Some people have a claim to a Portuguese passport: if you have a Portuguese parent or grandparent, for example.
Others, however, can obtain a Portuguese passport through living here for five years (previously it was six years). This process is known as naturalisation.
The Portuguese passport is ranked as one of the top passports in the world due to the fact that it is an “EU passport.” This means that, if you have a Portuguese passport, you not only have the freedom to live, work, and retire in other EU countries, but you can also travel to a huge number of countries visa-free or with a visa on arrival.
There isn’t a huge amount of difference between passports from EU countries, and most can be obtained by living in that country for 5 years or more. The reason the Portuguese passport has become so appealing is because it’s often easier to get residency in Portugal for those 5 years than it is anywhere else. This is due to the visas Portugal offers often being quite attainable.
Another benefit is that Portugal allows dual citizenship, which means that Portugal won’t ask you to give up your current passport. Your current nationality might however: some countries like Singapore, Holland, Nepal, and China don’t allow dual citizenship.
Now, the main reason people are interested in Portuguese citizenship is for the passport. That’s not the only benefit, however.
Another benefit of citizenship as opposed to residency include the ability to vote in national elections and referendums. If you’re living in Portugal, it’s important that you feel you have a say in how the country is run.
What are the requirements?
To obtain citizenship through naturalisation, you need to be aware of the following requirements.
- You must be over 18
- You must have legally lived in Portugal for 5 years
- You must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language (A2-level)*
- You must possess active connections to the Portuguese community**
- You must have a clean criminal record with no crimes that are punishable by 3 or more years imprisonment (under Portuguese law)
There are also a number of documents which you’ll need to present (some of which may need to be translated).
*Those from Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil or Mozambique do not need to show a Portuguese language certificate.
**In practice, this doesn’t seem to always be asked for.
Step 1: Decide if Portugal is right for you
Spending 5 years living somewhere is a big commitment, especially for a passport, and it’s important to decide if Portugal is right for you.
Portugal has a lot of pros, but it can be a challenging place to live sometimes. That’s especially the case if you will need to work in Portugal during those 5 years. Wages here are low, and there aren’t always the same opportunities that you’ll find in other countries.
If your main goal is to eventually move to a wealthier EU country like Germany or Ireland, it’s worth double-checking that you can’t already do that now.
If you’re retired, working remotely, or are a freelancer (especially one with international clients), the challenges of living here, while still challenging, are often limited to more manageable things like bureaucracy, making friends, and cold houses during the winter.
Step 2: Obtain Residency
The next step is to obtain temporary residency, which is essentially your right to live here. Depending on whether you’re from an EU country or a non-EU country, the process will be different.
Once you have your residency, that’s when the clock starts ticking. After 5 years, you’ll then be eligible to apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship.
If you come from an EU country, it’ll be much easier for you to obtain residency for a number of reasons.
- You have an automatic right to live in Portugal. Non-EU citizens, on the other hand, have to apply for the right to live here.
- EU citizens are normally given temporary residence in a 5-year block whereas non-EU citizens are normally given it for 1-2 year blocks. This means that EU citizens have to attend less meetings with SEF and less hassle overall.
Should I get a PT passport if I already have a passport from another EU country?
You might be wondering why you would try to get a Portuguese passport if you already have a passport from another EU country.
Generally speaking, you don’t have to, but it can make paperwork slightly easier.
There’s also the Brexit factor. Nobody was expecting the UK to leave the EU and it’s now left millions of UK citizens scrambling for ways to hold onto their previous rights. Many hadn’t obtained residency and, if they had, many would have been able to obtain a Portuguese passport a lot faster.
Basically, it’s good to have a backup.
How to get residency as an EU citizen
Becoming legally resident in Portugal as an EU citizen means getting your CRUE (Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia) which you can get at your local town hall (câmara municipal). Many town halls require you to have lived in Portugal for 90 days before you apply.
Depending on what your câmara municipal requests, you may need a few other documents as well. Most people simply need their passport, NIF number, and proof of address, but you may also be asked for proof of funds to show you can live in Portugal, evidence of a Portuguese bank account, or an Atestado De Residência (an official document from the local Junta de Freguesia that confirms you live where you say you do).
It’s best to try and speak to people who have applied for residency at that câmara recently (Facebook is a good place to find such people) and ask them what they were asked for.
Once you have the CRUE, the next step is simply to live in Portugal.
For Non-EU citizens, the process is slightly more complicated as you don’t have an automatic right to live, work, and retire in Portugal: you will need to meet the requirements of a particular visa.
Thankfully, Portugal has a number of attainable visas that are suitable for retirees, those with a remote job, those who want to start a business in Portugal, and those with funds to invest.
The following are some of the most popular visas available.
The D7 Visa
Unlike the Golden Visa, which requires you to have a significant amount of cash to invest (which can be in your own property), the D7 requires you to have enough regular income to support yourself while you live in Portugal. Because the Portuguese minimum wage is quite low – less than €700 per month in 2021 – this makes the d7 very achievable for many people.
Pensions are accepted as a form of passive income, along with income from rental properties, and income from shares or investments, which makes the D7 particularly popular with retirees.
It isn’t only for retirees, however. While it’s often referred to as the “passive income visa,” many remote workers and even freelancers have been accepted onto the D7.
The Golden Visa
For those with a few hundred thousand Euro to spare, Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme can be an interesting way to live in Portugal and, after 5 years, be eligible for Portuguese citizenship.
There are a number of ways that you can invest in Portugal, but the most popular way is to purchase a property worth €500,000 or more. In some cases this can be reduced to €350,000, and in other cases it can be reduced to as little as €280,000. Generally, though, €500,000 is the norm.
Because the Golden Visa has higher fees than the other visas, it often makes more sense to focus on something like the D7 instead (assuming you have both a regular passive income like a pension and the money to purchase a €500,000 property).
Where the Golden Visa is appealing, however, is that it only requires you to spend an average of 7 days per year in Portugal to later be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. Most of the other visas – like the D7 – require you to spend 6 consecutive months or 8 months with gaps in Portugal.
having to only spend 7 days per year in Portugal is perfect for those that mainly want to travel. It also offers Golden Visa holders the opportunity to have residency in Portugal but to potentially have their tax residency somewhere else.
The D2 Visa
The D2 is an entrepreneurship visa that allows you to move to Portugal and start a business here. There are no limitations on the type of business, and it could be anything from a restaurant or café to a tech company or anything else.
The big benefit of the D2 is that there is no minimum investment amount, although it’s normally recommended that you seed your business with around €5,000 to show you’re serious. This is quite an affordable amount for most entrepreneurs, and so it makes Portugal a very attractive place to launch a business (or arm of your current business).
These aren’t the only visas, but they’re some of the most popular.
The visa application process
Although each visa has its own set of requirements, the process for Portuguese visas and residency permits follows a similar pattern.
Firstly, you apply for a specific visa (such as the D7) and you normally apply for that visa at the Portuguese consulate in the country where you are resident. You don’t normally apply in Portugal.
Once approved, your visa gives you permission to move to Portugal for a set period (normally around 4 months) and attend an interview with SEF where your visa is exchanged for a residency permit. This residency permit is normally granted in 2 year blocks, but in some cases it’s granted for 1-year in the first year.
The residency permit needs to be renewed every 1-2 years, depending on the permit length, until you get to year 5 when you can apply for permanent residency. This is normally granted for 10 years.
After 5 years, you’re also able to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Step: 3 Live in Portugal for 5 years
The next step is to live in Portugal for 5 years.
It doesn’t have to be 5 years in a row. It can be 5 years with gaps, but as long as those 5 years are within a single 15-year period.
There are cases where this period of time can be reduced, such as if you were a resident of a former Portuguese colony, or if your career involved providing service to the Portuguese state. Generally speaking, though, 5 years is the normal length of time.
EU citizens will (most likely) have been given a 5-year temporary residency certificate so won’t need to visit SEF again, but non-EU citizens are usually granted temporary residency in 2-year blocks (sometimes just 1 year initially followed by 2 blocks of 2 years).
Aside from that, however, the main thing that you need to do is live in Portugal. A part of that is definitely going to the beach and eating pastéis de nata, but it’s also important to think about what’s documents you’re going to need when you apply for citizenship later on.
In year 4, you should think about gathering all your required documents if you want to apply in year 5. It can take a bit of work to gather all of these and to take many of them translated. You’ll also need to book the exam and wait for the results from that. All of this can take a bit of time so, if you want to apply in year 5, it’s good to get these things done in advance.
Many of these documents you’ll need to apply for permanent residency, and some documents, like the criminal records check, are only valid for a period of time anyway, so it’s worth doing the two applications as close together as possible.
You will be asked for your NIF number, for example, and one of the reasons for this – besides it always getting asked for – is that the government can see whether you’ve been in the country by how often you’ve used it.
So, whenever someone asks you for your NIF in a shop, petrol station, or restaurant, use it. It’s also a good idea to keep toll receipts and to use your Portuguese bank account as much as possible in case you’re ever asked for further evidence that it was you using your NIF and not someone else. This rarely happens in practice, but it’s always good to be prepared.
If you’re married, and you didn’t get married in Portugal, it’s worth registering your marriage here.
The language test
It’s also worth thinking about the A2 language requirement. In practice, this is very achievable and you should have no problem obtaining this in 5 years. The pass mark is also only 55%, which most people should be able to obtain.
However, it’s worth putting in the practice, booking the test, and getting it done before year 5 rolls around.
If you decide your Portuguese is better than an A2 and you want to sit the B1 or higher, you won’t need to sit the A2 as well. It can be A2 or anything above.
Although you can keep getting your temporary residence renewed, you need to pass the A2 exam to get permanent residency (renewed every 10 years).
Read more about A2, the Portuguese language requirement for citizenship.
While most people don’t seem to get asked whether they have any ties to the Portuguese community, it is possible that you will be asked. If you’re not asked for it, it’s up to you whether you include it.
As with any of the other documents, it’s possible that the person reviewing your application may decide that this is essential. If this happens, they’ll write to you to request it which can slow down your application.
It’s a good idea to think about this requirement in advance, and having this requirement will force you to engage in the Portuguese community and try to make friends.
Ties or links is quite a vague term, but some things that could be considered ties include:
- Membership of certain cultural clubs.
- Being married or in a stable relationship with a Portuguese person.
- Clubs or groups that you’ve established or run that have Portuguese members.
- Membership of business or trade associations.
- Working in a job alongside Portuguese people.
- Portuguese friends who can vouch for you.
- Proof of property ownership in Portugal.
- Having a business in Portugal.
- Donating to Portuguese charities (and providing evidence of this).
- Having children who go to Portuguese schools.
- Evidence of having attended Portuguese education institutions.
It’s a vague requirement and these suggestions are equally vague, however, they’re just suggestions of things that you could include.
Remember: being able to speak Portuguese is a separate requirement, so this doesn’t count as a cultural link, although you could argue that having a higher level than the A2 shows you have made more of an effort to integrate than the average person.
Step 4: Apply for Permanent Residency
Permanent residency is granted in 10-year blocks, regardless of whether you’re from an EU country or not.
It’s likely that your Portuguese citizenship application will take around 2 years to process, so you won’t be able to jump straight from your temporary residency to Portuguese citizenship. You’ll need permanent residency in between.
To get permanent residency, you’ll need to make an appointment with SEF, attend an interview, and show the required documents. This needs to be done in-person and can’t be done by a lawyer using power of attorney.
You’ll also need to collect your document 1 month later in person.
It can be hard to get an appointment in some of the busier parts of the country, like Lisbon, so it can be worth asking if there are appointments in other parts of the country. It will mean two trips there, but you can make two little holidays out of it.
Although the documents asked for can vary depending on who you speak to, you’ll most likely be asked for the following documents:
- Proof of sufficient funds (namely a printout from your Portuguese bank account)
- Social Security Number
- Proof of your current temporary residency
- Criminal records check carried out by SEF
- Fee (€100 in 2021)
Step 5: Apply for Portuguese Citizenship
In year 5, you’ll not only be eligible for permanent residency but Portuguese citizenship as well.
By year 5, some people have itchy feet and are ready to move somewhere else. However, to be eligible for Portuguese citizenship, you need to be living in Portugal at the time. This is why it’s important to have all of your documents organised as year 5 approaches so that you can apply the minute you are eligible.
While permanent residency will be granted fairly quickly, Portuguese citizenship usually takes around 2 years to come through. Once you have Portuguese citizenship, any children you have from now on, and children you currently have that are under 18, will be eligible for Portuguese citizenship as well. If they’re over 18, unfortunately it can’t be passed down.
If you meet someone who isn’t Portuguese and end up in a long-term relationship (known as a stable union) or marry them, they would be eligible for Portuguese citizenship as well.
In terms of required documents, you should go to your local Registo Civil to ask what’s required as the requirements change from office to office and over time as well.
That said, these are the documents you should think about having:
- Residency card
- Proof of past and current addresses
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate (if married)
- Criminal Record (issued within 6 months of the application)
- Social Security Number
- Portuguese community connections
- A2 (or higher) language certification
- Letter from your employer
- 3 years of tax declarations
- Fee (€200 in 2021)
Step 6: Apply for your Portuguese Passport
Now that you’re a Portuguese citizen, this step will be incredibly quick and straightforward to all the other steps.