The Portugal Golden Visa was launched in October 2012, and since then, it has become one of the most successful residency-by-investment programs in the world. It offers a range of investment options, from arts and cultural donations, job creation, and to contributing to an investment fund. As part of your application, there are several hoops that you will have to jump through, such as attending a biometrics appointment and having a Portugal Golden Visa background check. 

In this article, we’ll focus on the Portugal Golden Visa background check for those that need an FBI criminal background check or criminal record certificate. We’ll cover:  

  • What is the FBI criminal background check? 
  • A step-by-step guide to the FBI criminal background check 
  • How to obtain an FBI criminal background check 
  • How and where to take your fingerprints in Portugal 
  • How to authenticate and legalize your FBI criminal background check 
  • Global Citizen Solutions: How we can help you 


The Portugal Golden Visa program has recently undergone substantial changes. The new legislation, which took effect in October 2023, eliminated the purchase of real estate and real-estate-related funds as qualifying investment options for the program. 

However, several attractive investment routes still maintain their eligibility for the program. To learn more, please refer to our comprehensive guide: Portugal Golden Visa

The FBI Criminal Background Check

An FBI Criminal Background Check is officially known as an Identity History Summary. This report is obtained from fingerprint submissions kept by the United State’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and contains information on arrests, naturalization, federal employment, and military service.  

The request to the FBI for a copy of your criminal background check must be made by the applicants themselves. For information on the options available to submit your request to the FBI, you can consult their website, which you can find here. When it is completed, the document is valid in Portugal for 90 days. 


A Step-by-Step Guide to the FBI Criminal Background Check

Though the process can be quite time-consuming, the application is pretty straightforward. This section will provide you with a simple four-step guide to obtain your FBI criminal record background check. 

Step one: Download and complete the application

The initial step of the FBI criminal background check is to complete a one-page application form. The application form is quite simple to fill out, and you can download it from here

You will need to provide basic information, such as your name, address, contact information, physical description, citizenship, and why you want a criminal background check. 

Suppose you require more than one report – for example, you are living in a foreign country or traveling with family. In this case, each person must complete an application and sign their application form. 

Step two: Fingerprints

Along with waiting for your report, securing a copy of your fingerprints will be the most time-consuming part of the process. Despite this, it should be quite straightforward, but make sure that you get the process started as quickly as possible. 

You will need to have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprint technician. Many printing companies offer this service, or you can opt to go through a private company or a law enforcement agency, where you will be required to pay a small fee. 

The FBI accepts fingerprint cards on standard white paper stock, and downloading one online is no longer possible. You will need to include both rolled impressions and flat impressions (also referred to as plain impressions) of all ten fingerprints. The FBI accepts both ink and live scans. 

Note that the name on your fingerprint card must be the exact match as the name on the application form and all your IDs (passport, driver’s license, etc.). 

Step three: Payment

An FBI Identity History Summary cost is only $18 per person, and there are two different ways that you can pay:

  1. Credit card, by completing the credit card payment form
  2. Obtain a certified check or money order for the exact amount ($18) made payable to the Treasury of the United States.

We recommend making a note of the following:

  • Ensuring that the exact payment amount is paid, in this case, $18
  • Do not pay with personal or business checks or with cash, as this will delay the process.
  • If you are requesting the background check for more than one person (e.g., your spouse, family member, etc.), you should include a payment of $18 per person.

Step four: Submit your application

After completing the following steps – the application, obtaining your fingerprint card, and making the payment – you’ll need to review and submit your request. The options open to you are provided in the following section. 

How to Obtain an FBI Criminal Background Check

In this section, we’ll provide a summary of the options available to obtain your FBI criminal background check:

Option one: Electronic application

For requests that are submitted electronically to the FBI, an email address must be provided in order to begin the application process. You will receive your response by email with a secure link to your results. 

The estimated current processing time is three to five business days upon receipt of the fingerprint cards that you will send them. There is also the option to have a response sent to you by the US Postal Service via First-Class Mail.

Option two: Via mail

If you opt to obtain an FBI criminal background check via mail, the current processing time is 14-16 weeks. You’ll receive your response from the US Postal Service via First-Class Mail.

Option three: Via an FBI-Approved Channeler

You may wish to submit your request using an FBI-Approved Channeler. To do so, you will need to have residency in the USA. 

For questions, you can get in touch with the FBI Customer Service Group via the following channels:

Phone: 001-304-625-5590 /  fax: 001-304-625-5102.


How and Where to Take your Fingerprints in Portugal

The US COOP of Lisbon, located at the US Embassy in the Portuguese capital, is where you can go to have your fingerprints collected. Your fingerprints will need to be placed on a standard fingerprint form FD-258. This is commonly used for application and law enforcement purposes. 

The cost at the US COOP will be 60 euros. For this price, a set of two FD-258 forms will be given to you. 


How to Authenticate and Legalize your FBI Criminal Background Check

Authorities in Portugal may require the legalization of the original FBI record and its translation. It’s also important to note that US Embassies and US Consulates cannot legally authenticate or legalize state-issued public documents, including criminal background checks. 

All the US Department of Justice Order 556-73 fingerprint search results will be authenticated by the FBI by placing the seal and the signature of a division official, at the time of submission, on the criminal record background check.

After your fingerprints have been authenticated, the documents are then submitted to the US Department of State in Washington by the applicant in order for the document to be legalized. Legalization comes through obtaining the Apostille seal. There are companies which provide the service of obtaining the apostille in the United States. 

Any document with an apostille seal is legally valid and can be used in all countries that are party to the Hague Convention of 1961, including Portugal. Getting an FBI background check for a Portuguese Visa, such as the Golden Visa, is, therefore, quite straightforward, provided you follow the required steps. Please note that all documents, including the FBI background check, must be translated into Portuguese. Global Citizen Solutions offers a service to get documents translated.

You can see more information here.


The Portugal Golden Visa Program

The Portuguese Golden Visa has become one of the most popular residency-by-investment schemes of its kind since its inception in 2012 by the Portuguese government, providing a residence permit in Portugal to thousands of investors from across the world in return for a qualifying investment. There are several investment options, such as business set-up, investment funds, or an investment into cultural production. The minimum investment will vary depending on the chosen route.

Benefits include access to the European Union and increased financial and mobility freedoms. There is also the possibility of applying for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship after five years of holding your residence permit card through the Golden Visa Portugal program. The scheme is open to all non-EU nationals with a clean criminal record.

To secure all Golden Visa renewals and Portuguese citizenship, you will need to hold your investment for five years after receiving your residence permit card. You must also fulfill all the requirements under Portuguese nationality law, such as passing a basic Portuguese language test and having your criminal records checked. Armed with a Portuguese passport, you will have visa-free access to 172 countries, the right to vote, and several other advantages. 

If you are interested in the Portuguese Golden Visa, the following articles may be of interest to you:

If you are considering the different ways to secure a residency permit in Portugal, you can consult our article: D7 vs. Golden Visa Portugal: Which One Is Right for You? Note that until you are a resident of Portugal, you will need to have valid health insurance.

We recommend Golden Visa applicants open a Portuguese bank account. This is because, with a Portuguese bank account, you will not face transaction fees overseas. You will also need to obtain a NIF number (Portuguese as Número de Identificação Fiscal), and your Portuguese NIF will be your personal tax identification number in Portugal.

You can check out our article on How to Get a NIF in Portugal.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Portugal Golden Visa Background Check

How to obtain an FBI background check? 

The application to get an FBI background check is quite straightforward, although it can be a little time-consuming. The processes include completing an application, having your fingerprints taken, and then completing a payment. You should ensure that you begin the process early. You will need to have a criminal background check as part of the Portugal Golden Visa program process.