In a globalized world, many individuals seek to expand their horizons by obtaining citizenship in a foreign country. One coveted destination is Portugal, known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, warm climate, and high quality of life.

As a part of the European Union, holding Portugal citizenship opens the door to numerous benefits. As a Portuguese citizen, you can enjoy a number of benefits, including being part of the Portuguese community, with the freedom to live, work, study, and travel freely throughout the European Union.

But how does one go about acquiring Portuguese citizenship? Whether you’re interested in gaining citizenship through marriage, descent, investment, or residency, this comprehensive guide covers all you need to know about the process, requirements, and benefits..

Read on to learn how to embark on your journey to obtain Portuguese nationality.

The Top Benefits of Portugal Citizenship

Becoming a Portuguese citizen, joining the Portuguese community, and learning the widely-spoken Portuguese language comes with a number of privileges. Here’s a list of the top benefits of obtaining Portuguese citizenship: travel, work, study, healthcare, and more.

Visa-free travel and European Union (EU) perks

One of the most significant benefits is the right to travel visa-free or have visa-on-arrival access to 188 destinations worldwide.

Portugal is a European Union Country. This means that Portuguese citizens are also citizens of the EU. Hence, you can freely travel, live, work, and study in any EU or European Economic Area (EEA) country without requiring any additional permits or visas.

See: Portugal Passport Visa-Free Countries

Right to live in the EU

Apart from visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to over 180 destinations worldwide, obtaining Portuguese citizenship grants the right to settle, work, and study in all EU countries.

Free access to Portugal’s quality healthcare and schooling

You can access Portugal’s acclaimed social security system by becoming a Portuguese citizen. Portugal is known for its robust healthcare system and quality education, and as a Portuguese citizen, you also enjoy these privileges.

Portuguese nationals can also access free education in some of the world’s premier institutions and take advantage of government-sponsored healthcare programs.

Download Portuguese Healthcare Guide

High quality of life and a low cost of living

Portugal offers a high quality of life thanks to its pleasant climate, safe environment, rich cuisine, and cultural heritage. Besides, Portugal has a relatively lower cost of living compared to other EU countries, making it an affordable choice for many.

The affordable cost of living is one of the top reasons why so many UK citizens and Americans have moved to Portugal in recent years.

Employment opportunities

A Portuguese passport is your permanent identity for holding Portuguese citizenship for life. It grants you full-time or part-time employment opportunities without needing any additional work permit.

Portugal passport “power”

Portuguese citizens enjoy extensive global access. A Portuguese passport is a valuable travel document with visa-free entry to 174 countries. According to the Global Passport Index curated by Global Citizen Solutions, Portugal holds the 31st spot overall. Diving deeper into the index, it’s noteworthy that the Portuguese passport secures the 12th position in the Enhanced Mobility Index and ranks 13th in the Quality of Life Index. In essence, holding a Portuguese passport is highly beneficial and powerful for global mobility.

Portuguese Citizenship Requirements

Portuguese Passports | GCSForeign nationals may become citizens by naturalization after living in Portugal for more than five years and showing proficiency in the Portuguese language. One exception to this rule is if you are married to or in a de facto union with a Portuguese citizen. In that case, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship without fulfilling the five-year residency requirement. You’ll also need to provide birth certificates for both parties.

If you are applying for Portugal citizenship as a legal resident, your application should include a criminal record certified by AIMA, which replaced SEF as the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, evidence of your fluency in the Portuguese language, a clean health record, and proof of your Portuguese residency.

The language fluency requirement for Portuguese citizenship involves passing the CIPLE exam. This Portuguese language test examines the applicants’ ability to understand and use everyday Portuguese expressions and requires them to write, and speak Portuguese to A2 level.

How To Get Portuguese Citizenship: The Main Routes

As a foreign national of another European Union Member State, you are eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship if you satisfy specific criteria. However, there are other routes for citizenship, namely:

Portuguese citizenship through marriage

After being married to or in a non-marital relationship with a Portuguese citizen for three years, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship. You’re required to provide documents proving your relationship (e.g. a marriage certificate) and union with the Portuguese community. There is no minimum residency requirement for this route. Your Portuguese citizenship application remains valid even if you divorce or separate in the future.

Portuguese citizenship by descent

You can get Portuguese citizenship by descent if you have Portuguese parents or at least one Portuguese parent. Portuguese Nationality Law recognizes nationality through jus sanguinis (derived from Portuguese ancestors) or territorial (if the child was born in Portuguese territory).

To obtain Portuguese citizenship through this route, you have your parent’s birth certificate stating where they were born in Portugal.

The Portuguese Government also lets you apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent if you have a Portuguese grandparent and can produce their birth certificate.

Portuguese citizenship by investment

As of October 2023, real estate can no longer be used as an investment. However, the Portugal Golden Visa investment program still provides pathways to fulfill your Portuguese citizenship application. This visa scheme speeds up the process for foreigners and non-EU/EEA citizens to obtain a residence permit in Portugal. Golden Visa holders are granted a temporary residence permit in exchange for making a qualified investment. After five years of maintaining the temporary permit and their investment, Golden Visa holders can then apply for citizenship or permanent residence.

Other visas like D3, D7, and D8 follow a similar process but do not require an investment.

You can find out more details about investments in this article.

Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews and residents of former Portuguese territories

Individuals of Sephardic Jewish heritage, whose ancestors were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition era, are eligible to claim Portuguese citizenship. This is possible due to the Sephardic Portuguese Jewish community.

To be eligible, you’ll need to trace your family tree back far enough to show that you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry, using documents such as a marriage certificate, death certificate, or birth certificate. There are other evidences you can use to prove your Portuguese-Jewish ancestry. To learn more, please read our article: Portuguese Citizenship for Sephardic Jews.

Individuals who can produce a birth certificate from Portugal (i.e., birth naturalization) and who currently reside in territories that were once under Portuguese rule are eligible to retain their Portuguese citizenship. Similarly, individuals born in former Portuguese colonies who have been long-term residents of Portugal are also allowed to maintain their citizenship status. You must present your birth certificate to obtain Portuguese citizenship through this route.

Portugal citizenship: the naturalization route

If you are not eligible to get Portugal citizenship by birth or descent, you may be able to apply for citizenship through naturalization. Living legally in Portugal for at least five years is one of the main routes to obtaining Portuguese nationality.

The naturalization process requires an applicant to hold a legal residence permit during this period in order to get citizenship in Portugal.

Temporary and permanent residence permits

Foreign nationals residing in Portugal usually start with a temporary residence permit, valid for one year and renewable for two-year periods. After five years of holding a temporary residence permit, you’re eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit. It’s important to note that both these residence permits count towards the five-year residency requirement for naturalization.

Naturalization Through the Five-Year Residency Requirement

Let’s delve deeper into the visa and permit types you may utilize to fulfill the requirements to get citizenship in Portugal through the naturalization route.

Portugal Golden Visa Program

Portugal is one of several European countries that offers a residence permit to those who invest in Portugal.

Portugal’s Golden Visa Program offers non-EU nationals an opportunity to invest in Portugal and, in return, receive a fast-tracked Portuguese residence permit. This permit allows holders and their families to live, work, and study in Portugal and freely travel within the Schengen Area. After five years of residency, Golden Visa holders can apply for permanent residency and obtain Portuguese citizenship.

portugal passport golden visa

The Portuguese Golden Visa program has recently undergone substantial changes. The new legislation is now in effect, and it’s crucial to note that real estate investments and the capital transfer option no longer qualify for the program.

While the real estate and capital transfer options are no longer available, several attractive investment routes, such as investment funds and artistic donations, still maintain their eligibility for the program. They are as follows:

  • Fund Subscription: Make a contribution to a qualified investment fund worth at least €500,000
  • Investment or donation in the arts or reconstruction of national heritage with a donation of at least €250,000 (Read more: Portugal’s Cultural Production Golden Visa)
  • Scientific Research: Science or Technology research contribution of at least €500,000
  • Creation of ten jobs: Creation and maintenance of ten jobs during the required period
  • Share capital and job creation: Incorporation of a company or reinforcement of a company’s share capital, in either case with an investment of €500,000, combined with the creation of five or maintaining ten jobs (5 of them permanent)

Eligibility criteria: What conditions must be met for the Portuguese Golden Visa?

For consideration in the Portugal Golden Visa program, applicants need to meet certain conditions:

  • Mandatory residence time: During the first year of the residency visa, a minimum of seven days must be spent in Portugal, followed by a minimum of 14 days in each subsequent two-year period. After a five-year term, applicants can apply for permanent residency or citizenship.
  • Making and sustaining a valid investment for five years: Applicants are required to make and sustain a valid investment in Portugal for five years, such as establishing permanent jobs or contributing to private scientific research bodies. The minimum investment amount can be as low as €250,000, but it varies based on the type of investment.

When applying for the Portuguese Golden Visa, appropriate documentation must be presented. This involves legalizing and translating documents and paying corresponding fees.

The required documents for the Golden Visa include the following:

  • A completed Portuguese Golden Visa application form.
  • Valid passport and travel documents.
  • A title deed or contract for the acquired property or a signed promissory contract with an attached proof of deposit payment.
  • A declaration from a Portuguese bank confirming the transfer of funds.
  • Health insurance validity in Portugal.
  • A certificate of clean criminal record or a police clearance letter from the applicant’s home country
  • A completed form allowing the AIMA  (the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, which replaced SEF) to obtain a copy of your Portuguese criminal records.
  • A declaration stating that the investment requirements have been met.
  • Documents confirming good standing with the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority and Social Security system, issued within 45 days before the online application.
  • Proof of payment for your application processing fee.

The criminal record certificate or police clearance letters should be issued no more than 90 days before the application submission, while all other certificates should be issued no more than 180 days prior to your application.

Bank Account and NIF Number: Golden Visa applicants also need to open a Portuguese bank account and acquire an NIF (Tax Identification Number). The NIF number is essential for any financial transactions in Portugal, such as opening a Portuguese bank account, buying property, renting a home, employment, and signing any contract. The NIF is also required when applying for a Golden Visa.

D3 Visa

The D3 Visa is intended for highly qualified professionals looking to work in Portugal. These could be individuals with a job offer or a binding contract from a Portuguese employer. After five years of residing in Portugal with a D3 Visa, you can apply for citizenship.

D7 Visa

The D7 Visa, also known as the Passive Income Visa or Retirement Visa, is for individuals who can demonstrate regular income from pensions, rental income, financial investments, or other sources. After five years, the visa provides a pathway to permanent residency and Portugal citizenship.

See: Global Citizen Solutions for your D7 Portugal Application

D8 Visa

The D8 Visa, also regarded as the Digital Nomad Visa, is designed for entrepreneurs intending to invest in a business or start a business in Portugal. After five years of legal residency, D8 Visa holders can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

In all cases, to be eligible for naturalization, you must demonstrate ties to the Portuguese community, have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese idiom, and maintain a clean criminal record, in addition to the residency requirement.

Dual Citizenship in Portugal

Portugal law permits dual citizenship, meaning you can become a Portuguese citizen without renouncing your original citizenship. However, it is important to verify if your home country permits multiple citizenships.

Portuguese citizenship eligibility

Remember that, to be eligible for Portuguese citizenship, you must have lived in Portugal for at least five years as a legal resident or have been married or living in a non-marital partnership with a Portuguese national for over three years. Furthermore, you must show proficiency in the Portuguese language, maintain a clean criminal record, and present evidence of your Portuguese residency.

Take a look at our Portugal Golden Visa Ultimate Guide by local experts

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How to Apply for Portuguese Citizenship: A Step-by-Step Guide

Portuguese Citizenship Application Process:

If you want to get Portuguese citizenship, there are a few steps you’ll need to take. 

  • Fill out the application form 
  • Submit all the necessary documents with the application fees 
  • Send your application along with all supporting documentation to the Portuguese Consulate (if you’re applying from your home country) or the Registry Office (if you’re applying from Portugal) for processing 

Once you have submitted your application form, it’s processed by the Registry Office, which will decide whether or not they believe that you qualify for citizenship. 

In accordance with Portuguese Law, if you’re not eligible for citizenship, you will be informed by the Registry Office and given a reason why. 

If you are eligible, the Registry Office will send you an official letter of congratulations to inform you that your application has been approved. 

How do I get a Portuguese passport?

Obtaining a Portuguese passport entails going through certain processes, often starting with either being born to a Portuguese parent or acquiring Portuguese nationality through residency or marriage.

  1. family reunification visa portugalAncestry: If one or both of your parents or grandparents are Portuguese, you are eligible for Portuguese citizenship and hence a passport. If you are of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, you may also be eligible for Portuguese citizenship, as Portugal offers citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition.
  2. Birth: Portugal amended its Birthright Citizenship to include people born in the country to non-Portuguese parents. If their parents have legally resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years, they qualify for Portuguese citizenship.
  3. Marriage: If you’re married to a Portuguese citizen for at least three years, you can apply for citizenship. Note that you might have to prove sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language.
  4. Residency: If you’ve legally resided in Portugal for five years, you can apply for citizenship. You also need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of Portuguese.

After acquiring citizenship, you’re eligible to get a Portuguese passport. To do this:

  1. Visit a local citizen’s shop (“Loja do Cidadão“) or a registry office (“Conservatória do Registo Civil“) in Portugal. If you’re abroad, visit the nearest Portuguese embassy or Portuguese consulate.
  2. Provide all necessary documentation, including a valid identification document (like your citizen’s card or identity card), two recent, identical color photographs, and a valid Portuguese citizen card or an expired Portuguese passport.
  3. Pay the application fee.
  4. Your application will be processed, and if approved, your passport should be issued in a few days (in Portugal) or a few weeks (abroad).

Remember that Portuguese law stipulates that dual citizens must enter and leave the country on their Portuguese passport.

Working with an Immigration Lawyer for your Portugal Citizenship

Please note that hiring a knowledgeable immigration lawyer when pursuing Portuguese citizenship has a number of benefits to make the process easier for you. 

Immigration lawyers are well-versed in the complexities of immigration and citizenship laws. They’re experienced navigating legal processes and ensuring that your application is complete and in compliance with all requirements.

They can also assess your eligibility, offer advice on the best path to citizenship, and help you overcome potential hurdles.

Also, citizenship applications often require extensive documentation. Immigration lawyers can help you gather and prepare the necessary paperwork, reducing the chances of errors or omissions.

Why choose Global Citizen Solutions for your Immigration Visa?

GLOBAL APPROACH BY LOCAL EXPERTS

  • GCS has offices located across Portugal.
  • Members of the US-Portugal and UK-Portugal Chambers of Commerce in Portugal, and the Investment Migration Council (IMC).
  • Our expert team can help you throughout your journey to secure your Visa. 

100% APPROVAL RATE

  • Our successful track record in applications provides reassurance to applicants. 
  • We have helped clients from more than 35 countries secure residency in Portugal.

ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOLUTION

  • With a single channel of communication, our approach ensures that you have complete clarity on your application. 
  • Our BeGlobal® Onboarding System allows for a total flow of information.

TRANSPARENCY AND PRIVACY

  • Our pricing is clear and detailed, you will not face any hidden costs.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Portuguese Citizenship 

Can a US citizen get citizenship in Portugal?

Yes, a US citizen can acquire Portuguese citizenship. The most common routes include five years of legal residence after securing a visa, being married to a Portuguese citizen, investing in Portugal under the Golden Visa Program, or having Portuguese ancestry.

Does Portugal give citizenship easily?

The process of obtaining Portuguese nationality involves fulfilling certain requirements and going through legal procedures, which can be complex and time-consuming. However, compared to many countries, Portugal has several pathways to obtain citizenship, including through ancestry, having a Portuguese parent, marriage, investment – excluding real estate – or after five years of legal residency.

How do I get dual Portuguese citizenship?

To obtain dual Portuguese citizenship, you first need to qualify for Portuguese nationality through one of the available routes like legal residency in Portugal for at least five years, marriage to a person with Portuguese nationality, Portuguese descent, or significant investment (Golden Visa Program).

Once you have met the requirements and your application for Portuguese citizenship is approved, you can hold a second citizenship, assuming your current country of citizenship allows dual nationality. You should always check the rules of your current country of citizenship before proceeding.

Can a US citizen have dual citizenship with Portugal?

Indeed, a US citizen can indeed obtain Portuguese citizenship. This is because both nations recognize and allow second citizenship, permitting individuals to hold two valid passports and enjoy the rights and benefits accorded to citizens in each country.

The process for obtaining Portuguese nationality, and thus second citizenship, varies depending on your situation. It could be through descent, marriage, birth, or after legally residing in Portugal for a period of six years, including one year with a permanent valid residence permit.

However, there are responsibilities tied to holding dual citizenship in Portugal. You must comply with both US and Portuguese law as well as the regulations of both countries, which includes tax obligations. US citizens, regardless of citizenship status, must file annual US income tax returns. And while in Portugal, dual citizens are generally subject to Portuguese taxation.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that, as a dual citizen, when in either country, you’re generally treated as a citizen of that specific country. This means that your rights and protections as a citizen of the other country may be limited. For example, the US Embassy may not intervene in legal matters if you’re in Portugal.

In summary, while dual citizenship with the US and Portugal provides numerous benefits, it’s also important to understand the responsibilities and potential limitations that come with it.

How good is Portuguese citizenship?

Obtaining Portuguese citizenship is attractive to many people because the Portuguese passport is one of the strongest in the world, granting visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 188 countries. Becoming a citizen of Portugal also means becoming a European Union citizen, as the country is an EU member.

How do you become a citizen of Portugal?

According to the Portuguese nationality law, the main pathways to Portuguese citizenship are:

  • Birth or descent (such as Sephardic Jewish ancestry)
  • Naturalization (after five years of legal residency)
  • Investment (followed by naturalization)
  • Marriage or de facto union

Do I need to speak Portuguese to obtain citizenship?

Yes. Applicants are required to take the CIPLE exam. This Portuguese language test examines your ability to understand and use everyday Portuguese expressions. To take the test, you are required to both write and speak the language at an A2 level.

Is a Portuguese citizenship worth it?

Portugal is a European Union Country, which means citizenship here allows you to freely travel to other Schengen areas without the need for a visa.

How does the Golden Visa program relate to Portuguese Citizenship?

The Portugal Golden Visa program allows non-EU citizens to acquire citizenship through eligible minimum investment programs or opportunities in Portugal.

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