The Portuguese passport is becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gives you the right to live and work in Portugal. This blog is obviously biased, but that’s a very good reason on its own.
Secondly, it gives you the right to live, work, and travel freely within the EU. It also provides visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to numerous countries all over the world.
There are many ways that you could be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. You could have a Portuguese partner, a Portuguese parent or grandparent, or you could have Sephardic Jewish heritage.
For many people, there’s just one little stumbling block: the dreaded language requirement.
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What is the Language Requirement for Citizenship in Portugal?
In Portugal, the language requirement in an A2 level of Portuguese. This is based on the CEFR scale, but referred to as CIPLE on Portugal’s CAPLE (Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira) scale. Both mean the same thing.
This isn’t required for all routes for Portuguese citizenship. If you have Sephardic Jewish heritage, for example, this isn’t normally required, but it is normally required for most other routes including naturalisation, Portugal’s Golden Visa Scheme, and often through the partner or marriage route as well.
Even if it’s not a requirement, it shows a tie or link to Portugal and Portuguese culture and this is very important to the people who make these decisions.
How Hard is A2 Level?
Ignore all the people who tell you that learning a language is easy or that you can do it in 30 days if you just buy their book. Learning a language takes time and effort.
That said, the A2-Level is extremely achievable. It takes roughly 200 hours, which sounds like a lot, but, depending on how many hours per day you’re willing to commit, you could achieve it in anywhere from 2-6 months.
And you don’t have to live in Portugal to study Portuguese either. There are plenty of online courses like the A1 & A2 levels of Portuguese Master Course as well as resources like iTalki where you can find tutors to practice speaking with.
In fact, you can learn Portuguese almost entirely online.
If it still sounds hard, remember this: Germany, France, and the UK all require a B1-level of their respective languages which would mean an extra 150-200 hours of extra learning.
Suddenly, Portugal’s language requirement doesn’t sound so bad.
|1 hour per day||200 days or 6.66 months|
|1.5 hours per day||133 days or 4.43 months|
|2 hours per day||100 days or 3.33 months|
|3 hours per day||66.66 days or 2.2 months|
Courses & Resources
- Portuguese Master Course – Video-based courses that cover A1-B2 European Portuguese.
- Portuguese Lab Academy – An online learning platform dedicated to Portuguese from Portugal.
- Plataforma de Português Online – A free resource that covers A1 – B2 European Portuguese, particularly vocabulary.
You can see a full list of European Portuguese Courses & Textbooks here.
Of course, there are plenty of language schools and tutors in Portugal and around the world that can help as well. Lisbon, for example, has lots of language schools and tutors.
The exam itself consists of 3 parts:
- Reading & Writing (1 hour 15 minutes) – Worth 45% of the total. The questions are mainly multiple choice with one or two short-form written answers.
- Listening (30 minutes) – Worth 30% of the total.
- Speaking (10-15 minutes) – Worth 25% of the total. This is usually done as part of a small group, and varies in format. You’re normally asked at least one question, such as something about yourself, and you’re then supposed to answer that question (in as much length as possible). Because there are other people in the group, you won’t be speaking for the entire time.
To pass, you need to get a minimum of 55%.
You can find your nearest CAPLE-certified testing centre here or IEFP centre here. There are around 100 testing centres in more than 35 countries worldwide. Obviously, there are a number of testing centres in Portugal.
A2 (or CIPLE) exams take place every few months and are much more frequent than other levels. You can find the next test date here.
Currently the exam costs €72. Payment is normally made by Multibanco or bank transfer, so it’s a good idea to allow at least a day for the payment to process.
Normally it takes 2 weeks to get your results, and you can check them here. Expect the certificate to take around 4-6 weeks more.
In total, this can take around 6-8 weeks which can slow down a citizenship application process. For this reason, it’s a good idea to take the exam as soon as you are ready.
Preparing for the exam
It’s recommended that you work through a course or textbook that covers A1 & A2 European Portuguese. Some courses are strong in one area (e.g. listening) so make sure that you are covering all areas of the language including listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It’s also a good idea to spend some time focusing on Portuguese grammar.
Past exam papers can be hard to find, but there is one example on the University of Lisbon website:
There’s also a book of past papers, which strangely only includes one per level, available from Lidel. You can also find copies on Amazon and The Book Depository.
Will I need to take an exam?
Yes, you will need a certificate to show you have an A2-level of Portuguese (or higher) unless you’re from a Portuguese-speaking country like Brazil or Mozambique.
Do I need to take an exam if I already have a higher level of Portuguese?
If you have a certificate to show you have a higher level of Portuguese (e.g. B1, B2, C1, or C2) then you do not need to sit the A2 exam.
Is Portugal getting rid of the language requirement?
In December 2019, the Portuguese Parliament discussed the possibility of removing the language requirement. It’s unclear whether this will actually happen and whether it will apply to all routes to citizenship.
Do people applying for citizenship via the Golden Visa need to take the test?
You don’t need to take the test to get residency in Portugal, but you do need a certificate to show you have A2 Portuguese or higher if you’re applying for citizenship.
Do I need to take the A1 AND the A2 exam?
No, you only need to take the A2 exam.
Do under 18s need to show an A2-level of Portuguese?
If they are attending a Portuguese school, a declaration of proficiency from the school may be enough.
Who else is exempt from taking the language requirement?
People over 60 who are mentally-handicapped, illiterate, or seriously ill may be exempt from the requirement. Under 10s and anyone with special needs can request to have the test adapted to their needs.
What to read next
- The big, main guide to learning Portuguese
- This guide to courses that cover European Portuguese
- This guide to learning Portuguese completely online