Portuguese citizenship offers a wide range of benefits, including the opportunity to live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union (EU). One route through which individuals can attain Portuguese citizenship is by descent, a process that is secured by the Portuguese Nationality Law by the principles of jus sanguinis (inheritance from Portuguese ancestors) or territoriality (birth within Portuguese territory).
Acquiring Portuguese citizenship through descent allows individuals of foreign nationality, with either parents or grandparents who hold Portuguese citizenship, to gain recognition as Portuguese nationals.
However, the process of obtaining Portuguese citizenship is not merely about tracing your ancestral lineage. Eligibility is only possible if you have parents or grandparents who are officially acknowledged as Portuguese citizens.
This legal prerequisite distinguishes the process from a simple genealogical exploration and underscores the significance of a direct familial link to Portuguese citizenship.
Understanding the complexities of acquiring Portugal citizenship by descent can be complex. But don’t worry; we’ve created a detailed guide to help you understand how to obtain Portuguese citizenship by descent.
This article covers everything from who is eligible to the documents you need. It’s a straightforward roadmap for those going through the citizenship by descent process.
Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
- What is Portuguese citizenship by descent
- The benefits of becoming a Portuguese citizen
- Who’s eligible to apply
- How to get Portuguese citizenship through parents
- How to get Portuguese citizenship through grandparents, and more.
What is Portuguese citizenship by descent?
Portuguese citizenship by descent, also known as citizenship by descent or by origin, refers to the acquisition of Portuguese citizenship based on one’s familial or ancestral ties to Portugal. In other words, if you can prove that you have Portuguese ancestors, you may be eligible to acquire Portuguese citizenship.
Generally speaking, the process involves providing documentation that proves your direct lineage to a Portuguese ancestor, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other relevant records.
Can you hold dual citizenship in Portugal?
Yes, Portugal allows dual citizenship. This means that foreign nationals can be Portuguese citizen and hold their existing citizenship simultaneously without renouncing their rights in either.
Having a second citizenship is an advantageous situation that allows you the privileges and benefits of both nations. This can include the right to reside, work, vote, access healthcare and education, and even get a passport in both countries.
However, it’s crucial to understand that while Portuguese law allows for dual citizenship, it’s a two-way process. Your second country of nationality must also permit its citizens to hold dual citizenship. If the other country doesn’t allow dual citizenship, you might have to give up your original nationality to become a Portuguese citizen, or vice versa.
What are the benefits of Portugal citizenship by descent?
Visa-free travel within the EU
Portuguese citizenship acquired through descent grants individuals the freedom to live, work, and travel without constraints within the European Union. This opens up diverse opportunities for career growth, education, and overall mobility.
Access to high-quality healthcare
As Portuguese citizens, including those with citizenship by descent, individuals gain access to the country’s robust healthcare system, ensuring comprehensive medical services and well-being.
Portuguese citizens have the privilege of enrolling in the nation’s reputable educational institutions. This benefit extends to those with citizenship by descent, providing favorable conditions for pursuing a quality education.
Cultural connection and sense of belonging
Possessing Portuguese citizenship establishes a legal and familial link to the country, fostering a deeper connection to its rich history and heritage. This cultural connection contributes to an enhanced sense of belonging.
Portuguese citizenship acquired through descent often extends to future generations, creating a lasting familial legacy. This continuity ensures that the family maintains a strong and enduring tie to Portugal and its associated privileges.
High quality of life
Portuguese citizenship allows individuals to live in Portugal, renowned for its high quality of life, adding another dimension to the overall benefits of citizenship by descent.
Who's eligible for Portuguese citizenship by descent?
Portuguese nationality can be granted in two main ways:
- Original assignment, recognized at the time of birth
- Acquisition, which is valid from the date of registration.
As per the Portuguese Nationality Law (Organic Law No. 2/2018, of July 5), nationality can be acquired either by right of blood (jus sanguinis) derived from Portuguese ancestors or by birth within Portuguese territory. In both cases, the recipients are considered Portuguese by origin.
The law allows individuals whose parents were Portuguese nationals or residents (domestic or abroad) at the time of their birth to apply for Portuguese citizenship through descent. There are numerous scenarios under which you can apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent:
- Children born in territory belonging to Portugal to a Portuguese mother or father
- Children born abroad to a Portuguese parent who is serving the Portuguese State
- Children born abroad to a Portuguese parent, provided they are registered in the Portuguese civil registry or express a desire to be Portuguese citizens.
- Individuals born abroad with at least one second-degree ascendant (e.g., a grandparent) of Portuguese nationality who did not lose their nationality can claim citizenship if they express a desire to be Portuguese, maintain effective connections to the Portuguese community, and have their birth registered in the Portuguese civil registry, given that these conditions are met.
In accordance with Portuguese law, demonstrating effective connections with the national community is crucial in order to claim Portuguese citizenship by descent. This requires the Government’s recognition of the relevance of these connections, such as proficiency in the Portuguese language and regular contact with Portuguese territory. It is also contingent on no final sentence conviction for committing a crime punishable by a significant prison term.
The eighth amendment to Law No. 37/81, of October 3, authorizing the Nationality Law, and Organic Law No. 2/2018, of July 5, grants access to native nationality and naturalization to individuals born on Portuguese soil.
How to apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent?
Applying for Portuguese citizenship by descent involves several steps. It all starts with identifying your claim to Portuguese ancestry, which can be through parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents.
A foreign national who has a Portuguese parent or grandparent can apply for Portuguese nationality at the Institute of Registries and Notaries of the National Center for Migrant Integration (CNAIM) in either Lisbon or Porto.
Alternatively, applications can be made online if you have a legal representative or in-person at the Civil Registry/Portuguese Consulate in their area of residence.
To apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent, your first step is to gather documentation proving your lineage to a Portuguese citizen. This typically involves obtaining birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates, which illustrate your familial connection. The type of documentation and process will vary slightly depending on your specific lineage path. For example, acquiring Portuguese citizenship through parents is slightly different than acquiring through Portuguese grandparents, and so forth.
Portuguese parent – Portuguese citizenship through parents
If you’re seeking Portuguese citizenship and one or both of your parents are Portuguese citizens, the process involves several steps, and you will need to present specific documents. Here is the process you need to follow:
- Make an appointment with your local Portuguese Embassy, Portuguese Consulate, or Civil Registry Office – providing your name and phone number.
- Collect the necessary documents, including:
- Original or certified copy of your birth certificate
- Copy of your passport or another valid picture ID document (not necessary for children under 14 years of age)
- Birth certificate of the Portuguese descendent parent
- Birth certificates for both parents if one or both are Portuguese OR a valid Portuguese ID document. If you don’t have these, you should provide the full name and date of birth of the Portuguese parent(s) to allow the Embassy or Consulate to locate the respective Portuguese birth certificate.
- Original or certified copy of your parents’ marriage certificate, if applicable.
- Proof of address
If your parents’ marriage or divorce took place outside of Portugal, it is mandatory to register the marriage/divorce in the Portuguese civil registry system.
Note: If you’re a minor (under 18 years old), your parents need to apply on your behalf, but you don’t need to be present at the Consulate.
Portuguese grandparent – Portuguese citizenship through grandparents
If your grandparent(s) were Portuguese citizens, you are also eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. However, for eligibility, you would need to prove your lineage, just as you would through a parent.
The process and documents required to claim citizenship through Portuguese grandparents are like that of claiming through parents, except that you would need to produce documentation proving the Portuguese nationality of your grandparent(s). You would also need to demonstrate your relationship with your grandparent(s) through birth and marriage certificates.
To meet the requirements for residency in Portugal, you must demonstrate strong connections to the country, which includes having a sufficient understanding of the Portuguese language. Additionally, it is necessary to have a clean criminal record with no prison sentences of three years or more for offenses punishable under Portuguese law. Furthermore, there should be no indication of posing a danger or threat to national security or defense by engaging in activities associated with terrorism, as defined by the applicable law.
Portuguese ancestry – citizenship through ancestry
If you have a Portuguese great-grandparent, you might still be eligible for citizenship. If you have a Portuguese great-grandparent, you could still be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. Even in the absence of living parents or grandparents of Portuguese descent, there is a potential pathway to obtain Portuguese citizenship through naturalization. This is possible if the ancestor is of Portuguese origin and there is sufficient evidence demonstrating a connection to Portugal.
Required Documents to Obtain Portuguese Nationality
Applying for Portuguese citizenship by descent requires the applicant to gather and submit numerous official documents. These documents serve to validate your lineage and provide other necessary identification details.
Below is a comprehensive list of the documents that you will generally need to apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent:
- Official application form: The first document you’ll need is an official application form. This form is to be filled out by the applicant or their legal representative and should contain all relevant identification information.
- Birth certificate: You’ll need to provide an original copy of your birth cert issued in your country of residence. The birth certificate must include the names of both your parents.
- Copy of Portuguese parent(s) or grandparent(s) ID: The next set of documents you’ll need are copies of the ID of your Portuguese parent(s) or grandparent(s). If you’re applying for citizenship through a parent, you’ll need to provide their ID.
- Certified copy of the grandparent’s marriage certificate: If you’re applying for citizenship through a grandparent, you’ll need to provide an original copy of your grandparent’s marriage certificate.
- Valid ID: A copy of your valid passport or ID is also necessary. This serves as proof of your identity and can also demonstrate ties to your country of residence (for example, if you regularly visit Portugal, own property there, etc.).
- Background check: A criminal record check will be conducted.
- Proof of affairs with Portugal: A citizenship test is necessary to prove ties with Portugal; this can be done by taking a Portuguese proficiency exam to demonstrate your knowledge of the Portuguese language. In citizenship cases for grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the proof needs to be more specific.
Remember, the required documents may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your lineage. You are encouraged to contact the nearest Portuguese Consulate or Embassy for the most accurate information related to your case. Ensure all your documents are properly certified and translated into Portuguese.
Please note that any foreign document must be legalized beforehand, either with the Apostille of the Hague Convention or by the Portuguese Consulate and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country where the document was issued. If the document is not in Portuguese, a translation by a translator recognized by the Portuguese Consulate is mandatory.
How to Get a Portuguese Passport
After successfully obtaining Portuguese citizenship by descent, the next step is to apply for your Portuguese passport. This travel document verifies your status as a Portuguese citizen and grants you the freedom to move within the European Union and other countries. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of obtaining a Portuguese passport:
Eligibility: Ensure you have your Portuguese Citizenship Card as proof of your Portuguese citizenship. It would be best if you had this before applying for a passport.
Schedule an appointment: Contact the nearest Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence or AIMA (former SEF, Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service) if you’re in Portugal. You’ll need to book an appointment for your Portuguese passport application.
Prepare the necessary documents: Gather all the necessary documents. This typically includes your Portuguese Citizen Card, proof of payment for passport fees, and a completed passport application form. The exact documents may vary depending on your location, so check with the Portuguese Embassy, Consulate, or AIMA.
Attend the appointment: Attend the appointment in person. Here, you’ll submit your application and the necessary documents. You may also need to have biometric data (like fingerprints) taken.
Payment of fees: Pay the required application fee for the passport application. The fee can be paid at the embassy, consulate, or SEF office and is typically done so during your appointment.
Collection or delivery: After your application is processed and approved, you’ll receive your Portuguese passport. The method of collection varies. Some Embassies or Consulates might require you to pick up the passport in person, while others may offer delivery services.
Remember, the Portuguese passport needs to be renewed every five years for adults and every two years for children under the age of five. Always check the expiry date and start the renewal process well in advance of any planned travel.
Portuguese Citizenship by Descent Processing Time
Processing Portuguese citizenship applications can take up to a few months for the children of Portuguese parents and a couple of years in other circumstances. This duration is due to the multiple checks and processes involved in verifying and confirming all the information provided.
The fee for Portuguese citizenship applications is typically between €175 to €200.
Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews
The Portuguese government recognizes the historical connection between the country and Sephardic Jews who were expelled during the Inquisition in the 15th century. In a bid to make amends for this historical wrong, Portugal has enacted laws allowing Sephardic Jews and their descendants to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Sephardic Jews are those who descended from the ancient Jews and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain). The law doesn’t only apply to people who currently practice Judaism; it also applies to those who can prove a traditional Sephardic cultural connection, such as having a family history of using Ladino language.
If you have a Sephardic Jewish heritage, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship through the following process:
- Proof of Sephardic heritage: The first step in the process is to provide proof of your Sephardic heritage. This could be through genealogical records, a surname that is common among Sephardic Jews, or proof that your family traditionally used Ladino.
- Certification from a Portuguese Jewish community: The next step involves obtaining a certificate from a Portuguese Jewish community. This community must be legally recognized, and they must certify that you are of Sephardic Jewish descent.
- Submission of application: After obtaining the certificate, you can then submit your citizenship application, which will include your certification and proof of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, along with other necessary documents such as your long-form birth certificate and identification. You’ll also need to submit “proof of affairs” with the Portuguese community, as per the amendment to the Nationality Law that came into force in September 2022.
- Review process: The Portuguese government will then review your application. This process may take several months as the government thoroughly checks all provided information and documents.
- Approval: If your application is approved, you will then be granted Portuguese citizenship.
It’s important to note that while the Portuguese government allows for citizenship through Sephardic Jewish descent, the process can be complex and often requires expert assistance. You may need the support of a professional well-versed in Portuguese immigration and citizenship laws to navigate the process effectively.
Remember, obtaining Portuguese citizenship will not only give you the rights and benefits of being a Portuguese national but will also grant you a resident permit that allows you to live, work, and move freely within the countries of the European Union.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Portugal’s Citizenship by Descent Program
How do I get Portuguese citizenship by descent?
If you want to claim Portuguese citizenship by descent, it involves a few key steps. Firstly, you need to gather all necessary documents, which include:
- Your birth certificate
- Your Portuguese parent’s birth certificate
- A copy of your valid passport, and other relevant documents as required by the Portuguese immigration authorities.
Once these documents are ready, you can fill out the official application form provided by the Institute of Registries and Notaries. The application can be submitted either in Portugal, at the Portuguese Consulate in your country of residence, or online. You will receive a Portuguese citizen card that officially denotes your status as a Portuguese national.
Can I get Portuguese citizenship through my grandparents?
Yes, Portuguese citizenship can be acquired through your grandparents. If at least one of your grandparents is or was a Portuguese national who did not lose their nationality, you can claim citizenship. To do so, you need to express your desire to become a Portuguese citizen, maintain effective connections with the Portuguese community, and have your birth registered in the Portuguese civil registry.
How many generations can get Portuguese citizenship?
Portuguese citizenship can be claimed by descendants up to the second degree, which includes children and grandchildren of a Portuguese citizen, as long as the Portuguese ancestor did not lose their nationality. However, there is an exception to this rule when applying for Portuguese citizenship by naturalization.
In such cases, it is possible to skip more than two generations and claim citizenship, even as a great-grandson of a Portuguese individual.
Is it easy to get Portuguese citizenship by descent?
The ease of acquiring Portuguese citizenship by descent can vary depending on your specific circumstances, such as the availability of necessary documentation and your personal connection to the Portuguese community.
Can my children become citizens of Portugal as well?
Yes, your children can become Portuguese citizens. Once you have obtained Portuguese citizenship, your children are also eligible to apply. As children of a Portuguese citizen, they have the right to apply for citizenship by descent.
Can I get dual citizenship?
If your country of origin allows dual citizenship then yes, you can become a dual citizen of both Portugal and your country of origin.
Who can request Portuguese nationality?
As a foreign national, you can request Portuguese nationality if you meet certain criteria, such as you have Portuguese parents or Portuguese grandparents, you are married to a Portuguese person, or you have been legally residing in Portugal continuously for at least five years.
Can the Golden Visa program help me become a Portuguese citizen?
While the Golden Visa program does not grant citizenship automatically, it provides a pathway for nationality. If you keep your Golden Visa investment in Portugal for five years, and meet the requirements, you become eligible to become a Portuguese citizen.