Obtain Portuguese Citizenship

Updated on Thursday 28th May 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. We have a team of immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship matters who can assist interested individuals throughout this entire process. 
 
If you are interested in immigration to Portugal, our team presents the main methods through which a foreign national can obtain Portuguese citizenship. These include the following:
  • citizenship through naturalization: this is a commonly 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. The final step hen becomes to apply for citizenship, once the sixth year of living in the country has commenced. 
 
The minimum age is 18 years and the applicant must not have been convicted of any crimes that were punishable by imprisonment of up to three years and he must prove 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 Service issues the final decision on the application 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.
 

How does one make a request for nationality through naturalization?

 
The process of naturalization is one that starts with a request submitted to the Service for Border Control, the regional branch in the area where the applicant lives. The form is submitted with a set of documents (listed below) and the reply period from the authorities is 15 days from the date the last information is provided by the applicant. Please note that this can take longer if the initial submission does not include all of the relevant documents. In this case, the applicant will be informed and he will have thirty days to provide the needed additional information.
 
The application for obtaining nationality through naturalization must contain the full name of the applicant, the date and place of birth, marital status, the parent’s names, nationality, place of residence, professional activity and the reason for naturalization. When the request is made through a regional branch of the Service for Border Control, it must be signed in the presence of a notary. One of our immigration lawyers in Portugal can provide more details.
 
The documents that are to be attached together with an application for nationality through naturalization are the following:
 
  • the birth certificate, original and photocopy; 
  • residence permit photocopy; 
  • proof of Portuguese language knowledge; 
  • proof of a connection to the national community – this can include proof of property purchase, the birth certificate of a child/children, copies of the residence permits of the family members, etc.
  • criminal record issued by the Portuguese authorities, no older than three months;
  • criminal record issues by the authorities in the country of origin within the last three months; must be authenticated by the Portuguese consulate; may be replaced by a declaration issued by the relevant authority in the country of origin;
  • proof of means of subsistence, that the applicant is able to ensure his livelihood; can include a statement from the employer and a copy of the monthly salary slip and the original income tax statement for the previous year;
  • proof of registration with the Social Security service;
  • proof that the applicant has completed mandatory military service in his country of origin or proof that is not required in the home country.
  • the photocopies of the passport or passports used in the last five years.
 
Applicants should know that they might prove their knowledge of the Portuguese language in more than one way. This can be shown through an examination certificate issued by a Portuguese educational institution or through a document that has been written and signed by the applicant in front of a public notary. When the applicant lives in Lisbon or Porto, this statement issued by the applicant can be signed in the presence of the Director of the Central Cultural Services or a delegated person. In this case, the authentication is made with the official stamp of the services. 
 
Our Portugal immigration agents can provide more details on the process of acquiring nationality through naturalization and the steps that are mandatory when a foreign national chooses to do so.
 
How to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship


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. The main condition is for the foreign national to be married for more than three years to a Portuguese citizen before he/she submits the application. The applicant is under no obligation to have 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.
 

How can citizenship be acquired through other methods?

 
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 receive 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 (for example not having been convicted of crimes by a prison sentence) can apply for citizenship. Our team of immigration lawyers specialized in obtaining Portuguese citizenship is able to assist individuals who are interested in knowing more about the evidence for Sephardic Jews.
 
Adoption is another method that can allow an individual to acquire Portuguese nationality. A child adopted by a Portuguese national is entitled to obtaining 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 have any other nationality.
One of our Portugal immigration lawyers can provide further details for these situations.
 

Loss of Portuguese citizenship


In some cases, an applicant who requests citizenship through naturalization may not be granted this status. An objection to granting nationality may be lodged in cases that involve adoption or stated intention. This is a decision that can be made by the Portuguese state, through the Office of the Department of Justice within one year from the date the nationality has been issued. When such an objection is made, it is presented to an Appeals Court (Tribunal da Relação) in Lisbon.

The state may submit this objection on the following grounds: when the applicant did not provide a substantial link to the national community when he or she has committed a crime for which the maximum sentence is more than three years of imprisonment or when the applicant was working for the civil service or engaged in voluntary military service for another foreign state.   

Applicants who wish to acquire Portuguese nationality should be well aware that this might mean that they might lose their national nationality. While Portugal allows its citizens to hold multiple nationalities, the laws in the state of birth may not be the same. Individuals who have two nationalities and do not wish to remain Portuguese citizens must specifically state so. Otherwise, they will continue to hold Portuguese nationality. 

One of our Portugal immigration lawyers can provide you with more information on the laws for acquiring nationality. We also provide needed assistance to immigrants who have questions about their status and, as needed, the status of their children that are born in Portugal.
 

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 having access to state healthcare and having voting rights. For many, this is the natural course after they have decided to remain in the country. An immigration lawyer in Portugal who specializes in citizenship matters can help answer detailed questions about the available options. Our specialists will help you better 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 criteria. 
 
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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