The Portuguese passport is becoming increasingly popular, not least because having it gives you the right to move to any EU country (including Portugal, of course).
Many people have a claim to a Portuguese passport — for example, by having a Portuguese grandparent or having lived in Portugal for more than five years — and are now trying to take advantage of their ability to get a second passport. However, often showing an A2 level of Portuguese is required (also referred to as CIPLE or upper-beginner).
- Those with a Portuguese grandparent
- Those applying for citizenship through naturalisation (after living in Portugal for five years or more)
- Third country nationals (those from outside the EU) applying for permanent residency
- Those with a Portuguese partner or spouse (this isn’t always asked for in this instance, but seems to be asked for more often than not)
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. And if you plan to live in Portugal, having at least an A2 level of Portuguese will definitely help.
Courses & Resources
Most European Portuguese courses cover “beginner’s Portuguese,” which typically means A1 and usually A2 as well, but the following courses really highlight that they cover these levels.
- Portuguese Master Course – Video-based courses that cover A1-B2 European Portuguese
- Practice Portuguese – A fantastically-affordable and comprehensive website that includes audio content, videos, an app, grammar—basically everything you need to learn European Portuguese.
- The Journey – This course isn’t correlated to a specific level, but covers both A1 and A2 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.
It’s also possible to take a 150-hour language course where you get a certificate at the end that replaces the need for the A2 exam, for example with Segunda Vida in Lisbon. This could be ideal for those that are unable to take an exam, but would require you to spend around three hours per week for a year in order to get the certificate.
The courses at Segunda Vida are exclusively available to individuals residing in Portugal, meaning that live abroad are not eligible to enroll. The cost for participating in these online courses is set at €450. Each course spans a duration of 45 days, with classes being conducted online both in the afternoon (3-7pm) and evening (6-10pm) from Monday to Friday. These sessions are available throughout most of the year, encompassing the summer months as well. Upon successful completion of the course, participants are awarded a certificate which then qualifies them to apply for citizenship.
How Hard is the 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.
Joel Rendall co-runs Practice Portuguese, one of the largest and most popular websites for learning European Portuguese. He says that students typically take anywhere from a few months to a few years to reach an A2-level of Portuguese, but that it depends on a number of factors. These factors include the number of hours spent learning each day, focusing on the right material according to your individual goals, personality and learning style, and how truly motivated that person is to learn the language.
If your goal is to get a Portuguese passport, then you’ll have a lot more motivation than many other language learners. Having that A2 certificate will give you something to work towards.
Another point worth noting is that you only need to get 55% or higher in order to pass. 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.
And you don’t have to live in Portugal to study Portuguese either. In fact, you can learn Portuguese almost entirely online.
Suddenly, Portugal’s language requirement doesn’t sound so bad.
The exam itself consists of 4 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. You should know how to write an email, text message, post card, and complaint, among other forms of writing, as these will all have a different style and format.
- Listening (30 minutes) – Worth 30% of the total. This is usually considered the hardest part. Many people report that not only is the content hard, but the audio quality is often poor.
- Speaking (10-15 minutes) – Worth 25% of the total. This is usually done as part of a small group or in tandem with another person, 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). You may be given a piece of paper with images that you can talk about. Because there are other people in the group, you won’t be speaking for the entire time. You may end up role-playing with the other people in the ground. The focus of this section is frequently about different occupations : doctor, fireman, family having dinner, teacher
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.
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.
You can normally check your results here. It can take around 4-6 weeks more to receive the certificate.
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, unfortunately, only includes one per level, available from Lidel.
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. Some people have also been able to take a 150-hour class instead.
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 didn’t happen. There are always discussions about this, but it seems unlikely that it’ll happen and you’re better off just learning enough Portuguese to pass the exam.
Do people applying for citizenship via the Golden Visa need to take the test?
You don’t need to take the test to get temporary residency in Portugal, but you do need a certificate to show you have A2 Portuguese or higher if you’re applying for citizenship[source] or permanent residency [source].
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.