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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Become a Portuguese Citizen

By Bernardo Barbosa

Published on 29 April 2024

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So, do you want to learn more about obtaining Portuguese nationality?

Whether you're trying to create a company in Portugal, access the country's exquisite healthcare and educational systems, or simply become a proud Portuguese person, understanding Portugal citizenship is key.

In this comprehensive guide, we will be taking an in-depth look at the rights and duties of Portuguese people, learning how to become Portuguese, and exploring other important Portugal citizenship matters such as the requirements for double nationality and the Gold Visa program.

What is a Portuguese Citizen?

A Portuguese citizen is an individual who holds citizenship granted by Portugal, entitling them to the privileges, and responsibilities associated with being a member of the Portuguese nation.

Being a citizen of Portugal grants certain fundamental rights, but also some must-obey duties.

Portuguese Citizen Rights

These are your most important rights as a Portuguese national:

  • **Right to vote:** Citizens have the right to participate in national and European elections.
  • **Right to work and education:** Citizens have access to education and employment opportunities within Portugal and the European Union.
  • **Freedom of movement:** They can freely travel within the European Union and, in many cases, enjoy visa-free travel to various countries by using a Portuguese passport.
  • **Access to social services:** Citizens are entitled to social benefits, healthcare, and other social services provided by the Portuguese government.
  • **Legal protections:** They are entitled to legal protections under the law, including the right to a fair trial and protection from discrimination.

Portuguese Citizen Duties

These are your most important duties as a Portuguese national:

  • **Paying taxes:** Contributing to the state through payment of taxes.
  • **Civic responsibility:** Participating in civic duties, such as jury duty when summoned.
  • **Defending the country:** In some cases, citizens may be required to serve in the Portuguese military, though it's very unlikely such would happen.

Is Loss of Portuguese Citizenship Possible?

Once a Portuguese national, always a Portuguese national? Well, not exactly. Loss of citizenship in Portugal is possible in the following cases:

  • When the citizen voluntarily renounces his citizenship.
  • When the citizen acquires dual nationality, but such isn't compatible with the Portuguese legal system.
  • When the individual obtained citizenship, but there was detected fraud or misrepresentation during the application process.

In Portugal, lost citizenship is retrievable if the individuals who renounced citizenship regret their decision, have a legitimate reason for their previous renunciation, and can demonstrate valid reasons for wanting their citizenship back.

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Who Has the Right to Portuguese Nationality?

Children born to at least one Portuguese parent, regardless of the place of birth, are automatically granted Portuguese nationality via birth naturalization. However, several other individuals have the right to Portuguese citizenship—albeit not automatically.

These are the most common cases in which one's entitled to apply for Portuguese citizenship:

Portugal Citizenship by Descent

If you have Portuguese ancestors such as Portuguese parents, a Portuguese grandparent, or even Portuguese great-grandparents, you might be eligible for citizenship by descent. The process of obtaining Portuguese citizenship by descent involves gathering a birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other documentation that can prove your lineage.

Portugal Citizenship by Marriage

If you are married to a Portuguese citizen for at least three years, you can apply for citizenship. But being married isn't all. You'll also need to demonstrate a stable connection to Portugal, knowledge of the Portuguese language, and overall integration into Portuguese culture.

Portugal Citizenship by Adoption

Children legally adopted by Portuguese citizens may acquire Portuguese nationality through the adoption process. According to Portuguese adoption law, Portuguese parents of adoptive children must be married or living together for at least four years and be at least 25 years old. However, single men and women are also accepted into the adoption program.

Portugal Citizenship by Residency

Individuals who have legally resided in Portugal for a certain period (typically five years) can apply for Portuguese nationality through naturalization. Similar to individuals who apply for Portuguese citizenship via marriage, they must demonstrate a good knowledge of the Portuguese language and prove that they're integrated into the Portuguese community and society.

Portugal Citizenship by Investment

Portugal offers citizenship through investment programs such as the Golden Visa program. This involves making a substantial investment in the country, typically in real estate, creating jobs, or contributing to cultural heritage. Requirements may vary, and legal assistance is recommended due to the financial commitment involved. Below, we will be taking a closer look at the requirements and advantages of obtaining Portuguese citizenship by investment (and more specifically via the Golden Visa program).

Portuguese Citizenship for Residents of a Portuguese Overseas Territory

Portuguese overseas territories are countries or locations that have a deep historical connection to the Portuguese language and culture. If you live in one of these countries, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship by:

1. Proving that you're a descendant of Portuguese citizens.

2. Proving that you're integrated into an overseas Portuguese community.

The following former Portuguese colonies are considered Portuguese overseas territories: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, East Timor, Portuguese India, Macao, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Portuguese Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews refers to a special pathway that allows descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries to request Portuguese citizenship. This initiative aims to offer a route to those who can prove their ancestral ties to the Sephardic Jewish community.

The applicant needs to demonstrate their Sephardic ancestry through genealogical research, historical records, or other supporting documentation. This often involves providing evidence of a connection to the Sephardic community expelled from Portugal in the 15th century.

Other General Notes on Portuguese Nationality Law

  • **EU citizens:** Citizens of other EU member states have certain rights to reside and work in Portugal under EU law. This doesn't automatically grant them Portuguese nationality, but they might have an accelerated pathway to obtaining citizenship through residency.
  • **Criminal record:** A clean criminal record, both in Portugal and in their home country, is usually required of anyone looking to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
  • **Stateless persons and refugees:** Stateless persons or refugees may be eligible to apply for Portuguese nationality under specific circumstances, often linked to their status and their contribution to Portuguese society.
  • **Exceptional circumstances:** There might be exceptional cases where individuals can obtain Portuguese nationality through special provisions, such as exceptional services to the country.

Obtaining Portuguese Citizenship as a Foreigner

Whether you've been a Portuguese foreign national for a few years, have Portuguese family members, or even have a deep connection to Portugal's national heritage, many requirements can convince the competent Portuguese authorities to grant Portuguese nationality.

To obtain Portuguese citizenship as a foreigner, you must:

  • Collect birth certificates, marriage certificates, residency permits, a valid passport, and any other required documentation (we have more information on this below).
  • Apply for a residence permit if you're planning to set your legal residency outside of Portugal. This is essential for most citizenship routes.
  • Prepare for language exams and demonstrate your integration into Portuguese society. Most importantly, this requires being familiar with the Portuguese idiom.
  • Submit your citizenship application to the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) or other relevant authorities such as your local Portuguese Embassy or Portuguese Consulate.
  • Wait for the processing of your citizenship application, as the process can take several months to complete. Be patient during this period.
  • Attend a citizenship ceremony and take an oath of allegiance.

Portugal Citizenship Requirements

To apply for Portuguese citizenship as a foreigner, you must fit into one or more of the following requirements:

  • You were born in Portugal.
  • You are the descendant of Portuguese nationals.
  • You have been married to a Portuguese citizen for at least three years.
  • You have been a legal Portuguese resident for at least five years.

As stated above, however, there are several additional instances in which an individual can acquire citizenship as a foreigner, including via a Golden Visa or connection to a Portuguese territory overseas.

Who Can Apply for Citizenship in Portugal?

Citizenship in Portugal can be requested not only by individuals who wish to be a Portuguese national but also by a third party. Most commonly, such third parties are the Portuguese or foreign parents of a child born in Portugal or of Portuguese descent.

However, Portuguese citizenship can also be obtained with the help of a fiscal or legal representative. They're necessary if you don't have access to a Portuguese NIF, and they can be extremely helpful if you don't speak Portuguese. In theory, any Portuguese tax resident can be a fiscal representative, but it's always advisable to request the help of legal experts such as Portuguese immigration lawyers.
Without an NIF, you cannot perform actions as basic as opening a Portuguese bank account, starting a Portuguese company, or getting a permanent residence permit.

Where Can You Apply For Portuguese Citizenship?

You can apply for Portuguese citizenship online or in person.

To apply online, you must file your application with Portugal's Ministry of Justice using a certified lawyer or solicitor.
To apply in person, you must physically visit one of the available service desks. Most service desks are located in Portugal, but there are also international service desks (such as the British Portuguese Consulate) in Belgium, Brazil, France, and the United Kingdom.

How Much Does it Cost to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship?

The price of requesting citizenship from the Portuguese Government varies depending on the specific requirements of your process. However, it generally costs €250. Payment can be made via credit card (if you apply in person) or cheque/postal order (if you apply by post).

How Long Does it Take to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship?

It takes anywhere between three (if you're married to a Portuguese person) to five years (if you simply live in Portugal) to obtain citizenship. The citizenship application process itself, on the other hand, can be completed in just a few months.

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Documents Required to Become a Portuguese Citizen

The main and supporting documents required to become a Portuguese citizen vary according to your status. See in which of the following you fit to know which documentation is necessary:

Documents Required for People Born in Portugal

If you were born in Portugal but not automatically granted citizenship (because, for example, your parents happen to be foreign citizens), you need to collect the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate.
  • This Ministry of Justice form, including information on why you're requesting Portuguese nationality, the list of countries where you lived after completing 16 years of age, and basic data such as name, date of birth, job title, and current address.
  • Proof of permanent residence with tax payments made to the Portuguese authorities (like Portuguese bank checks statements), your Portuguese address, and proof that you have attended a public or private school.
  • Proof that you're familiar with the Portuguese idiom. This can be, for example, a certificate of foreign language issued by a legally recognized institution such as the IAVE.
  • Your criminal record certificate.

Documents Required for People Born Abroad

If you were born outside of Portugal and have been living in the country for at least five years, you just need to collect the same documents required for people born in Portugal (birth certificate, Ministry of Justice form, proof of legal residency, proof of familiarity with the Portuguese language, and criminal record certificate).

However, additional supporting documents are required in the following cases:

  • **You have been married to a Portuguese person for at least three years:** Marriage certificate, proof that you have not performed public functions in another country, and proof that you have not served in another country's military.
  • **You have Portuguese parents and/or grandparents:** Your relative's birth certificate and a signed declaration for requesting Portuguese citizenship.
  • **You're a member of a Portuguese community abroad:** The birth certificates of your Portuguese relatives and documents proving your connection to a community of Portuguese descent.

Documents Required for People Who Lost Their Nationality and Want It Back

In the rare situations in which individuals lost their nationality and want it back, the additional following documents are required:

  • **People who have never acquired another nationality:** Documents issued by the foreign countries where they have lived.
  • **People who have acquired another nationality:** A birth certificate certifying the loss of nationality.

Please keep in mind that you cannot request Portuguese citizenship if you have been arrested for three or more years for a crime that's also punishable in Portugal or if you have been involved or connected to any terrorist activities.

Citizenship by Investment: The Portuguese Golden Visa Program

The Portuguese Golden Visa Program is an investment-based residency program that grants non-EU citizens residency in Portugal in exchange for making a qualifying investment in the country. By granting citizenship by investment, the program aims to stimulate the Portuguese economy by accessing the worldwide income of wealthy non-EU residents.

Requirements to Apply to a Portuguese Golden Visa

To acquire citizenship by investment through the Golden Visa program, one must:

  • Invest in non-residential or residential real estate in Portugal. There's a minimum investment amount of €350.000 to €500.000 set by the Portuguese Government.
  • Make a significant capital transfer into Portugal of at least €1.5 million.
  • Create at least 10 jobs by starting or investing in a business in Portugal.

Benefits of Getting a Portuguese Golden Visa

The main benefits of getting a Golden Visa include:

  • Receiving a residency permit initially valid for one year and renewable for two-year periods.
  • Visa free access in the Schengen area.
  • Possibility to apply for citizenship after five years of continuous residency.
  • Access to education and healthcare systems in Portugal.

The Golden Visa program is key to becoming a Portuguese national because it allows non-EU residents to obtain residency and visa on arrival access. After five years in the country, Golden Visa awardees can leverage their residence permit to become full-blown Portuguese citizens.

Does the Portuguese Law Allow Dual Citizenship?

Portugal permits dual citizenship and even triple citizenship. Individuals who wish to get Portuguese citizenship don't need to forego their original nationality.

Eligibility for Dual Citizenship in Portugal

The following are eligible for dual citizenship in Portugal:

  • Children of Portuguese grandparents/parents.
  • Naturalized foreign nationals.
  • People married to a Portuguese national.
  • People adopted by Portuguese nationals.
  • Foreign investors with a Golden Visa.

Portuguese Dual Citizenship Advantages

The main advantages for individuals with double nationality in Portugal include:

  • Access to citizen rights and other benefits of Portuguese tax residents.
  • Access to a Portuguese passport.
  • Freedom of mobility in the European Union.
  • Access to the Portuguese healthcare and educational system.

Conclusion

If you want to get a Portuguese passport and become one of Portugal's 11 million tax residents, you've come to the right place! By following the guidelines listed above, you can make your dream of Portuguese citizenship come true one way or the other. The process can be tricky, so don't be afraid to ask for professional help to assure legal compliance and avoid unnecessary stepbacks!

If you want to get Portuguese citizenship to start a company in Portugal, consider the advantages of using Rauva's business app. With Rauva, creating a company becomes easier with access to business accounting, certified accounting, invoicing, and expense management.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get citizenship in Portugal?

To get Portuguese citizenship, you're required to submit a request to the competent authorities including (at least) the following documents: birth certificate, a signed Ministry of Justice form, proof of residency, criminal record, and proof that you're familiar with the Portuguese language and culture.

How to get dual citizenship in Portugal?

To get double nationality in Portugal, you must have Portuguese relatives (even if they're naturalized foreign nationals), be married to a Portuguese person, or be granted citizenship by investment.

How much to invest in Portugal for citizenship?

To get citizenship by investment in Portugal, you're requested to invest at least €350.000 in real estate, transfer at least €1.5 million or more into the country, and/or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal through business investment.

How many years to get Portugal citizenship?

The answer depends on what your preferred method for getting Portuguese citizenship is. To obtain nationality via residency, you need to live in Portugal for at least five years. To obtain nationality via marriage, you need to be married to a Portuguese person for at least three years. As for the nationalization process itself, it usually takes just a few months to complete.

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Written by Bernardo Barbosa

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