The A2 Language Requirement for Portuguese Citizenship

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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 parent 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.

The requirements vary depending on the route to citizenship that you’re eligible for but, for many categories, one of the requirements is that you have at least an A2-level of Portuguese.

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Examples of applicants that are likely to need this level of Portuguese include:

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  • Those with a Portuguese grandparent
  • Those applying for citizenship through naturalisation (after living in Portugal for five years or more)
  • 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)

It’s also often a requirement for permanent residency, particularly if the applicant is from outside the EU. 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.

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.

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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. You also only need to get 55% or higher in order to pass.

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.

Hours p/DayTimeframe
1 hour per day200 days or 6.66 months
1.5 hours per day133 days or 4.43 months
2 hours per day100 days or 3.33 months
3 hours per day66.66 days or 2.2 months

Courses & Resources

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

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, unfortunately, only includes one per level, available from Lidel.

FAQs

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 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[1]https://www.belionpartners.com/portuguese-language-test or permanent residency[2]https://imigrante.sef.pt/en/solicitar/residir/art80/.

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.

6 thoughts on “The A2 Language Requirement for Portuguese Citizenship”

  1. What if you pass at an equal or higher level under the Brazilian CELPE-BRAS standard? Would that be acceptable if you have language capability for Brazilian Portuguese rather than Portuguese Portuguese?

    Reply
    • Hi Umer,

      There are courses that will give you the knowledge you need to pass the A2, but none of them offer a certificate. You will need to sit the test separately.

      Reply
    • It's possible to get by without Portuguese if you live in Portugal, especially if it's something like the Algarve, but it can be a bit of a lonely experience. The A2 is definitely achievable and will make your life here a lot easier.

      Reply

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