Portuguese Citizenship: 8 Ways You Could Become Portuguese

/ Last Updated: July 24, 2023 / 173 Comments

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Portuguese citizenship comes with numerous benefits. These benefits include the right to live and work in Portugal, to study in Portugal, and to live, work, and travel within Europe as well. The Portuguese passport is also highly ranked, and gives you visa-free access to many countries around the world. And Portugal recognises dual citizenship too[1]https://www.portugalist.com/portugal-dual-citizenship/.

There are several ways that you can obtain Portuguese citizenship, some easier than others. Attribution routes, e.g. having a Portuguese parent or grandparent, are much easier than acquisition routes, e.g. living in Portugal for five years in terms of the amount of work needed on your part. But even though some routes require a little work (e.g. living in Portugal) it’s always worth it to get an “EU passport.”

1. The Golden Visa Route

Luxury villa

If you have money to invest in a property or business, Portugal’s golden visa, or ARI visa, is one of the easiest routes to acquiring Portuguese citizenship. It can be as simple as purchasing a house in Portugal and spending an average of seven days per year each year for five years here (14 days every two years) [2]https://www.sef.pt/en/pages/conteudo-detalhe.aspx?nID=21. For those that don’t want the challenges of owning and maintaining their own property here, an increasingly popular option is to invest in a hotel refurbishment project, which typically costs between €280,000 and €350,000 with a buyback option at the end.

Portugal is one of several European countries that offers a residency permit to those who invest in Portugal. In many other countries, investment means starting a business and creating jobs. That is one of the options on Portugal’s golden visa scheme, but it’s not the only one.

Investment can take many forms but, for many people, the simplest option is to purchase a residential property in Portugal as this comes with less risk and work than starting a business or investing in other businesses. It also provides you with a place to live.

Properties should be valued at €500,000 [3]https://www.henleyglobal.com/residence-investment/portugal or more, unless the property is more than 30 years old or in an area of urban renovation. If the property falls into the second category, it only needs to be valued at €350,000 or more [4]https://www.henleyglobal.com/residence-investment/portugal. If you are willing to buy a property in a low-density population area, the required value of the property could be reduced by 20% to either €400,000 or €280,000. As of January 2022, there are restrictions on where residential properties can be located if they want to qualify for the golden visa. In short, most of coastal Portugal, including Lisbon, Porto, and the majority of the Algarve, is excluded.

Other options include:

  • €5000k investment in funds, such as venture capital funds
  • €500k investment in scientific research [5]https://www.athenaadvisers.com/buying-guides/portugal/golden-visa/ [6]https://www.belionpartners.com/portugal-golden-visa-granting-requirements
  • €1.5 million transfer to a Portuguese bank account [7]https://www.athenaadvisers.com/buying-guides/portugal/golden-visa/ or purchase of shares in a Portuguese company [8]https://www.belionpartners.com/portugal-golden-visa-granting-requirements
  • An investment in the arts, culture, or national heritage of at least €250k [9]https://www.belionpartners.com/portugal-golden-visa-granting-requirements

Not everyone has that kind of money to hand of course but, for those that do, it’s one of the easiest ways to get residency (and a doorway to citizenship) in Portugal.

The golden visa scheme allows investors to stay in Portugal (and to travel easily within the Schengen Area) for five years. After five years, investors can apply for both permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship [10]https://moviinn.com/services/visas/types-of-visa#golden-visa.

  • Time needed: five years of residency in Portugal
  • Costs: €250,000-€1.5m investment + additional fees
  • Citizenship Language requirement: Yes: A2 (see details)

Read more about Portugal’s Golden Visa program

2. The Naturalisation Route (Living Here)


If, like most people, you don’t have €500k to spend on a property, the next easiest way is to live in Portugal for five years after which point you can apply for citizenship via naturalisation.

The most common way to obtain citizenship in any country is to live there for long enough. In Portugal, that length of time is five years (previously six) [11]https://www.cscadvogada.com/citizenship/legal-residence-for-5-years. It doesn’t have to be five years in a row, although this is typical. Those five years can be taken across a 15-year period.

A residence permit is normally used to determine how long you have lived in Portugal. If you have been living in Portugal without residency, as many people from other EU countries do, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use those years towards your citizenship application.

The biggest challenge for a lot of people will be finding a job to support themselves while they live in Portugal for five years. Portugal is not known for its ample job opportunities and those that do exist generally pay poorly in comparison to other EU countries, which is why Portugal traditionally tends to attract those with pensions. Those from outside of the EU/EEA/Switzerland will also need a visa such as the D7 or golden visa in order to live long-term in Portugal.

Years spent studying in Portugal on a student visa also count towards citizenship, however, so you could consider coming to Portugal to study, although you may need to apply for another visa if your course is less than five years in length.

  • Time needed: five years [12]https://www.cscadvogada.com/citizenship/legal-residence-for-5-years
  • Language requirement: Yes: A2 (see details)

Read more about obtaining Portuguese citizenship through naturalisation

3. The Partner Route

Children in wedding outfits

If your partner or spouse is Portuguese, you may be able to obtain Portuguese citizenship through them.

Non-Portuguese married to or in a long-term relationship with a Portuguese national for three years or longer can apply for Portuguese citizenship [13]https://atlanticbridge.com.br/en/cidadania-portuguesa-para-conjuges-ou-companheiros-e-possivel-e-agora-mais-facil/ [14]https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-through-marriage. You don’t have to be living in Portugal for those three years. You are no longer eligible after divorce [15]https://atlanticbridge.com.br/en/cidadania-portuguesa-para-conjuges-ou-companheiros-e-possivel-e-agora-mais-facil/.

Being married is not a legal requirement, so there’s no need to book the flight to Vegas just yet. Portugal is a little ahead of other countries as it counts long-term, stable relationships (known as a de facto union in Portugal) in the same way as it does marriage.

Does that mean it’s time to get on Match.com? Not quite. If you’ve seen romantic comedies like The Proposal or The Green Card, you’ll know that marrying for citizenship isn’t treated lightly within the government offices that process these applications.

It’s also worth pointing out that, just because you’re married to or in a relationship with a Portuguese person, doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed a passport. In the case of the marriage route, it’s very important to show your ties to Portugal and the Portuguese community [16]https://atlanticbridge.com.br/en/cidadania-portuguesa-para-conjuges-ou-companheiros-e-possivel-e-agora-mais-facil/.

Examples of ties to Portugal might include having a basic (A2 or better) knowledge of Portuguese, owning property here, or living here. The more ties you can show, the better.

Having an A2 knowledge of Portuguese is not a definite requirement here, but many Portugalist readers who have applied via this route have been asked for a certificate to prove language competency.

Couples in a de facto union also need to prove that they really are a couple and in a union. This could be through showing documents that prove that they live at the same address, share bills, etc.

However, even though citizenship through your partner isn’t always straightforward, Portugal does usually give residency to spouses. This would give you the right to live and work in Portugal.

  • Time needed: 3 years
  • Language requirement: Not always, but often yes (see details)

4. The Origin Route (Parents or Grandparents)

Portuguese older people

Some people are just born lucky: their parents or grandparents are Portuguese. If you fall into this category, the process is quite straight-forward as you have an automatic right to citizenship and don’t need to show any other ties to Portugal.

If you have a Portuguese parent, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. If you were born outside of Portugal, and have a Portuguese grandparent, you may also be able to acquire Portuguese citizenship.

If you were born in Portugal to parents who weren’t Portuguese at the time, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship if they had been legally residing in Portugal for the five years prior to your birth.

Great-grandparents are usually seen as too far back, however, you can get around this by having your parent or grandparent obtain citizenship first (assuming they’re alive and able to do so).

This is one of the most straight-forward routes to obtaining Portuguese nationality as you often only need to get a hold of documents like birth and marriage certificates. That said, you still do need to produce a paper trail of birth and marriage certificates back to that Portuguese relative or relatives. It can be a challenge for those who don’t have contact with their parents, and even more of a challenge for those that require their grandparents’ birth and marriage certificates as these things often get lost over time.

  • Time needed: There’s no requirement to live in Portugal
  • Language requirement: Portuguese Parents: no, Portuguese Grandparents: yes

5. The Sephardic Jewish Route

Sometimes it’s worth getting on Ancestry.com – especially if you think you might have Sephardic Jewish heritage.

During the inquisition period, thousands of Jews fled the Iberian Peninsula. To right a wrong, Portugal is offering citizenship to the ancestors of those who had to leave Spain and Portugal. Spain had a similar scheme, but has since closed it down. It’s possible that Portugal may do the same thing in the future.

This is obviously quite a unique situation. It obviously won’t apply to everyone, but it actually applies to quite a large number of people. According to RTP, as of February 2020, more than 50,000 people have already applied for Portuguese citizenship via this scheme.

You don’t need to trace your family tree all the way back to 15th Century Iberia, but you do need to trace far enough to show that you have Sephardic Jewish roots [17]https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-by-descendants-of-sephardic-jews [18]https://www.larraurimarti.com/en/guide-of-frequently-asked-questions-on-the-acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-for-sephardim-or-their-descendants. Some people only have to go back a few generations. Others have to go back much further.

Some of the ties that are used to show you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry include Sephardic surnames [19]https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-by-descendants-of-sephardic-jews, evidence of the ladino language being used in the family[20]https://lawoffice.org.il/en/portuguese-citizenship-to-sephardic-jews/, cemetery records or other documents. The most valuable document, however, is the certificate from the Portuguese Jewish Community in Lisbon.

Unfortunately for many, the rules changes in 2022 and now stronger ties are required. According to larraurimarti.com, applicants will now also need to show “A) The acquisition mortis causa of real estate located in Portugal, (or of rights of use and enjoyment of the same) B) the holding of shares or social participations in Portuguese trading companies or cooperatives, or C) Regular trips to Portugal throughout the applicant’s life.[21]https://www.larraurimarti.com/en/amendments-portuguese-nationality-process-for-sephardim”. If you have these ties, it’s still very much a worthwhile avenue.

  • Time needed: You don’t need to spend any time in Portugal, but should expect the process to take somewhere between 6 and 24 months.
  • Costs: Admin costs of €200, plus the cost of obtaining essential documents.
  • Language requirement: No.

Read more about Portuguese citizenship through Sephardi Heritage

6. The Former Colonies Route


At one point, Portugal was allowing citizens of former Portuguese colonies to apply for Portuguese citizenship.

Portugal has special relationships with former Portuguese territories including Angola, Cape Verde, Portuguese India, Guinea Bissau, East Timor, Macao, Mozambique, São Tomé, and Príncipe. Part of this special relationship includes an agreement whereby members of the former colonies could apply for Portuguese citizenship.

In most cases, there is (or was) a time limit during which citizens of these countries could apply to retain their Portuguese citizenship, so it may not be any option for you anymore.

7. The Born in Portugal Route

While being born in a country is a gauranteed right to citizenship for many countries, it isn’t so straightforward in Portugal.

That said, you may be eligible for citizenship if:

  • You were born in Portugal to at least one parent who had been resident in Portugal for a minimum of one years [22]https://index.statelessness.eu/news/changes-portuguese-nationality-act-come-force[23]https://globalcit.eu/the-2020-amendments-to-the-portuguese-nationality-act-a-big-step-further-towards-pure-ius-soli-and-some-more-inclusive-measures/[24]https://dre.pt/web/guest/home/-/dre/148086464/details/maximized(previously two years; this change in 2020) and was not an employee of the Portuguese State at the time

8. The Adoption Route

Fed up with your parents? Find some Portuguese parents to adopt you can you could become a Portuguese citizen. Under 18s only.

If Portuguese parents adopt you, you can claim Portuguese citizenship. Unfortunately, you have to be under 18 for this one: there isn’t a provision in Portuguese law for Portuguese parents adopting anyone older than 18.


1 https://www.portugalist.com/portugal-dual-citizenship/
2 https://www.sef.pt/en/pages/conteudo-detalhe.aspx?nID=21
3, 4 https://www.henleyglobal.com/residence-investment/portugal
5, 7 https://www.athenaadvisers.com/buying-guides/portugal/golden-visa/
6, 8, 9 https://www.belionpartners.com/portugal-golden-visa-granting-requirements
10 https://moviinn.com/services/visas/types-of-visa#golden-visa
11, 12 https://www.cscadvogada.com/citizenship/legal-residence-for-5-years
13, 15 https://atlanticbridge.com.br/en/cidadania-portuguesa-para-conjuges-ou-companheiros-e-possivel-e-agora-mais-facil/
14 https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-through-marriage
16 https://atlanticbridge.com.br/en/cidadania-portuguesa-para-conjuges-ou-companheiros-e-possivel-e-agora-mais-facil/
17 https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-by-descendants-of-sephardic-jews
18 https://www.larraurimarti.com/en/guide-of-frequently-asked-questions-on-the-acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-for-sephardim-or-their-descendants
19 https://washingtondc.embaixadaportugal.mne.gov.pt/en/consular-services/consular-services/acquisition-of-portuguese-nationality-by-descendants-of-sephardic-jews
20 https://lawoffice.org.il/en/portuguese-citizenship-to-sephardic-jews/
21 https://www.larraurimarti.com/en/amendments-portuguese-nationality-process-for-sephardim
22 https://index.statelessness.eu/news/changes-portuguese-nationality-act-come-force
23 https://globalcit.eu/the-2020-amendments-to-the-portuguese-nationality-act-a-big-step-further-towards-pure-ius-soli-and-some-more-inclusive-measures/
24 https://dre.pt/web/guest/home/-/dre/148086464/details/maximized
Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

You can contact James by emailing james@portugalist.com or via the site's contact form.

Originally published: August 2017 & Last Updated: July 24, 2023.