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Portuguese Citizenship: 7 ways you could become Portuguese

130 comments from other Portugalist readers

Note: Every effort has been made to make this article as factual as possible, however, the information contained is not equal to what an legal professional can offer. If you have any questions, please consult with a Portuguese lawyer – ideally one that specialises in Portuguese citizenship law. I cannot answer those questions, but hopefully one of the lawyers mentioned below can. 

Portuguese citizenship comes with a number of benefits, not least the ability to travel and work within the EU.

According to the The Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index of 2016, the Portuguese passport also offers visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 172 countries. This ranks the Portuguese Passport at 6th worldwide (alongside Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and South Korea).

Since Brexit, as millions of British nationals try to hold onto their European ties, there has been an sharp increase in the number of people interested in obtaining Portuguese citizenship.

Prior to that, most British people hadn’t really considered applying for another citizenship and most of the interest in becoming Portuguese came from people from Brazil and other former Portuguese colonies.

This means there is now increased interest in obtaining Portuguese citizenship, and you may find that this affects the length of time the process takes.

Is Portuguese citizenship right for you?

Portuguese citizenship is not the easiest EU citizenship to obtain, it has to be said. If you just want citizenship of any EU country, there may be better countries to look at.

The easiest path to an EU passport to have an Irish or Italian grandparent. Failing that, some countries like Greece offer Golden Visas for a relatively small investment (€250,000 for Greece). Portugal has a similar scheme (see below), but the investment amount is slightly higher (starting from €280,000).

If you’re not lucky enough to be of Irish or Italian descent, or to have €250,000 in the bank, the next easiest options are to spend three years living in Poland or to marry a Spanish person (for one year). Ideally the marriage will work out, and you’ll want to stay with them for longer than that, but that’s the minimum requirement for citizenship.

Portuguese citizenship, as mentioned, isn’t the easiest EU citizenship to obtain. However, if you plan to live in Portugal long-term, it could worth pursuing one of these options.

Through naturalisation (living in Portugal)

The most common way to obtain citizenship in any country is to live there for long enough. In Portugal, that length of time is 6 years. You can apply for permanent residence after 5 years and, although it’s not quite the same as citizenship, that’s actually good enough for most people.

When applying for citizenship, there are a number of requirements that you have to meet. You must be over 18, you must not have been convicted of a serious crime (one that’s punishable of up to three years imprisonment under Portuguese law), and you must be possess an A2 level of Portuguese.

If you’re not an EU citizenship, the biggest challenge will be staying in Portugal for 5-6 years. Portugal issues long-term visas for a number of different groups of people including students, volunteers, those with a job offer in Portugal, and those who have sufficient funds to support themselves (~€50,000) or/as well as a passive income (including a pension).

You will need to look at the different visas available, and see which one you could apply for.

Through the Golden Visa scheme (investing in Portugal)

Portugal is one of several European countries that offers a fully-valid residency permit to those who invest in Portugal. Investment can take many forms (such as creating a business that provides local jobs, investing in research, or investing in culture) but it can be as simple as purchasing a property in Portugal.

Properties should be valued at €500,000 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. 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.

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 within the Schengen Area) for 5 years. After 5 years, investors can obtain permanent Portuguese residency. After 6 years, investors can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

Through Marriage

Foreigners married to a Portuguese national for three years or longer can apply for Portuguese citizenship. You don’t have to be living in Portugal for those three years, which is typically a requirement for citizenship with most other EU countries.

Does that mean it’s time to get on Match.com? Not quite. If you’ve seen any of the many romantic comedies that follow this idea (Green Card and The Proposal), you’ll know that marrying for citizenship isn’t treated lightly within the government offices that process these applications.

But, if you did happen to meet the love or your life, and they did happen to be Portuguese, you’d kill two birds with one stone.

Through origin (through Portuguese parents or grandparents)

There are a few ways that you may be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship by origin.

  1. If you have a Portuguese parent, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship.
  2. If you were born outside of Portugal, and have a Portuguese grandparent, you may also be able to acquire Portuguese citizenship.
  3. 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.

Through Sephardic Jew ancestry

If your ancestors were Sephardic Jews who lived in Portugal in the 15th and 16th century (and were kicked out by King Manuel) then you may be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship.

This is a very unique situation and, unless you’re very familiar with your ancestry, it’s unlikely that 1) you have Sephardic Jews in your family tree and 2) that you’ll be able to trace that far back.

More information can be found at sephardicjewsportugal.com.

Through adoption

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.

Through agreements between Portugal and former colonies

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.

Portuguese Lawyers & Contacts

The following are a handful of lawyers that specialise in citizenship and immigration, golden visas, and naturalisation issues. Unfortunately, I haven’t used any of them so I can’t recommend them.

Have you applied for Portuguese citizenship or permanent residence in Portugal? What was the process like? Let us, and other interested readers, know about your experience by leaving a comment below. 

Last updated in September 2019.
If you spot a mistake, leave a comment below.

130 thoughts on “Portuguese Citizenship: 7 ways you could become Portuguese”

Leave a comment or ask a question below. I try and answer all of them.
    • Hi,
      Regarding about apply for perminent residence, and citizen ship of portugal, in April 2020 my five years will finish. What do i need for perminent residence and citizenship? please let me know, many thanks.

    • I was born in Portugal in 1967 to Portuguese parents and lived ther until 7 years of age. We moved to Canada in 1973 and became citizens in 1979. Can I get my Portuguese citizenship back to have dual citizenship

      • Yes you can, you need to go to the Portuguese Embassy or Portuguese Consulate, you have never lost your citizenship and if you have children they can also apply and become Portuguese citizens, very simple process.

  1. hello good evening, i am nipu nasir khan from moscow russia, my native country is bangladesh , i have russian ( pr ) permanent residence, i have a small business (mobile ph accessories ) i do import from china. write me pls how can i get portuguese residence easy way with in short time ? also write me pls what type of document are need ? and minimum how much euro need in cluding of all taxes and advisosy fee thanks lot

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that if you want to move onto residency or citizenship after 5/6 years, you will need to pass a basic language test. Prior to that, I don’t think it’s required.

      James

        • After completing level A2, you can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).​​ Communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.​​ Describe in simple terms aspects of your background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

    • I am in a similar situation, my kids’ paternal grandparents were born in Portugal but migrated to Aus, kids’ dad born in Aus and so are they. I am looking into getting them a dual aus-Portuguese citizenship but both grandparents are now Aus citizenship only I think. The consulate here is hopeless and can not get any information on how to apply

    • It is a minefield in S Africa. We were ripped off by an “expert” legal type person in S Africa. It took us 4 years (and, eventually, very helpful Portuguese Embassy staff in England) to get the mess sorted – and even then it was only possible after we’d left S Africa.

      Good luck

  2. Hi. What about students. As he is living on the temporary residence card. So can he apply after 5 years. As he do not pay any sort of tax etc?? Kindly please clear that. Can a student get a Portuguese citizenship after living 5 years in portugal on student status. Please please reply me as soon as possible.
    Thanks

  3. My mom is of Chinese Descent . Her parents are Chinese Descents as well.n. My mom was born in Macau in 1932. She immigrated to Hong Kong in 1946. Can she claim Portugal Nationality now based on her birthplace?

  4. Hi I live in the united kingdom and I got married to a Portuguese national in 2012, we lived together 5years and we got divorce in 2017, we didn’t register the marriage with the Portuguese consulate and now we are back together living as partners. Can I apply for a Portuguese nationality base on the fact that we have been married for five years before the divorce in 2017.

    • Hi Kenneth
      I am married to a Portuguese as well, believe me if you didn’t register you marriage it will be difficult.
      We got married in Africa and this is our second marriage from both side, The Portuguese government asks me to register my previous divorce in China, but my government said they don’t do that unless I was divorced in China.
      We are married for over ten years and we lived in Portugal for 5 years, we still can’t register our marriage!

    • Yup, as Vivian said – you have to get everything registered in Portugal.
      What you have to remember is everything a Portuguese person does is added (yes, added) to their birth certificate. So, if you don’t get each and every activity registered – each marriage and each divorce (including the birth/s of your children) registered then the Portuguese won’t recognise it / or your current status.
      We could not get our marriage registered in Portugal before my wife’s divorce (which had taken place decades ago) was registered. It took years to do and lots, and lots, of legal translations.

      Good luck

  5. Hello,

    My wife was born and raised in the UK(like me), but her father is Portuguese and although he’s lived in the UK for 40 years has retained his Portuguese citizenship.

    Any ideas if and how my wife can apply for Portuguese citizenship?

    Thanks

  6. Morning,trust you are well
    please will you help me with some advise, both my parents are Portuguese and so were their parents, I was born in South Africa, can my family qualify for a Portuguese passports?if so who can I contact.
    thank you for your time
    Paula

  7. Hi. What about students. As he is living on the temporary residence card. So can he apply after 5 years. As he do not pay any sort of tax etc?? Kindly please clear that. Can a student get a Portuguese citizenship after living 5 years in portugal on student status.
    Thanks

  8. Hi it’s Balvinder Singh
    Actually I’m an illegal in Purtugal and my girlfriend is British citizens and we both want to get married here in Purtugal
    Can we get married here ?
    And after that if we get married then would I able to get residency card

    • I would imagine if you’re illegal here that’s going to make it difficult for you to legally marry here. Also, it sounds complicated as your girlfriend is a British citizen rather than a Portuguese citizen?

      I would advise you to speak to a lawyer rather than a blogger 🙂

  9. What if my great-grandparents were from Portugal? One side from Lisbon and other side from the Azores, would that qualify me to apply for citizenship? It made my grandma 1st generation born here in the states.
    Thanks

  10. I am from Ethiopia, my great grand parents were Portuguese missionaries that came to Ethiopia in 18s. my great grandparents and also my grandparents all have passed away. I plan one day to visit Portugal and trace my family heritage where ever it goes. I have no idea If I am eligible to apply for citizenship because Ethiopia was never a colony of Portugal and my great grandparents are not alive as well.

    • Hi Thomas,

      Not a lawyer so best to speak to one for any legal advice, but I believe the cut-off is grandparents rather than great grandparents. Sounds like a very interesting story that you have, though. Even though you mightn’t be eligible for citizenship, I think it would still be very interesting to look into your family tree.

  11. Hi,

    My mother was born in Portugal to a Portuguese father and a half Portuguese/English mother. My mother’s passport lapsed some years ago bug I wondered if it was at all possible for me to get a Portuguese passport?

  12. Hi James,

    Greetings,
    I am please to see you are supporting from the heart and its truly helpful for all. My below concerns,

    1) I am from India, planning to have longer stay, PR, in Portugal. Basically I am Civil Engineer, working in Saudi Arabia. As you wrote, investment amount ranging from 280,000 to 550,000 Euro, would this possible to invest the amount by group of people like 3 or 4. Whats its criteria.

  13. Hi!

    Dear I want to know that can I apply for a Temporary Resident Permit as I have a regular rental income of $2000 per month. And we are total 4 person in family.

    Please reply

  14. Hey . I will get marry this year . My fiancé was born in Zimbabwe . But she have Portuguese passport too bc of her grandfather . She never visit Eu in her life but she travel dubai and aisa country with her Portuguese passport . After marriage can I get passport or visa too ? Please help me .

  15. I’m similar to the last comment – my father is from Mozambique and then moved to Portugal and then to the UK where I was born. My grandfather stayed, died and is buried in Lisbon and my uncles are there. Anyone got any ideas as to how to trace birth certificates from the 50s as my father does not know where his would be – I need this to apply either via my father of course, or even via my grandfather as it proves my link to my grandfather.

  16. Dear sirs /madam
    Iam ibrahem from syria ,24 years old ,staying in turkey
    I’d like to study in portugal Unifersities and living there for rest of my life .
    I graduated from English institute with 70.53% in 2016 .
    I worked in syria as English teacher for two years.
    With all due rspect

  17. Hello bro.I’m also from bd now I’m in italy. I have all documents in italy include 1 year living permit ( renewable).I want to come Portugal and get Portuguese living permit.let me know the Processing time & way.
    Thanks in advance…

  18. Hello bro.I’m also from bd now I’m in italy. I have all documents in italy include 1 year living permit ( renewable).I want to come Portugal and get Portuguese living permit.let me know the Processing time & way.

    Thanks in advance…

  19. I’m portuguese and so are my children. I am married to a South African. We live in South Africa and have been married for 26 years. Your article states that after 3 years of marriage to a Portuguese citizen the spouse is illegible for Portuguese citizenship. However, I have enquired about this through our consulate here in Cape Town and they have told me it is not possible, unless we are resident/living in Portugal. Could you confirm this fact?

  20. Hello,
    We came to Portugal months ago for settlement and have a baby born here last month, we both are foreign national and did not live here for long time (as mentioned),how we can apply the baby resident card and after so can we apply for resident card through our baby born here? Please give some valuable advise.
    Many thanks.

  21. Hi,
    My husband is now a Portuguese citizen and we have been married for 30 years. I am Canadian.
    I want my citizenship as well. I am considering either registering our marriage in Portugal or registering for citizenship myself.
    I want to know the benefits/drawbacks of each.
    Thank you for your time in answering.
    Allison

  22. Hello! My husband and I are currently living in the USA and are planning to move to Portugal in the coming months. Both my maternal and paternal parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles were born in the Azores and moved to the USA in and around the 1920’s. How easy or difficult will it be to receive my Portuguese citizenship? My husband is not of Portuguese decent but we have been married 25 years. How difficult will it be for him to obtain the same? We are interested in equal citizenship.

  23. Good morning, My husband’s great grandfather was from Portugal and he and many others fled religious persecution in the mid 1800s and ended up in the Caribbean. They are originally from Madeira. Do you think Portuguese passport/residency is possible? Seriously thinking of emigrating there.

    • Hi Gina,

      If he falls under one of the categories mentioned in the article, then yes, but I think great grandparent is too far removed. As for the religious persecution aspect, I’m not sure. There is a provision for sephardic jews, but I don’t know of any other religions. You would need to speak to a professional who specialises in this field.

  24. What about a family member (sister) living in South Africa which has become extremely dangerous. I am originally from SA, have a French passport (30years) and reside in Portugal and have Portuguese residency.
    Many thanks

  25. As a South African and my grandfather is from Madeira, I do not speak the language, can I apply for a Portuguese Passport.

    My sisters have been trying for the last few years and have been told that they could but need the marriage certificate of our grandparents in order to apply.

    Please advise.

  26. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My Grandparents on both sides were born in Portugal, my parents were born Mozambique and I was born in South Africa. I was on my mom’s portuguese passport as a child she never renewed it. What do I need to reapply for a portuguese passport and are my children entitled to one? I have no family left in South Africa they have all left.

  27. Hi James,

    Thank you for this platform so that we can be informed about Portuguese citizenship procedures.

    I am a non-EU citizen and I have been married to my Portuguese husband for 3 years. I know that I have the right to apply for the Portuguese citizenship now but do you think I need to be able to speak the language to get the citizenship?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Basak,

      I’m not 100% sure. I’ll need to see if I can speak to some people who’ve gone through the process and find out.

      If you do, it’ll probably only be to A2 Level which is very achievable. Having a Portuguese husband means you will also have plenty of opportunities to practice too!

  28. I have my deceased mothers Portugal passport.
    She used to live in Goa.
    She lived all her life in Goa & Mumbai.

    I was considering applying for Permanent residence based on the my mom’s old Portugal Passport.

    Please advice how can i pursue this & actualise my dream of moving to Portugal.

    • Hi David,

      I am just someone who writes about Portugal. I am not a professional in the citizenship field, so I cannot give advice and I would recommend that you speak to professionals regarding anything to do with citizenship.

  29. 1st come to Portugal legally.
    Make a legal entry within 3 working days to nearest SEF it’s free.
    Make finance number, fees 20 Euros from finanace office.
    Make house contract (JUNTA) 30 euros at some places only
    Make social security number.
    Work anywhere and start paying tax of 210 euros every month
    Take work contract and all documents enter papers in SEF online and wait for 4 months.
    After 4 months you will recieve an email to select the date for fingers and get the fingers done perhaps you will recieve 1 year temporary card (After entering papers time limit is not fix when you will get date for fingers after 4 months I mean and here comes your luck)
    Documents : Passport, Legal entery, Finanance, social security number, Junta, Indian PCC, Portugal PCC, work contract when you enter papers in SEF and add 2 passport size photo, salary slips, TAX declaration and work declaration, also 583 euros at the time of fingers.
    After 1 year card pay atleast 6 month tax.
    Apply for 2 years of card same documents and process of fingers
    Once you get card now it’s total 3 years
    Apply again 2 years card with same documents and process of fingers
    Now it’s 5 years in total from the date of issue of your 1st card.
    Eligible to apply passport with same documents and process of fingers additionally A2 level of portuguese language.
    Total time is 6-7 years to get passport as I see the current situation in portugal.
    Very importantly 1 thing Lisboa is so pack that no one is getting a accommodation so before coming please contact any one who is in portugal.
    Good luck friends and Obrigado.

  30. Hello I am inquiring o behalf of sister.
    She leaved in Portugal for 3or 4 year with visa and have a daughter there b
    Brazilian parents. is the daughter have any right to ask to Portuguese citizenship?
    Many thanks,
    Alzira

  31. My step son, Wife (his birth mom) and I are moving to Portugal. We have a home and Ways to provide for the three of us. My is granted her Visa through myself as I have Dual citizenship. My stepson who is over the age of 18 is not covered under my citizenship. There was too many side complications to have adopted him, and moving to Portugal was not in the cards at the time. It’s been asked that he provides an amount that shows that he can live and support himself In Portugal. Does anybody have any idea how much he has to have to show in order for him to obtain his visa? We have written a letter stating that he will be under our financial supervision and then we will support him. We will be heading to the embassy within the next couple of weeks. We have all kind of documentation insurances and everything that is needed. The only concern we have is how much money does he have to show for them to be satisfied that he is able to support himself. He won’t have to pay for any residents as I already stated we own a home already. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  32. My Dad was born in Portugal during WWI, was brought to the United States in the 1920s, became as US Citizen in the 1960s and died in the US in the 1980s. I am his son, born in the US and have lived here my entire life, but now retired and interested in moving to Portugal. Can I apply for permanent residence when I arrive there (I meet the legal qualifications you listed). Thank you.

  33. Hi,
    I am looking at acquiring Portugese citizenship through me deceased grandparents who lived in Madeira and emigrated to South Africa in the late 1920’s. My father does not have Portugese citizenship but my aunt was able to get her Portugese passport a few years ago.I am unable to find all the requirements needed for the application. Can you shed some light on the subject,.
    Many thanks,
    Raoul Gomes

  34. Hi I am married to a portugul citizen. and want to acquire citizenship. but I was born in Mumbai and my birth is not registered in Mumbai but I have my Baptism certificate from Mumbai on which my marriage have been registered in portugal.Can you advise how to apply for citizen ship.

    • Hi James,

      As you mentioned about the golden visa program, by staying in Portugal for 5 years to apply for a PR. May i know the meaning of staying is physically live in Portugal for 5 years? Or just need to stay an average of 7 days per year in 5 years?

      Thanks!

  35. If i get my PR, which i have to stay the first year 7 days and 14 days in each subsequent year. So on my 5th year i got my Permanent residency. after six years i am allowed to apply for citizenship? or because i already have the PR proved i stayed 5 years i only need to prove i stay for one more year to complete the 6 years? does my 5 years of PR count and only remaining to do one more year? do i have to stay the whole year to Portugal or on the 6thyear? or again another 14 days of the 6th year?

  36. “Some countries like Malta and Greece offer Golden Visas for a relatively small investment of between €250,000 and €300,000.”

    Please check this.

    I got the information that Malta an applicant has to do two things:

    1. Make a financial contribution of 650,000 euros plus additional for each family member Non-Refundable.
    2. Buy property for 350,000 euros and retain for at least five years.

    This definitely does not make it cheap as suggested by you above.

    Source: http://www.maltaimmigration.com/

    • Hi Srinivasan,

      It looks like you’re absolutely correct. I think I had looked at the property investment, but it seems like there are other costs (like government bonds, a donation to the government, and admin fees which make it much, much more expensive than places like Portugal. I will update the article.

  37. My father and grandparents were all born in Portugal. My father was under 10 when he came to Canada. I hold a British and Canadian passport. Am I eligible to apply for my Portuguese citizenship

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