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Portuguese Citizenship: 8 Ways You Could Get A Portuguese Passport

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Last updated on April 8, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 15 minutes

Portuguese citizenship comes with numerous benefits. These benefits include the right to live in Portugal, to work in Portugal, and to study in Portugal. But because the Portuguese passport is an “EU passport” holding a Portuguese passport gives you the right to live, work, and travel within the EU as well.

Henley & Partners ranks the Portuguese passport 4th in the world, as of 2024, as does Passport Index.

The most common way to get Portuguese citizenship is by moving here and applying for citizenship through naturalisation after five years of legal residency. However, if you have a Portuguese parent, grandparent, spouse, or partner, you may be able to get Portuguese citizenship even faster. You can even get Portuguese citizenship through your children in very specific cases.

The following are the main ways that you could qualify for Portuguese citizenship.

Naturalisation (Living in Portugal)

Carvoeiro
© Portugalist

The most common way to obtain citizenship in Portugal is to live here for five years (previously six). In other countries, such as Spain, the requirement is typically 10 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 [source].

In order to move to Portugal and live here for those 5 years, you will need to obtain residency.

  • If you’re from another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, that’ll be relatively easy [source].
  • It’ll also be relatively easy if you’re married to a citizen from an EU/EEA citizen or in a long-term relationship [source].

Have a passport from the US, Canada, UK, India, or anywhere else? Don’t fret! Even if you don’t have an EU/EEA/Swiss passport, or a partner from one of these countries, it’s worth noting that Portugal is one of the easier EU countries to move to thanks to its attainable residency visas.

These visas include:

  • The D7: Aimed at those with a passive income, such as income from a pension, social security, dividends, or a rental property.
  • The Digital Nomad Visa: Aimed at remote workers and digital nomads, or those with an active income such as a salary or income from freelancing.
  • The Golden Visa: Aimed at investors or those with savings. The most popular route is to invest in funds, such as venture capital funds.
  • The D2: Aimed at entrepreneur or those that want to start a business in Portugal.

As of 2024, the clock for citizenship via naturalisation (living in Portugal) now starts ticking when you submit your residency visa application in your home country – not when you receive your residency card as before.

Even though obtaining citizenship through naturalisation does require living here for around six months of the year for five years (unless you’re on the golden visa, see below) it’s still faster and simpler than obtaining citizenship through another EU country.

CountryYearsDual Citizenship AllowedLanguage Level
Portugal5YesA2
Spain10NoA2
France5YesB1
Germany6-8 YearsNoB1
Italy10YesB1
  • Time needed: 5 years residency in Portugal (+ processing period)
  • Language requirement: Yes: A2 (see details)
  • Other requirements: Clean criminal record i.e. not involved in any crime punishable by a prison sentence.

Read more about obtaining Portuguese citizenship through naturalisation

Is obtaining citizenship always worth it?

I am 78, American, living 6.5 years in Portugal. I can apply for citizenship, I even consulted a lawyer. I only need to jump through a few hoops (and fees and costly translations) to launch the process, which may take years. So I ask myself, why bother at my age? I no longer need the flexibility to move and work in other EU countries, I don’t need to vote here. So I think age is a consideration.  So that is my question for older expats.  Citizenship vs permanent residency. Why bother?

Helen

There are a few benefits of Portuguese citizenship. The main is that it gives you the right to live, work, and retire in other EU countries. However, if you’re planning on staying in Portugal forever, is permanent residency good enough?

Quite possibly, yes. Citizenship is a little bit better than permanent residency as there is always the slim but possible chance a residency renewal could be denied whereas citizenship won’t be taken away from you. You also don’t need to renew your citizenship, whereas you have to renew permanent residency every 10 years. Citizens also have a slightly easier time with paperwork compared to residents, due to the introduction of the citizen’s card, but the government is expected to make this more even for permanent residents and citizens in the future.

There is also the possibility that you will change your mind and decide you want to live in France or Spain, at which point you would then have to wait several years to get your Portuguese passport. You never know what the future holds.

However, if you’re certain you’re going to live in Portugal, it may not be worth the costs of obtaining citizenship.

The Golden Visa Route

Luxury villa
© DepositPhotos

The golden visa is essentially a part of the naturalisation route, but it’s included in its own section here as it’s slightly different: while visas like the D7 and digital nomad visa require you to spend an average of 6-8 months in Portugal, the golden visa only requires you to spend an average of just 7 days per year in Portugal.

This makes the golden visa perfect for those that want to obtain Portuguese citizenship, but don’t want to move to Portugal. In fact, because you only need to spend 1-2 weeks of the year here, you don’t even need to become a tax resident. This means you can continue living and working somewhere else, and paying taxes there, all the while working towards obtaining a Portuguese passport.

Investment can take many forms but, for many people, the simplest option is to invest €500,000 in a qualifying investment fund (in some cases, this can be as little as €400,000). These funds have a minimum maturity of 5 years and require 60% of the investment amount be invested in Portuguese companies.

Although this route eventually leads to citizenship, the golden visa is seen as residency by investment rather than citizenship by investment as the citizenship step is made separately.

Besides funds, other options include:

  • €500k investment in scientific research
  • An investment in the arts, culture, or national heritage of at least €250k

Like other naturalisation routes, this route requires you to be resident in Portugal for five years before you apply for citizenship. You also need to pass the A2 language exam.

  • Time needed: 5 years residency in Portugal (+ processing period)
  • Costs: €250,000-€500,000 (+ additional fees)
  • Citizenship Language requirement: Yes: A2 (see details)
  • Other requirements: Clean criminal record i.e. not involved in any crime punishable by a prison sentence.

Read more about Portugal’s Golden Visa program

The Origin Route (Parents or Grandparents)

Portuguese older people
© DepositPhotos

If you’re lucky enough to have a Portuguese parent or grandparent, you should be able to acquire Portuguese citizenship by descent.

Great-grandparents are usually seen as too far back, however, you can usually 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).

Those with Portuguese grandparents (and no Portuguese parents) will be asked to show more ties to Portugal, specifically at least an A2 knowledge of the Portuguese knowledge and ties to the Portuguese community. This is very achievable, but does take work.

If you’re thinking about moving to Portugal anyway, Lisbon-based lawyer Sandra Gomes Pinto suggests it may be easier to achieve these things once you moved to Portugal.

If you’re applying for citizenship through a grandparent, you would have an advantage of applying once you moved to Portugal. This is because, by being here, you would then have more ties to the Portuguese community, and it would make it easier to learn the Portuguese language.

Sandra Gomes Pinto [source]

Residency visas, such as the D7 or D8, are often approved within six months [source] versus the two years or so it takes for citizenship, so this is also the faster route initially.

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. You can apply in Portugal, but most people apply in the country in which they’re resident.

  • Time needed: There’s no requirement to live in Portugal
  • Language requirement: Portuguese Parents: no, Portuguese Grandparents: A2 level of higher
  • Other requirements: Clean criminal record i.e. not involved in any crime punishable by a prison sentence.

The Marriage or Partner Route

Children in wedding outfits
© DepositPhotos

If your partner or spouse is Portuguese, you may be able to obtain Portuguese citizenship through them. You can also apply if you’re in a long-term relationship with a Portuguese national (known as a de facto union in Portugal) for three years or longer. 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.

You don’t have to live in Portugal for those three years. You are no longer eligible after divorce.

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.

Examples of ties to Portugal might include:

  • Having a basic (A2 or better) knowledge of Portuguese.
  • Owning property here.
  • Living here.
  • Being involved in Portuguese clubs and organisations.

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.

If you’re applying for citizenship as a means of moving to Portugal, it may be quicker to apply for a residency visa such as the D7 or D8 as these are often approved within six months [source].

  • Time needed: 3 years of marriage or long-term relationship
  • Language requirement: Not always, but often an A2 level is asked for (see details)
  • Other requirements: Clean criminal record i.e. not involved in any crime punishable by a prison sentence.

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.

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. Some people only have to go back a few generations while others will have to go back much further.

Some of the ties that are used to show you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry include:

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. Applicants will now also need to show either:

  1. That they already have property in Portugal.
  2. That they hold shares or social participations in Portuguese trading companies or cooperatives.
  3. That they have taken regular trips to Portugal throughout their lives.

In 2024, the law may change so that you may also need to live in Portugal for three years in order to qualify for citizenship. This is faster than the five years typically required for naturalisation, but means that obtaining citizenship via the Sephardic route is no longer as easy as it once was.

If you have these ties, it’s an avenue that’s worth exploring. However, most people are unlikely to meet the new criteria.

  • Time needed: Currently, you don’t need to spend any time in Portugal, but should expect the processing period to take somewhere between 6 and 24 months.
  • Language requirement: No (although it may help show a tie to Portugal).

Read more about Portuguese citizenship through Sephardi Heritage

The Former Colonies Route

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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.

According to Sandra Gomes Pinto, “The general rule is that if a person was born before Portugal’s independence, then it’s still possible. Alternatively, if the person is a child of a parent who was born before Portugal’s independence. 

“However, there are often additional challenges in terms of documentation. Accessing birth certificates from this time period can be very tricky as they have often been lost. It’s also common for people to change names or surnames, which adds another layer of complexity.”

Sandra also notes that obtaining the required documents from former Portuguese colonies can be challenging. Documents are often damaged or non-existent, as formal registrations were less common at that time.

The Born in Portugal Route

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

According to Sandra Gomes Pinto of Sandra Gomes Pinto & Associados, “It’s mandatory that one of the parents has been a legal resident in Portugal for at least one year. Alternatively, if one of the parents was born in Portugal, that would count too.”

The Adoption Route

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

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.

FAQs

Is there a citizenship exam?

No. While the US has the American Civics test and the UK has the Life in the United Kingdom test, Portugal does not have a similar test.

Do I need to purchase real estate in order to qualify for citizenship?

You do not need to purchase real estate in order to qualify for citizenship, although this may help show you have ties to Portugal (if required) [source].

Does Portugal recognise dual citizenship?

Portugal recognises dual citizenship, so, unlike some other European countries, Portugal won’t ask you to give up any other passports you hold [source].

Will I have tax obligations if I become a Portuguese citizen?

There are also no tax obligations that come with obtaining Portuguese citizenship [source].

How long does it take to get Portuguese citizenship?

The current processing time is around two years [source]. This means that if you’re applying for citizenship via naturalisation (living in Portugal) it will take around seven years until you get a passport: five years of residency plus around two years processing time.

Should I use a lawyer?

It may be faster to work with a lawyer, as:

  • Working with a lawyer ensures the application is correct and has the highest chance of approval.
  • Lawyers are able to submit the application electronically which could reduce the time by a few weeks or months, as it can take some time for your documents to be digitised. A lawyer, in comparison, can submit them in digital format.
  • They are also able to see where in the process it is, which is important given that the whole thing can take around two years. If you submit it yourself, it can take longer to get the documents digitised, increasing the length of time needed, and you won’t know what’s happening with your application.
  • In the event the process is taking too long, a lawyer also has the power to ask for an update and, in extreme cases, request an administrative injunction [source].

Resources

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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.