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How to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship

Updated: June 25, 2024
By: David Afonso

From the freedom to live and work in Portugal to the opportunity to travel freely inside the European Union, obtaining Portuguese citizenship has several advantages. In this detailed guide, we explore the various ways through which you can obtain Portuguese citizenship – discussing the application process, the language test, exceptional cases, how to get a Portuguese passport, dual nationality, and the advantages of becoming a Portuguese citizen.

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Frederik Pohl, CEO
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Portuguese Citizenship: What You Need to Know

The attribution of Portuguese nationality may depend on the person’s place of birth, how many years they have lived in Portugal, the nationality of their family members or spouse, and their relationship with the Portuguese community, among other factors. It’s important to note that the process is multifaceted and involves various phases, like a language test (in some cases). Let’s delve into these intricacies to ensure you’re well-prepared.

Ways to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship

Citizenship by Marriage

You can apply for Portuguese nationality if you have been married or united to a Portuguese national for more than three years on the date of the application. Depending on your situation, you may need to present certain documents, proving your connection to the Portuguese community. Some required documentation:

  • Marriage certificate or certificate of the court decision recognizing that you have lived together for over three years (de facto union)
  • Declaration for the acquisition of Portuguese nationality
  • Birth certificate
  • Birth certificate of the person you are married to or living with
  • Proof of your nationality
  • Criminal record
  • Evidence of the public functions you perform in another country
  • Proof of non-compulsory military service you have performed
  • Documents proving your connection to the Portuguese community

Portuguese nationality applications can be submitted online (with a lawyer or solicitor representing you) or in person for those married to or united with a Portuguese citizen. It has an associated fee of 250€.

Portuguese Citizenship by Residence

You can acquire Portuguese nationality under these conditions if:

  • You are over 18 (or emancipated under Portuguese law)
  • You have been legally residing in Portugal for at least five years
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language
What documents do I need to submit to obtain Portuguese citizenship by residence?
  • Birth certificate
  • Application addressed to the Minister of Justice, written in Portuguese.
  • Document proving sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language
  • Criminal record

If this applies to you, you can apply to become a Portuguese citizen through residence on the web (lawyer or solicitor representing you) or in person. It costs 250€ as well.

Portugal: Citizenship by Investment

In this case, the applicant must invest in the country through one of the investment routes permitted by the Golden Visa program:

  • Creating at least ten jobs in Portugal.
  • Investments of more than 500.000€ that create or reinforce the share capital of a commercial company headquartered in Portugal and that, as a consequence, generate at least five jobs or ensure the maintenance of at least ten, with a minimum of five permanent employees, and for a minimum period of three years.
  • Investments equal to or greater than 500.000€, applied in scientific research led by a public or private institution that the Portuguese Scientific and Technological System officially recognizes.
  • Capital transfers equal to or greater than 250.000€, applied to the artistic production, recovery, and/or maintenance of national cultural heritage through public institutes, foundations or associations, local business entities, and services associated with the government.
  • Investments equal to or greater than 500.000€, intended for acquiring shares in non-real estate collective investment entities, must be at least five years old and have 60% of investments materialized in companies with Portuguese headquarters.
  • Solidarity Golden Visa: This new (June 2024) alternative aims to give residence permits in exchange for investments of 250,000€, which will be directed towards equipment and infrastructure to support immigrants in difficulty in Portugal.
How can I apply for a Golden Visa in Portugal?

Any legal adult with a clean criminal record who is not an EU, EEA, or Switzerland citizen can apply for the Golden Visa. Here is an overview of the requirements:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Clean criminal record
  • Investment period of at least five years
  • No previous refusal to a visa application or to enter the EU
  • Medical insurance, if deciding to move to Portugal permanently

Anyone applying for the Golden Visa must spend at least seven days in the country in the first year and 14 days in the subsequent years.

Citizenship by Birth in Portugal

You can apply for Portuguese nationality if you were born in Portugal and/or:

  • Your parents are foreigners and resided (legally or not) in Portugal when you were born
  • You’re over 18 (or emancipated under Portuguese law)
  • You have lived in Portugal for the last five years

If you meet these conditions, you can apply for Portuguese nationality free of charge, naturally.

Citizenship by Adoption

Children under 18 legally adopted by a Portuguese citizen from abroad can petition for citizenship immediately. It will be necessary for you to exhibit a degree of affiliation with the Portuguese community. For instance, this could involve enrollment in Portuguese education or proficiency in Portuguese. The application is comparable to those of other categories. You must submit identification, adoption documents, and evidence of your relationship to Portugal (usually taken care of by the parents, right away). The application is free, as long as the adoption occurred after October 8, 1981. 

Obtain Portuguese Citizenship by Descent

To qualify, you must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • Regardless of your birthplace, you have at least one Portuguese parent who was a Portuguese national at the time of your birth.
  • If you have resided in Portugal for a minimum of three years, are associated with the Portuguese community (including possessing a command of the Portuguese language) and you have a Portuguese grandparent who has maintained their nationality.
  • You were born in Portugal to foreign parents, and at the time of your birth, at least one of your parents had been residing in Portugal for at least five years (since 1981), two years (since 2018), or one year (since 2020).
  • You are 18 or older, were born in Portugal to foreign parents, and have resided in Portugal for five years.

The application is free if you are applying through descent (i.e., you have Portuguese parents or ancestors). The cost is 250€ if you register through birth (born in Portugal). Suppose you are under the age of 18 or severely disabled and are applying because a parent became a Portuguese national after your birth. In that case, you will be required to pay 200€.

Faro is the main town of Algarve, Portugal
Faro is the main town of Algarve, Portugal

Used to be Portuguese and lost Portuguese nationality

Here we need to consider if:

  • You didn’t acquire another nationality
  • You opted for a foreign nationality
  • You are a minor or incapacitated
  • You’re a woman who married a foreigner before 1981.

Exceptional cases for Portuguese citizenship

Under exceptional circumstances, specific groups can petition for Portuguese citizenship on a fast track:

  • You are under 18 or of legal age, and your father or mother acquired Portuguese nationality after birth
  • You’re a member of a Portuguese community abroad
  • You have rendered relevant services to the Portuguese State or the Portuguese community
  • Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews
  • Timorese citizens 

Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews

If you’re a proven descendant of the Portuguese Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Portugal and Spain in the fifteenth century, you can be granted Portuguese citizenship rather easily. In order to be approved, you must submit proof of:

  • Family Surnames,
  • Family Language,
  • Direct offspring or family relations in the genealogical lines of the Portuguese Sephardic community.

Besides the typical documents we have mentioned before (birth certificate, criminal record, etc), you need to present a Jewish community certificate with religious-related status in Portugal, which proves “lineage of Portuguese origin, through surname, family language, genealogy, and family memory”. If you can’t get this certificate, you can also resort to documentary records, such as records of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as residence permits, property deeds, wills and other documents that prove your family relations and your Portuguese Sephardic roots. 

Getting citizenship in Portugal: Application process

  • Gather documentation: Prepare all necessary documents, including birth certificates, marriage (if applicable), criminal record, and proof of income.
  • Submit the application: The application can be submitted in person, by mail to the AIMA, the Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais, or online, as mentioned.
  • Pay fees: The fees corresponding to the type of application must be paid. The maximum is 250€.
  • Wait for evaluation: The authorities will review the application, which may include an interview and document verification.
  • Receive decision: If approved, a certificate of nationality will be issued.
Portugal Citizenship Language Test

The Portuguese citizenship language test is a requirement for anyone applying for citizenship, and its purpose is to evaluate your proficiency in Portuguese. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate their ability to understand, speak, read, and write in Portuguese at an A2 level. A certified Portuguese language test instructor conducts the test, which you must pass to proceed with the citizenship application process.

What is the passing score for the language test?

The passing score for the test is 55%. Oral comprehension is 30%, reading and writing are 40%, and oral expression is 30%. If you don’t pass the citizenship language test, don’t worry! You can retake it.

How much does the Portuguese test for citizenship cost?

It costs 72€, which you can pay via MULTIBANCO (only in Portugal) or bank transfer.

Getting a Portuguese Passport

Once you have obtained Portuguese nationality, you can apply for a Portuguese passport online or at either of the following locations:

  • Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado (IRN).
  • ‘Loja do Cidadão’
  • Passports Shops in Portuguese Airports (Lisboa and Porto).
  • A Portuguese embassy or consulate in your area of residence.

Is Dual Nationality in Portugal possible?

Portugal allows dual nationality, which means it is unnecessary to renounce the previous nationality to obtain Portuguese one. This is especially beneficial for those who wish to maintain legal ties and rights in their country of origin. Nevertheless, verifying with your country of origin whether dual citizenship is also permissible is necessary. In certain instances, your home country may mandate that you relinquish your citizenship before obtaining Portuguese nationality.

Benefits of becoming a citizen of Portugal

Having Portuguese citizenship means, among other things, that you have the same rights as someone born in Portugal. Here are some of the advantages of obtaining Portuguese citizenship:

  • Having one of the best passports in the world, with the right to travel to at least 155 countries without obtaining a visa.
  • Having the same rights as a citizen born in Europe, studying in public educational institutions, using the health system, and residing and applying for public office throughout the region belong to the Schengen Agreement.
  • Eliminating the long customs queues at airports and ports when traveling to the old continent.
  • Passing your Portuguese citizenship to your descendants.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Costs can vary depending on the method chosen. Still, fees typically include application processing (max. 250€) and legal assistance (when you talk to a lawyer or another legal professional).

Yes, Portuguese citizenship can be lost in some specific cases, such as:

  • Voluntarily: Express renunciation of Portuguese citizenship
  • Enlisting in a foreign army without authorization from the Portuguese government
  • Conviction of serious crimes (against state security, drug trafficking or terrorism)
  • Voluntary acquisition of another nationality: In force since 2023, except for countries in the European Union, CPLP, Portuguese-speaking countries, and countries with which Portugal has dual nationality agreements.

Yes, if you’re American and you acquire Portuguese nationality, you do not need to give up your American citizenship. Matter of fact, you can hold even another nationality in Portugal. 

This varies from case to case and depends on if your situation is simpler or a little bit more complicated. On average, this process takes between 6 to 24 months – once all the required documents have been submitted. 

Well, not exactly. However, through investment, you can obtain a Golden Visa, that after 5 years qualifies you for Portuguese nationality.

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