Portuguese citizenship comes with a number of 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.
There are several ways that you can obtain Portuguese citizenship, some easier than others. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a Portuguese parent or grandparent or be a Sephardic Jew.
If that doesn’t apply to you, there are a number of other avenues to citizenship. The simplest is to become resident and live and work in Portugal for 5 years.
1. Through the golden Visa Scheme
If you have the money, this is one of the easiest ways to get Portuguese citizenship, and all you have to do is buy a property here and spend a minimum of around 7 days per year 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. This is the option most people go for.
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. Generally speaking, though, most people will pay €500,000.
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.
- Time needed: 5 years.
- Costs: €280,000-500k investment + legal and admin costs.
- Language requirement: Yes (A2-Level).
2. Through naturalisation (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 6 years after which point you can apply for citizenship.
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).
- You must be possess an A2 level of Portuguese.
If you’re not an EU citizen, the biggest challenge will be staying in Portugal for 5-6 years. That said, in comparison to other European countries, Portugal can be a lot easier to move to (providing that you either have a job offer here or means of supporting yourself).
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.
- Time needed: 6 years
- Language requirement: Yes (A2-Level)
3. Through Marriage
While you should never marry for a passport, marrying a Portuguese person is one of the fastest ways of becoming a Portuguese citizenship.
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.
4. Through Origin (Through Portuguese Parents Or Grandparents)
Some people are just born lucky – their parents or grandparents are Portuguese – which allows them to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
There are a few ways that you may be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship by origin. 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.
5. Through having Sephardic Jew Ancestry
Sometimes it’s worth getting on Ancestry.com – especially if you’re a Sephardic Jew.
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.
Note: This scheme used to also be available in Spain, but now Portugal is the only country currently offering it.
- 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: Legal and admin costs.
- Language requirement: There is no language requirement.
6. Through Agreements Between Portugal And Former Colonies
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. Through Adoption
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.