You Can Now Apply for Portuguese Citizenship Sooner

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Written by: | Last updated on February 27, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

The Portuguese Parliament recently made some updates to the Nationality Law in Portugal, which will speed up the amount of time before you’re able to apply for citizenship. One key change is about how the five-year period needed for applying for citizenship is calculated.

Before this change, the clock would only start ticking from the moment you got your residency permit. In reality it could take:

  • 4 or more months to get a residence permit (some people were waiting for 12 months or more).
  • 1-4 months to get a SEF (now AIMA) appointment.
  • Another few weeks or months to get the residence permit granted.
  • Now, the clock starts ticking from the date of your residency application, assuming your application is successful.

This means that, even if there are delays in the process, you will already be on the path to Portuguese citizenship. In practice, this means many people will be able to apply for citizenship after only spending four years or so physically in Portugal.

Sandra Gomes Pinto notes that the application has to be considered successful for this to be valid. She gave a very unlikely, hypothetical situation where someone might have a residency visa application pending for five years. Unless that application was ultimately successful, that person would not be able to pursue citizenship.

Sandra also stresses the increasing importance of showing ties to the Portuguese community, a requirement for obtaining citizenship. With more and more people moving to Portugal and applying for citizenship, she expects the Portuguese government to place more importance on showing integration and an understanding of Portuguese culture. Example ties include owning a property in Portugal, being a member of local clubs or societies, and additionally, showing at least an A2 level of Portuguese.

However, given that many people could be spending four years or less in Portugal, this means there is less time to develop those ties and less time to get your A2 Portuguese up to standard. For this reason, she recommends you start working on those ties before you move to Portugal.

One way to do this is to start learning European Portuguese. There are plenty of courses out there, including the very affordable Practice Portuguese.

If you’re lucky enough to live in some parts of the world like Toronto, London, San Jose, or Fall River, MA, it’ll also be easy to find local Portuguese clubs and communities you can join. Those in other parts of the world will find this harder, but should look for opportunities, perhaps online.

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.