On 5 January 2024, the Portuguese parliament announced critical changes to its nationality law. These changes could bring relief to thousands of applicants who have been affected by delays in residency application processing by AIMA (previously SEF). This major change addresses the waiting period required for Portuguese nationality applications.

What are the announced changes to the Portuguese nationality law? 

Previously, under Article 6, Paragraph 4 of the nationality law, individuals looking to secure Portuguese nationality through naturalization were required to hold residency in Portugal for a minimum period of five years, alongside other requirements. This five-year period began once the initial residency permit was issued.

This new legislation, the amended Article 15 now incorporating Paragraph 4 of the nationality law, explicitly states that the time between the submission of the temporary residency permit and its final approval would be included when calculating the required legal residency period for nationality, as long as the residency permit is granted.

When will these changes come into effect?

The proposed law that was voted on generated a broad consensus, which means that no political or civil society distortions are expected in the legislative process. In mid-February of 2024, the Constitutional Court issued its decision not to rule on the unconstitutionality of the law, giving the green light to its continuation. This proposal would need to have its final wording before being sent to the President for ratification, and then it would be published in the Official Gazette. If it were published, the law would come into effect on the first day of the following month. For example, if it were published in March, it would be effective from April 1.

Should the law be promulgated by the Portuguese President, it would mean that the waiting period for individuals who have faced delays in residency approvals could also be considered, meaning they could apply for Portuguese nationality sooner.

Why is the nationality law change significant?

This development would have a profound impact on the waiting period criteria for naturalization and would rectify the unfair situation that arose from delays in the processing of residency applications, often linked to factors including COVID-19, the Ukrainian conflict, and the restructuring of immigration authorities. With this change, the process of acquiring Portuguese nationality by naturalization would be much quicker.

Individuals looking to apply for Portuguese residency in 2024 could anticipate fulfilling the five-year residency requirement for citizenship by 2029, regardless of potential delays in the processing of their residency applications.

This change is a key step towards enhancing the overall experience of individuals seeking to move to Portugal or those looking to secure Portuguese citizenship by naturalization.

Positive Shift for Golden Visa Program and D7 Visa Applicants

The recent changes to Portugal’s nationality law are a welcome relief for individuals who have applied for or obtained Portuguese residency in Portugal via traditional D-visas, such as the D7 Visa or the esteemed Portugal Golden Visa Program.

Previously, applicants faced the stringent requirement of a minimum five-year residency period commencing from the issuance of the initial residency permit. This often translated to lengthy waiting times, with candidates enduring delays attributed to processing backlogs at the former SEF.

Potential Implications for Sephardic Jews

Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is worried about a change in the country’s nationality law that could impact Israeli citizens in Gaza seeking Portuguese citizenship, potentially violating principles like trust and human dignity. The change involves alterations to the system for granting nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews, who had been allowed to apply for Portuguese citizenship since 2015. The government’s decision to end this policy by December 2023 has led to a surge in applications. The president has requested the Constitutional Court to examine this change in the law.


Portugal's Law Change Has Real Impact

Portugal’s new law shows the country to be directly addressing a long-running problem, providing a relevant and highly desired sign of lucidity. After a period in which the country became slightly less appealing and less reliable for residency and citizenship planning, Portugal has taken significant steps towards making a real impact that would be highly appealing to expats and investors.

This development would provide a lifeline for those who have been experiencing delays in residency approvals, some of which have dated from 2021. Their waiting period could now be considered, and they would be able to apply for citizenship sooner.

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