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.
You don’t need Portuguese citizenship to live in Portugal: residency, which is simply the right to live in Portugal, is usually granted in 5 or 10-year periods and allows you to live and work in Portugal. Of course, if you’re a citizen of Switzerland, an EU, or an EEA country, you already have the right to move to Portugal and live and work here.
But, residency doesn’t give you a Portuguese passport and it only gives you the right to live and work in Portugal. As great as that is, most people reading this article will be interested in Portuguese citizenship because it gives them access to many other European countries as well as Portugal.
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 5 years in terms of the amount of work needed on your part.
So, if you’re lucky, you’ll have Portuguese parents or grandparents or your ancestors will be Sephardic Jews who fled the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition Period. If those don’t apply, there are still other routes, but they’re not as automatic.
It should go without saying that I am in no way qualified to give legal advice, and this article definitely isn’t that. I am not a lawyer but a travel writer who, along with articles about Portuguese citizenship, covers topics like the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon and guides to Portuguese bands. If you have any questions about Portuguese citizenship, use the form to speak with a professional.
1. The Golden Visa Route
If you have money to invest in a property or business, Portugal’s Golden Visa Scheme is one of the easiest routes to acquiring Portuguese citizenship. It can be as simple as purchasing a house in Portugal and spending a minimum of 7 days per year each year for 5 years here.
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 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 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 of residency in Portugal.
- Costs: €280,000-500k investment + legal and admin costs.
- Language requirement: Yes: A2
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 5 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 5 years. It doesn’t have to be 5 years in a row, although this is typical. Those 5 years can be taken across a 15-year period, but the aim would be to show that you have been regularly rather than sporadically living in Portugal.
A residence permit is normally used to determine how long you have lived in Portugal. If you have been living in Portugal without residency, this is unlikely to be valid.
The biggest challenge for a lot of people will be finding a job to support themselves while they live in Portugal for 5 years. Portugal is not known for its ample job opportunities and those that do exist generally pay poorly in comparison to other EU countries.
- Time needed: 5 years
- Language requirement: Yes: A2
3. The Partner Route
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. You don’t have to be living in Portugal for those three years.
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.
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 necessarily, but in practice yes.
4. The Origin Route (Parents or Grandparents)
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 and, unlike tracing your Sephardic Jewish ancestry, you’re only going back one or two generations.
- Time needed: There’s no requirement to live in Portugal
- Language requirement: No.
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. 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, evidence of the ladino language being used in the family, cemetery records or other documents. The most valuable document, however, is the certificate from the Portuguese Jewish Community in Lisbon or Porto.
Obtaining the documents and tracing the family tree can be time-consuming and expensive, particularly if you have to hire a genealogist, however, it can be worth it particularly as this route to citizenship doesn’t require you to learn Portuguese or spend any time residing in Portugal.
- 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 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.
Will I have to give up my original passport?
Portugal allows dual citizenship. If you come from another country that allows dual citizenship, you should be able to have both passports. If the country of your current passport does not recognise dual citizenship, however, it’s likely that you’ll have to give up that passport when you obtain the Portuguese one.
What options are there for British citizens post-Brexit?
While Brexit will complicate things, there will still be several routes to acquiring Portuguese citizenship. For British passport holders with money to invest, the Golden Visa Scheme could be a simple way to live in Portugal and eventually obtain a passport from an EU country.
If that’s not an option, you would still have the option of applying for residency and then applying for citizenship after 5 years. British citizens may not have the same automatic right to residency in Portugal that they once had, however.
How hard is the A2 language test?
Obtaining an A2-level of Portuguese will take some studying, but it’s very feasible for most people. You can read more about the language requirement here.
I already have A2 Portuguese (or higher) do I need to retake the test?
No, if you already have a certificate showing that you have A2 Portuguese or higher, you do not need to resit the language test.
Is it true that Portugal is getting rid of the language requirement for citizenship?
This rumour is doing the rounds but it seems unlikely. In actuality, the Portuguese government have been looking at routes to citizenship, such as the route via Sephardic heritage, that don’t require strong ties to Portugal (such as having an understanding of the language) and re-evaluating the conditions.
Does having a second home in Portugal count towards residency here?
No, it does not.
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