Obtaining Portuguese Citizenship Through Parents or Grandparents

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you have a Portuguese parent or even a grandparent, you’re in luck: you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. Great-grandparents are, unfortunately, a generation too far back, although some passport seekers get around this by getting a relative in between (a parent or grandparent) to obtain citizenship first.

Grandparents are also a challenge for some. Yes, you can obtain citizenship through your grandparents, but if you only have a Portuguese grandparent and not a Portuguese parent as well, you’ll normally need to show at least an A2-level of Portuguese. This typically means take the CIPLE (or A2) Portuguese exam.

Don’t worry, though:

  • The A2 corresponds to upper-beginner, so it’s very achievable
  • You only need 55% or above to pass
  • There are lots of online courses that can take you from zero to A2, for example Mia Esmeriz’ courses

Alternatively, if your plan is to move to Portugal, you might want to consider moving here first and then applying for citizenship.

According to Sandra Gomes Pinto, “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.”

But don’t stress! It’ll be worth it. Once you have that certificate you’ll be able to apply for Portuguese citizenship and get all of the benefits that come with it.

And Portuguese citizenship comes with many benefits, not least the right to live not only in Portugal but anywhere in the EU. This brings the many benefits life within the EU offers such as access to the public healthcare systems, affordable educational costs, and a social security net. Travel-wise, the Portuguese passport usually ranks within the top ten passports to own, according to annual rankings from the likes of Visa Index, Passport Index, and The Henley Passport Index. Basically, it’s a good passport to have and Portugal allows dual citizenship (some countries, like China, do not and you should check the rules of the country in which you currently hold citizenship).

For an increasing number of people, particularly in places like post-Trump America, post-Brexit UK, and South Africa, Portuguese citizenship offers a back-up plan, and one that they can potentially pass onto the next generation. For others, citizenship is a chance to cement ties to Portugal that they’ve always felt.

That’s how Jayme H. Simões feels, describing Portugal as his “ancestral home”. He puts immense value on Portugal being a peaceful country, on the national health service, and the affordable cost of university education, which is why he obtained citizenship for himself and later his son did the same. For Katherine Alvernaz, her goal was to have more options if she and her partner ever decided to move to Europe. It isn’t something she’s ready to do right now but, having visited multiple times, it’s somewhere she could see herself moving to in the future.

The easiest option for many people is to have a lawyer that’s well-versed in citizenship law handle the application. This comes at a cost – typically between €1,000 and €2,000 – but, for them, that’s a small price to pay in order to have someone speak with consulates and embassies and to ensure everything goes through smoothly. It’s also often essential when applications are complex: for example, applications where name changes on birth certificates need to be explained.

Doing it yourself is cheaper, but there are still application fees to pay and often costs for getting documents translated as well. There are also the travel costs. Jayme H. Simões from New Hampshire had to travel to the Boston Consulate four times during his application preparation. Katherine Alvernaz, who was born in the US but now resides in Vancouver Canada, had to travel to the San Francisco consulate in order to submit her application.

The required documents will vary depending on what your application requires, but expect to need birth certificates, marriage certificates, your current passport, and anything else that provides evidence of your claim to Portuguese citizenship. A lawyer will be able to advise which documents exactly.

I did mine through the Portuguese consulate in Toronto. It was pretty simple process. I used the Portuguese website to download both my parents birth certificates. Ordered my long form birth certificate. Brought those documents a long with my passport. That’s it. 

Took 7 months to process it. Applied may 2022 and it was processed January 2023. Only issue was that I never received the confirmation letter from Portugal. After 16 months I went onto the Portuguese website and ordered my Portuguese birth certificate. As it was on the website I knew that it was processed. The birth certificate said it was processed in January. I lost 9 months that I could have used to get my wife’s and daughters.

I’m told it is taking much longer now. When I went to pickup my Citizen card they said it is taking approx 2 years now. 

Andrew

However, there’s another hurdle that many fear and one that, unfortunately, can’t be outsourced to a lawyer. For those that are applying through a Portuguese grandparent (as opposed to a Portuguese parent), showing proof of an A2-level of Portuguese or higher is a requirement. This sounds hard, particularly for those that struggled with languages at school, but the level is actually only considered upper-beginner. And, you don’t need to score 100% either: 55% or above is enough.

Despite being a major world language, it can be difficult to find Portuguese classes locally. It can be even more difficult if you want to learn European Portuguese as most courses focus on Brazilian Portuguese due to the higher number of speakers. Thankfully, there are plenty of courses that teach European Portuguese online and it’s possible to work one-to-one with a tutor through websites like Italki, Verbling, or Preply.

Even though the citizenship application doesn’t require a particularly advanced level of Portuguese, you should still expect to put some effort in. Obtaining this level of Portuguese within a few months is possible, but it will require daily work.

Joel Rendall co-runs Practice Portuguese, one of the largest communities of European Portuguese language learners online. He says that students typically take anywhere from a few months to a few years to reach an A2-level of Portuguese, depending on many factors, such as the number of hours spent learning per day, making sure you focus on the right material according to your individual goals, personality and learning style, and how truly motivated you are to learn the language.

Starting with zero knowledge of the language, most learners should be able to pass the CIPLE (A2 level) exam after approximately 2 hours of learning per day during 4-6 months. As the exam will test your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, it’s important to take a balanced learning approach. Portuguese learners often struggle with listening comprehension and pronunciation, so spending a lot of time speaking and listening to dialogues suitable to your level (with transcriptions for connecting the spoken language to the written) makes a massive difference.

How long does all of this take? It depends. Currently, once an application has been submitted it takes around eighteen months to two years before citizenship is granted. Of course, if you need to track down birth and marriage certificates and learn Portuguese before that will add to the timeframe.

Obtaining citizenship in order to move to Portugal

For an increasing number of people, particularly from the US and UK, obtaining Portuguese citizenship isn’t just about having a second passport for travel or a connection to their routes: it’s a way of moving to Portugal.

Having Portuguese citizenship will definitely make moving to Portugal easier. With this (or any EU passport) you won’t need a residency visa to move to Portugal. You’ll simply be able to move here. You’ll also find that as a Portuguese passport holder, you have a lot less paperwork to deal with compared to those from outside the EU or even from other EU countries.

If you’re applying for citizenship so you can move to Portugal, you may be better off applying for a residency visa like the D7 or D8 first.

According to Sandra Gomes Pinto of Sandra Gomes Pinto & Associados in Lisbon, “A residency application might be approved in six months whereas a citizenship application could take two years. However, it varies from consulate to consulate, so it’s difficult to give an exact estimation.”

A lawyer can confirm which is the best route for you. Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one.

FAQ

What if my parent renounced their citizenship?

In the past it was common for people to announce a citizenship, for example if they took up US citizenship. Obtaining citizenship through a parent is more difficult if this has taken place, but it’s not completely out of the question. It can vary on a case by case basis, however [source].

Do I need to be in contact with my parents or grandparents?

No [source].

Does the parent or grandparent need to be alive?

No.

What if my parent or grandparent changed surnames?

This is always challenging, and can be an issue. That said, it is a common occurrence, for example when people immigrated to the US in the past. Different civil registries demand different documents, so it can vary from case to case. However, it isn’t impossible [source].

Can citizenship from naturalised parents be passed down?

No. Citizenship that has been acquired (e.g. through living in Portugal) cannot be passed down [source].

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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.

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There are 50 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.

Comments

  1. I have to renew my dual citizenship from Portugal. I have one but it expired. The new your number no body picks up the phone. How do I renew my card? Delia Abreu D’Agostino

    Reply
  2. Hi, what if one of your parents has a Portuguese passport from the 70s that he acquire while living in a X.Portuguese territory, can any of his children’s get a residence in Portugal?

    Reply
  3. Hi, what if one of your parents has a Portuguese passport from the 70s that he acquire while living in a X.Portuguese territory, can any of his children’s get a residence in Portugal?

    Reply
  4. My Father was born in Portugal, Madeira, and i have been struggling for more than 4 years now to get registered and obtain my citizenship. In April 2021 my birth was eventually registered and I received my birth certificate from Portugal but now I am struggling to obtain citizenship and get a passport. this really has been a very long struggle.

    Reply
  5. Does anyone know if I need to register my birth in Portugal first before applying for Nationality? It doesn’t say it on the Consulate website but I’m worried when i do finally get an appointment that they’ll ask me to register my birth first. I was born in the UK- my father is Portuguese. Trying to get an appointment at the consulate in London has been near impossible. Does anyone know when they release new appointment slots as i seem to keep missing them!!

    Reply
  6. Hello.

    If the firth certificate indicate two same sex parents, i.e. two fathers and one of the is Portuguese, would the authorities in Portugal accept that?

    Thank you
    Stam

    Reply
  7. I was born in Goa, India, a Portuguese colony until Dec 1960. I was born on Feb 12, 1965. My father was born in Goa, India when it was a Portuguese colony. My father did not obtain the Portuguese citizenship. I will be able to to get his birth record from the church and also the marriage record from the church and his death certificate (died in 2003). Am I eligible to apply for a Portuguese citizenship and what other documents will I need to apply?

    Reply
  8. Hi James. My grandparents were born in Portuguese goa later married and moved to Uganda, Africa and used to travel to India frequently and later left Uganda n settled in Goa . My father was born in Uganda too. Not sure if they had Portuguese /British passports …though dad claims they did since they travelled n so did he.Is there any possible way of checking the same with the Portuguese authorities? I have they’re birth and marriage certificates issued by the Portuguese govt. but not sure where would I find if their registered Portuguese nationals.

    Reply
  9. We are looking to apply through a lawyer. We have been unable to get a response from the consulate in Toronto, Canada. It seems to be closed since covid. Please can you let us know how much a lawyer is likely to charge?

    Reply
  10. My father was born in the Azores & my mother is American. My sisters & I would like to become citizens but are having trouble understanding what exactly we need to do this. We have our parents birth certificates, marriage license, & our mothers death certificate. I read that these items need to be transcribed to Portuguese, is that true? Where would we find this service? And do we need a to provide a set of original documents for each application?

    Reply
  11. My grandparents were born in the Azores and both moved to the US and became US citizens. Both are deceased. My father and mother are both American. I am an American. Can I get Portuguese citizenship? I want dual citizenship and an EU passport.

    Reply
  12. Hi,
    My father is Portuguese, has a property there, but lives in England.
    I am English, but want to get my Portuguese passport for myself and my children.
    What documents do I need as I don’t think my Dad will give me his original birth certificate to send away.
    He was married to my English Mother but they are divorced now.
    Is there any other things we need to comply with for the application?

    Many Thanks

    Reply
  13. I am having a hard time obtaining citizenship. My father left Portugal during Salazar’s reign and renounced his citizenship (I believe you had to do this at the time). I am now trying to obtain citizenship but there are complications due to him renouncing his citizenship (even though doing that for this reason has apparently been pardoned). Can you connect me with a lawyer that can advise?

    Reply
  14. My parents are immigrant to Portugal and they have claimed Portuguese citizenship after living here for 8 years. Is it possible for me to claim Portuguese citizenship? I wasn’t born in Portugal and I am 20 yrs old with 2 years residence permit of Portugal

    Reply
  15. Hi James,

    I can prove that my great grandparents were born in the Cape Verde Islands and that they migrated from Portugal to the New Bedford, Massachusetts. Would I be able to claim Portuguese citizenship by decent?

    Reply
  16. Parents cape verdeans born during the colonial rule. I was born in Angola during Portuguese rule in 1972 could I acquire Portuguese nationality on any of these basis?

    Reply
  17. @Carlos

    Really depends and you need to speak to a lawyer that specialises in Portuguese citizenship to get an answer. On the parents/grandparents front, do/did any of them have a Portuguese passport?

    Reply
  18. Hello! My grandmother was a Portuguese citizen who was born in Shanghai, China. She had to leave China due to the political changes that took place after WWII. She married my grandfather who was in the US Air Force and moved with him to Florida. She then became a US citizen. Would I be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship?
    My grandmother passed away a little more than 20 years ago, so I do not have access to her birth certificate or old documents. I am hoping that the Portuguese government would have these records on file some place. In addition, this is my maternal grandmother that I am writing about, and I am currently estranged from my own mother – so I can’t really ask for her assistance.

    Reply
  19. I’m looking to get a Portuguse citizenship as my parents were from Goa. I was advised to go to link based at the consulate in London. Doesn’t exist and getting them on the phone is just as bad. Is there anybody or a lawyer to help me please.

    Reply
  20. Like many here in the comments I have a unique set of circumstances with two Portuguese grandparents at the time of their deaths, one complicated by the move to Portugal at the time of African colonies’ independence and one born in former Portuguese India. Can I speak with your lawyer please?

    Reply
  21. Hi there,

    My great grandmother was born on Madeira and I’d love to investigate moving to Portugal through ancestry. I live in South Africa currently.

    Reply
  22. Hi, my deceased grandfather is from Madeira, Portugal, I have copies of his passport, birth paper, marriage certificate.
    Can I access Portuguese citizenship?

    Reply
  23. Hi
    I am Portuguese citizens and I live in England. My daughter should be able to have a Portuguese citizen or not? Her fathers Canadian citizen ( we lost contact for 7 years). How its will be affected to apply for her passport? Give me advice please. Thanks

    Kind regards
    Gina

    Reply
  24. Hi James,
    Both my husbands parents were Portuguese, he has a uk passport. What documents do we need to apply for a Portuguese passport?

    Reply
  25. Hi James
    My father was Portuguese but we were estranged for the later part of my life as he returned to live in Lisbon and we lost touch. He is originally from Madeira. He is named on my birth certificate. Would I be able to apply for a Portuguese passport/dual nationality based on this. I’ve tried the Portuguese embassy in London a number of times by email but have not had any reply.
    Many thanks
    Vanda

    Reply
  26. My father’s father was born in Portugal and was a Portuguese citizen. My father’s mother was American. When asking about applying for citizenship, my father was told by the Portuguese consulate that “If the Applicant parents are married and the marriage is not registered in Portugal, it must be registered first or the applicant cannot obtain nationality.” Is that true? Both of his parents are deceased.

    Reply
  27. My father was a Portuguese citizen born in Portugal. My problem is I was born out of wedlock and my father was in the army in Mozambique my mom in SA. I was born in 1966 and my parents only registered my birth in 1970, therefore my vault copy birth certificate has this later date. My parents marriage was registered in Portugal.
    I have been to the Portuguese Consulate in JHB but they say this date is a problem. Is there any way of obtaining a Portuguese Passport under these circumstances. My Mom and Dad are both deceased.

    Reply
  28. Hello, I have dual citizenship in Portugal and am trying to obtain citizenship for my 14-year old son. I went through all the legal procedure, and still haven’t received it. I even went to Horta, Portugal and was able to register my marriage, but our son has not yet received dual citizenship. I think at this point, I need to send all my paperwork to an attorney or anyone to help, because the consulate in SF is not easy to deal with. Can you provide some sort of assistance with this and/or provide a name of an attorney? I am in Nevada, very near to CA.

    Reply
  29. Hello sir.
    My grandparents were born and married in Goa before 1961. Their birth (teor) and marriage certificates are in portuguese, and I assume that it means that my grandparents’ birth and marriage are registered in Portugal, which will help my parents and me to obtain Portuguese citizenship easily.
    What do you have to say about it? What are the procedures I will need to follow to obtain Portuguese citizenship quickly?
    It takes maximum 2 years to receive the Portuguese citizenship 🙁
    Please help me out sir. Thanking you in advance. :)Way

    Reply

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