Obtain Portuguese Citizenship

Updated on Thursday 09th January 2020

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When moving to Portugal, many foreign nationals find that they can use the services provided by a team of experts who specialize in matters like visas and permits, expat services and, for those who have been living in the country for some time, assistance for obtaining Portuguese citizenship. Our immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship matters can help you with complete assistance during this process. 
This article presents the methods through which a foreign national can obtain Portuguese citizenship. These are the following:
  • citizenship through naturalization: a widely used method by all those who legally reside in the country for a number of years.

  • citizenship through marriage: after marriage with a national for a number of years, foreigners can acquire Portuguese citizenship.

  • citizenship by adoption: an option for minors who can acquire citizenship if they are adopted by a Portuguese national.

  • citizenship through origin: this applies to those applicants who have a Portuguese parent or grandparent and wish to obtain citizenship.

Each of these methods is described in more detail below and our immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship can help you with detailed information, according to your particular case.

What are the conditions for citizenship through naturalization?

Naturalization is the most common method of acquiring citizenship after having lived in the country for a pre-determined period and according to certain conditions. A foreign national who has been living in Portugal for five years can take the first step towards obtaining citizenship which is to apply for a permanent residence permit. He will then be able to take the final step, and apply for citizenship, once he is in his sixth year of living in the country.
The applicant needs to be over 18 years of age, be must not have been convicted of any crimes that were punishable by imprisonment of up to three years and he must bring forward proof that he has a sufficient level of understanding of the Portuguese language. Moreover, the applicant must prove that he/she has sufficient links with the community and that he/she has civic responsibility. A final requirement is for the applicant to show that he has the means to sustain himself. 

There are certain cases in which the conditions for acquiring nationality through naturalization may be lighter. These can apply when the applicant is a descendant of a Portuguese national, a member of a community of Portuguese origin or a foreigner who has been performing or was called to perform relevant services to the Portuguese State. In these cases, the requirement for the obligatory period of residence, along with knowledge of the language and the substantial community links may be overlooked. One of our agents who specialize in Portugal immigration matters can provide you with more details if you fall into one of these categories that are subject to lighter requirements for naturalization. In most cases, the request for naturalization is submitted to the Service for Border Control and Aliens (SEF) and, in those situations when it is submitted to other authorities, it shall be forwarded to SEF. The Service has eight days to issue a response and ask for additional information if needed. The applicant then has thirty days to respond and provide the documentation, as needed. The final decision is issued by SEF within fifteen days from receiving the final documents.
The conditions can differ for EU and non-EU citizens and the latter can request personalized counseling from one of our immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship. We can help you understand how you can stay in Portugal for a continuous period of five years.

What are the conditions for obtaining citizenship through marriage?

This is a common manner of acquiring citizenship in Portugal, however, aspiring couples should be well aware that there are certain conditions in place before the foreign national in the couple can acquire Portuguese citizen rights. A primary condition is that the foreign national is to be married for more than three years to a Portuguese citizen before submitting the application. There is no mandatory condition for having lived in the country continuously during this time. Apart from this condition, the applicants must also be able to prove that they have a satisfactory connection with the national Portuguese community, that they have not committed any crime that is punishable under the local laws by a prison sentence of more than three years, that they are not a civil servant of a foreign state and that they have not carried out voluntarily military service for a foreign state.

The documents commonly requested when submitting an application to acquire Portuguese nationality through marriage are the following:
  • marriage certificate;
  • birth certificate for both spouses (with the one of the Portuguese spouse containing the marriage annotation);
  • certificate of foreign nationality for the foreign spouse;
  • criminal record issued by the competent authorities;
  • proof of links with the national community (witnesses or other means).
The application for this type of citizenship is sent to the Registry Office in Lisbon, Registros Centrais. The citizenship acquired through this method remains valid even if the marriage is later dissolved.

What are other methods for acquiring citizenship in Portugal?

The Portuguese golden visa scheme is another method through which a foreign national can eventually acquire citizenship. The first step is to obtain a residency permit and this is available only under certain conditions: the applicant or investor must acquire property with a value of 500,000 € or more or he can open a company in various business fields with obvious benefits for the country’s economy (in terms of employment, research and development and others).
The golden visa does not immediately grant citizenship, it is rather a multi-step process but one that it is streamlined compared to the naturalization process. The investor will first be granted a residence permit and will be able to stay in the country for five years after which he will be granted permanent residency. After six years he will be allowed to apply for citizenship. 
Sephardic Jew ancestry is another method to acquire the nationality, albeit a very rare one. According to law, an individual who is a descendant of a Portuguese Sephardic Jew (and can bring forward satisfactory evidence) and also complies with other conditions (not convicted of crimes by a prison sentence) can apply for citizenship. Our team of immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship can help you with more information about the evidence for Sephardic Jews.
The acquisition of nationality can also be done through adoption. A child adopted by a Portuguese national may acquire citizenship. This type of adoption is one that has extensive implications, as opposed to another type, the restricted adoption. The child is thus fully integrated within the family and with the other children, if any, and maintains no ties with the biological family. 
Several other situations may be applicable to an individual that would grant him or her the Portuguese nationality not through naturalization but automatically, thus having original nationality. These are the following:
  • when the child is born of a Portuguese mother or father on Portuguese territory or abroad if the parent/s are working in the service of the state.
  • the child of a Portuguese mother or father born in another country, if the parents state that they wish to register the birth of their child with the Registry Office.
  • children born in Portugal of foreign parents who have a valid residence permit and who have resided in the country for 6 to 10 years.
  • individuals born in Portuguese territory, when they do not possess any other nationality.
One of our Portugal immigration lawyers can provide further details for these situations.

Assistance from an immigration lawyer in Portugal

Taking up Portuguese nationality is a process that requires a few steps and can be a lengthier one in case of naturalization, however, it does offer a set of advantages such as being eligible for state healthcare and gaining voting rights. For many, it is the natural expression of their wish to spend their life in Portugal. An immigration lawyer in Portugal who specializes in citizenship matters can help answer detailed questions about the available options. Together with one of our specialists, you will be able to understand the options available to you, the process and the rights that come after obtaining citizenship.
According to Statistics Portugal, the number of foreign nationals who have been acquiring Portuguese citizenship over the years has varied. The data shows the following:
  • 225,428: the total number of individuals who have acquired Portuguese citizenship between 2008 and 2016.
  • 25,000: the annual average number of citizenship acquisitions during this time.
  • 29,351: the higher annual value that was recorded in 2016.
  • 115,534: the number of women who acquired citizenship and 109,894 the number of men who did so.
  • foreign nationals from Brazil and Cape Verde were the ones to apply most for citizenship during 2008-2016, with 60,335 Brazilians and 37,417 individuals from Cape Verde.
Our team of Portugal immigration agents can assist individuals who wish to emigrate from Brazil as well as other countries in Europe and outside of the EU. We can provide complete information, based on nationality, the condition to apply for a visa and many more criterions. 
Contact our immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship for complete assistance in all matters concerning your move to Portugal, from the initial steps and all the way to finalizing your permanent stay in the country.


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