How to apply for Portuguese citizenship
Are you interested in applying for Portuguese citizenship? This page outlines who is eligible, the benefits of living in Portugal with citizenship and the process for applying.
Portuguese citizenship allows you to live in Portugal indefinitely and obtain benefits that differ somewhat to permanent residency in Portugal. Unlike permanent residents, those with citizenship in Portugal are permitted to vote in national elections and referenda, obtain a Portuguese passport and EU citizenship, allowing you to live, work or retire in any other EU member state too.
Who is eligible for Portuguese citizenship?
Citizens living in a country within the EU or EFTA can apply for Portuguese citizenship with relative ease.
Non-EU or EFTA citizens have been able to gain citizenship more readily since 2006, following a relaxation of the country’s legislation.
Following alterations to the Portuguese Nationality Act, non-EU nationals can secure citizenship after six years residing in the country or through marriage after three years residing here. Certain people and demographics can apply for citizenship in Portugal sooner, some of whom we’ll discuss in more detail shortly.
What are the benefits of Portuguese citizenship?
We’ve already discussed what differs between Portuguese permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship above, but it’s also important to look at the benefits of Portuguese citizenship as a whole. As a Portuguese citizen, you’ll also be able to do the following:
- Get a Portuguese passport which is ranked number 3 in the Passports Index for its mobility score.
- Buy commercial property
- Gain full-time employment or self-employment (without the need for a Portuguese work permit)
- Receive Portuguese social security benefits and pensions
- Partake in education and study
Portuguese dual citizenship
It is entirely possible to obtain dual citizenship, allowing you to apply for Portuguese citizenship without having to relinquish your citizenship of your home country. It’s important to check with your home country to clarify whether they allow dual citizenship first.
If your home country does not permit this, and you are serious about gaining Portuguese citizenship, you may be asked to renounce your existing citizenship first.
How to become a Portuguese citizen
The Portuguese Nationality Act allows overseas nationals to obtain Portuguese citizenship in the following ways:
- The most common way to acquire Portuguese citizenship is through naturalisation. This means that you will need to reside in Portugal for a minimum of six years. You can apply for permanent residency in Portugal after five years, but this does not offer the same benefits as citizenship, as we’ve already discussed above.
- Those seeking citizenship through naturalisation will need to be over the age of 18, have a criminal record free of convictions punishable of three or more years imprisonment in the eyes of Portuguese law, and have obtained an A2 level of Portuguese.
- The application needs to made to the Portuguese Ministry of Justice (Instituto dos Registos e do Notoriado – IRN).
Via the Golden Visa Scheme
- Portugal is one of several European nations to offer a residency permit to those who ‘invest’ in Portugal. This can be in various guises, including job creation, investment in local culture or research and development (R&D), or even acquiring property.
- Those entering Portugal via the Golden Visa scheme may remain in Portugal for up to five years, after which they can apply for permanent residency and after six years they can apply for full citizenship.
By marrying a Portuguese national
- Individuals that marry a Portuguese national have the option of applying for Portuguese citizenship once they have been married for at least three years. You don’t have to reside in Portugal during this time, which is a requirement that differs from several other EU nations.
- Further information can be found on the IRN website.
Via Portuguese parents or grandparents
It’s also possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship via origin. There are three common scenarios in which citizenship by origin is made possible:
- If one or both of your parents are Portuguese
- If you were born overseas, but have a Portuguese grandparent
- If you were born in Portugal to parents without citizenship at the time, but they had been living legally in Portugal for five years prior to your birth
If you have been adopted by Portuguese parents, it is possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. The only stipulation is that adopted applicants need to be aged under 18. At the time of writing, no legal provision exists for Portuguese people adopting someone aged 18 and over, via agreements with former Portuguese colonies.
Via relationships with former Portuguese colonies
There are several long-term relationships between Portugal and nations that are former Portuguese territories. One of the main benefits of these relationships is that residents of these former colonies can apply for Portuguese citizenship. These territories include:
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Macau (if born under the period of Portuguese rule)
- Cape Verde
- Guinea Bissau
- Portuguese India (if born under the period of Portuguese rule)
- East Timor
If you are considering applying for Portuguese Citizenship, a good lawyer can help can make the process so much more simple. Expats Portugal highly recommends Reis & Pellicano Internation lawyers for all your legal needs. Plus, Premium Member of Expats Portugal receive a 10% discount off their fees.
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