information about the Spanish law and a copy of the travel authorization form, please visit this website.


Driving in the U.S. and Spain

U.S. citizens who plan to drive in Spain must obtain an international driving permit (IDP) prior to their arrival. An international driving permit translates your state-issued driver’s license into ten languages so that officials in foreign countries can interpret it. The IDP is not valid by itself and must be carried in addition to your state-issued driver’s license.

No. You would need to apply for a Spanish driver’s license.  There is no agreement between the United States and Spain for the validation of a U.S. driver’s licenses.

To obtain a Spanish driver’s license, you need to take a class at a local driving school and pass the required exams.  The tests can be taken in English.

U.S. driver licenses can only be renewed in the United States by the state of issuance.  The U.S. Embassy plays no role in the issuance or replacement of driver’s licenses.  Please contact the Motor Vehicle Department in the state that issued your driver’s license for information.


Taking Foods/Drinks/Medications to the U.S.

If you take medicine containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics (e.g., cough medicine, diuretics, heat drugs, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, depressants, stimulants, etc.) you should ensure that it is properly identified and in its original container.  Carry only the quantity that you need during your duration of stay and bring either a prescription or written statement from your physician saying that the medicine is being used under a doctor’s direction and is necessary for your physical well-being while traveling. Declare such drugs or medications to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon admission for entry.  An English translation (which does not need to be official) is recommended.  Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited, and there are severe civil and or criminal penalties if imported.  Cannabis in any form, even if prescribed as a medication, is prohibited.  Please see the CBP website for more information.

American citizens living or traveling abroad should be sure they have adequate medical insurance that will cover expenses incurred abroad.  Medicare and Medicaid are only valid in the United States. Some private American medical insurance companies will pay for expenses abroad, but most require that the patient pay the bill first and then file for reimbursement.  Hospitals and health care providers will expect payment if you are not covered by the Spanish health care system.  The United States Embassy does not cover medical expenses of private American citizens in Spain. If you plan to spend any time in Spain, you should consider purchasing a policy that specifically covers expenses incurred overseas.  For more information, please see the State Department’s health tips.

Do not bring any food into the United States without first checking to see if it is permitted.  Please see the “Know Before You Go” page before traveling.

Please contact the airline for information on what it allows on board.

Nonresidents who are at least 21 years old may bring, free of duty and internal revenue tax, up to one liter of alcoholic beverage – beer, wine, liquor – for personal use. Quantities above the one-liter limitation are subject to duty and internal revenue tax. Please see the “Know Before You Go” page for more information.

No. Meats, livestock, poultry, and other products are all prohibited from entering the United States. Please see the “Know Before You Go” page for more information.

Spanish regulations do not permit the international shipment of medication, so please do not ship medication from the United States to Spain. Medications sent by mail will be stopped at customs and either returned (at your expense) or destroyed.

U.S. citizens who plan a lengthy trip to Spain should bring enough medication for their stay or obtain a prescription for that medication from a Spanish physician.

For inquiries regarding what type of medications can be brought to Spain, please contact the Spanish Embassy in the United States. The Spanish Embassy should give you guidance on the necessary paperwork and if your medication is permitted into Spain. See this link.


Criminal Records / Fingerprints

If you are no longer living in Spain and need a Spanish criminal record (Antecedentes Penales), please go to the web page of the Ministerio de Justicia and follow their instructions. The process is done directly through them. Allow approximately 1 month to receive your criminal records back.

If you are in the United States and need an Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal background check, please go to the  FBI background check website.  If you are in Spain, please consult our U.S. Criminal Records page.

Yes, by dialing 902 102 112.  You will hear a recording with language options.  Press 2 for English. Once you file your police report, you will be given a reference number.  The police officer taking the report will tell you of the police station where you can pick up the report. You will need to provide the reference number.  Note: Do not forget to sign the police report. If you are in Madrid, you may also file a report by going to directly to Calle Leganitos # 19 (near Plaza de España).


Miscellaneous

The current procedure is to enroll with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is done entirely online through the STEP website.  Enrollment is voluntary, free of charge, and allows the Department of State to assist you more easily in case of an emergency.   We encourage you to enroll whether you are visiting Spain or residing here.

See our information on the marriage process in Spain at our marriage page.

We are unable to answer questions regarding Spanish visas. For more information, please see the State Department’s Schengen FAQ page or contact the Spanish Embassy or Consulate nearest your residence in the United States.  If you are already in Spain, please visit the Spanish Ministry of the Interior website or call 060.

Consult the “Voting” section of our website or the website for the Federal Voter Assistance Program.

See our Medical Information page for doctors in the Madrid area.  If you require a doctor outside the Madrid area, you may also contact one of the other U.S. Consular Offices in Spain.

Almost all male U.S. citizens 18 to 25 years old, regardless of place of residence, must register on the Selective Service webpage.  Dual nationals (American citizens who also hold a second nationality) must also register, regardless of place of residence.

The Embassy will attempt to assist in locating U.S. citizens in cases of parental child abduction, missing persons, or other emergencies.  The U.S. Embassy does not, however, monitor the whereabouts of U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or foreign nationals who travel or reside in the United States.  Furthermore, American privacy laws dictate that we may not reveal information regarding a U.S citizen’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the express consent of that individual.

For tourism-related complaints, contact the Spanish embassy in Washington, D.C. or the nearest Spanish consulate in the United States.

No. The U.S. Government does not pay for legal expenses of U.S. citizens abroad.  If you have are in need of legal assistance you may want to refer to our list of English-speaking attorneys in Spain.  The U.S. Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of persons or firms whose names appear on this list.

Please see our section on Dual Nationality. It is possible that the Spanish Immigration authorities may require you to give up your U.S. citizenship as a condition of taking on Spanish Citizenship.