The Portuguese parliament recently made changes to the Portuguese Nationality Law, also known as the Portuguese Nationality Act. The most significant change is that the five years required to obtain Portuguese citizenship and a Portuguese passport can now be counted from the date of the residency application – the date that you apply for your residency permit with AIMA, which is the former SEF – Portuguese Immigration and Borders (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras).

In this article, we’ll cover the most recent Portuguese nationality law news and the major changes in recent years. We’ll also go through what these changes will mean for foreign nationals seeking citizenship in Portugal.

New Portuguese Nationality Law 2024

Golden Visa Portugal LawyerPreviously, the five-year residency period for acquiring citizenship and obtaining a Portuguese passport began with the issuing of the first residence permit card after the application for a residence permit had been approved. This meant waiting for administrative processing before the clock officially started ticking, potentially delaying your naturalization timeline.

Published in Portugal’s official gazette on March 5th, 2024, Organic Law 1/2024 is an amendment to Portuguese Nationality law 37/81; it clarifies that the five-year residency period now begins on the date you submit your application for a residence permit. The law will come into force on April 1st, 2024, and has significant implications, particularly for people who have a Portugal Golden Visa or a D7 Visa.

Faster eligibility: Your path to citizenship potentially shortens as your residency clock starts sooner. Previously, the wait for approval could add months or even years to your overall timeline.

Clearer timeframe: Knowing exactly when the five-year period starts provides greater predictability and allows for more precise planning of your naturalization journey.

Proactive approach: You can begin preparing for the naturalization process, including learning Portuguese or gathering required documents advised by your lawyer, even while your residence permit application is under review.

However, it’s crucial to remember that the five-year residency requirement remains unchanged. You must remain a legal resident in Portugal for five full years before applying for citizenship. Legal residents also have to pass a basic Portuguese language test and maintain a clean criminal record to apply for Portuguese nationality.

This change applies to the naturalization process, not the residence permit itself. The validity and renewal of your residence permit will follow the original terms granted based on your chosen pathway (investment, work, etc).

Overall, this modification represents a positive step toward streamlining the naturalization process in Portugal. By starting the residency clock earlier, individuals seeking citizenship can potentially embark on their journey sooner and obtain a Portuguese passport more efficiently.

Streamlined Paternity Recognition

The journey towards claiming Portuguese citizenship based on parentage has been significantly simplified for individuals who establish paternity after reaching the age of 18. Gone are the complexities of navigating extensive legal procedures and potential court battles.

Now, a mere court acknowledgment of paternity suffices as the key to unlocking your Portuguese heritage. This welcome development removes bureaucratic hurdles and fosters a smoother path to claiming your rightful place within the nation.

It is crucial to remember that this simplified procedure is bound by a three-year timeframe from the date of the court acknowledgment. This means prompt action is highly recommended to ensure the timely use of this streamlined process.

Sephardic Citizenship New Requirement: Residing in Portuguese Territory for Three Years

The Portuguese Parliament has approved a government bill proposing new requirements for descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews to apply for citizenship under the Law of Jewish Return. In order to apply for citizenship through this route, it has always been necessary to present proof of ancestry of Sephardic Jews in your family tree. With the new law, in addition to demonstrating that they belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, the applicant will need to have legally resided in Portugal (or Portuguese territory) for at least three years, consecutive or interpolated.

Take a look at our Portugal Portugal Golden Visa 2024 Ultimate Guide

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Previous Amendments to Portuguese Nationality Law

For children of Portuguese residents

The children of Portuguese residents are eligible to obtain Portuguese citizenship, but until the Portuguese government passed a new law in 2020, both parents needed to hold residence permits. Since 2020, it has been sufficient for one of the parents to have a residence permit for at least one year. As long as this is followed, the children born in Portugal (or Portuguese territory) can directly acquire Portuguese citizenship. 

More information on those changes to birthright citizenship can be found here. 

For spouses of Portuguese citizens

Portugal simplified the pathway to citizenship for spouses of Portuguese citizens in 2020. Before these changes were implemented, the spouse could only apply for citizenship after three years of marriage or civil union.

What’s more, in the previous version of the law, the Public Prosecutor’s Office was able to oppose the citizenship application if there were ineffective connections between the application and the country. Now, if the marriage is longer than six years, the Public Prosecutor’s Office cannot interfere with the citizenship application. Also, if the couple has children who have Portuguese citizenship, then the Pubic Prosecutor cannot interfere, and there is no ground for opposition.

For second-degree descendants of Portuguese citizens

Since 2020, the Portuguese Law permits second-degree descendants in a straight line of Portuguese citizens to apply for Portuguese nationality. This amendment specifically refers to the grandchildren of Portuguese citizens, making it is easier for them to be granted citizenship. The effective connection to Portugal can be shown simply by showing sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language.

Previously, descendants also had to prove extensive, effective connections with the country. In essence, if the second-degree descendent is able to prove that they are proficient in Portuguese, then they are able to obtain Portuguese citizenship. 

The update made in July 2020 simplified the process for a second-degree descendant of a Portuguese citizen to become a Portuguese national under the Portugal law of nationality changes. The updated version of Law 37/8 has since offered great opportunities for second-degree descendants. 

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Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments. 

We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Portuguese Nationality Law

How long does it take to get Portuguese citizenship?

You can apply for citizenship by naturalization if you have been a legal resident in Portugal for five years.

If you are married to a Portuguese national, you can apply for citizenship after three years. However, under the new amendments to the law, if your spouse is Portuguese and you have a child in Portugal, then you can apply directly for citizenship. 

What is the new nationality rule in Portugal?

Portugal’s Nationality Law was published on the 5th of March, 2024, and will come into force on the 1st of April, 2024.

The law changes the five-year residency requirement for obtaining Portuguese citizenship. Now, the five-year period begins when you apply for residency, potentially expediting the path to becoming a Portuguese citizen.

Who is eligible for a Portuguese passport?

Under the New Portuguese Nationality Law 2020, children of Portuguese residents are able to obtain Portuguese citizenship and a Portuguese passport. Second-degree descendants will only have to show that they are proficient in the Portuguese language, and if your spouse is Portuguese and you have a child in Portugal, then you can apply directly for citizenship. 

How can I get Portuguese citizenship?

There are various ways to get Portuguese citizenship. A popular route is the Portugal Golden Visa residency-by-investment program. This enables you to gain legal residence in the country for a significant investment in Portugal’s economy.

Investments can be made into an investment fund or into the national heritage of Portugal, and creating employment opportunities amongst other routes. After five years, you are able to apply for citizenship by naturalization.

Aside from this, if you live in Portugal, you can apply for permanent residency and, subsequently, citizenship after five years. If you marry a Portuguese national, you can secure citizenship after three years. 

Can I have dual citizenship in Portugal?

Yes, the Portugal Citizenship Law permits dual citizenship, allowing foreigners to obtain Portuguese nationality without the need to give up the citizenship of their home country.

You will first, however, need to make sure your home country also permits dual citizenship. 

Likewise, a Portuguese citizen is able to acquire a foreign citizenship without having to renounce their Portuguese citizenship.

What impact does the amendment to the Portugal's Nationality Law have for Portugal Golden Visa holders?

Recent amendments to the Portuguese Nationality Law (the Portuguese Citizenship Act) don’t directly alter the five-year legal residency requirement for Golden Visa holders. However, the 5-year period of legal residence will start counting earlier, from the moment the temporary residence permit is applied for.

The revised naturalization process emphasizes cultural understanding, potentially requiring additional engagement beyond residency compliance.

While investment thresholds and residency rules may see future adjustments, for now, Golden Visa holders’ paths to citizenship remain largely unchanged.

Consulting with immigration professionals is crucial for navigating these intricacies and maximizing naturalization success.

Who can apply for Portuguese citizenship?

Portuguese citizenship is attainable through descent, marriage to a Portuguese national, residency, or exceptional contributions to the country. Eligibility criteria vary but generally involve meeting residency requirements, demonstrating language proficiency and proof of integration in the Portuguese community, and maintaining a clean criminal record (a crime carrying a prison sentence of more than three years in Portugal will make you ineligible for obtaining Portuguese nationality), and adhering to legal procedures outlined by Portuguese authorities.

What are the new rules for a Portuguese passport?

Recent changes impacting Portuguese citizenship applications and, by extension, Portuguese passport applications include the following rules:

Citizenship eligibility after five years of legal residency

Old regulation: Citizenship eligibility required five years of residency starting from the issuance date of the first residency permit, with a requirement for at least five years equivalent of renewed residence permits.

New regulation: Citizenship eligibility now depends on the time elapsed since the request for temporary residency authorization, provided the application is approved.

Citizenship by descent

Old regulation: Citizenship by descent was only permissible for minors

New regulation: Citizenship by descent can now be requested if descent is established for an adult under specific conditions, including a court ruling.

Suspension of citizenship application

Old regulation: Restrictive measures from the UN and EU had no effect on citizenship application suspensions.

New regulation: Citizenship applications are now suspended if UN or EU restrictive measures are in force, as per Law 97/2017 of August 23rd.

Citizenship under Sephardic Ancestry

Old regulation: Previously, there was no residency requirement in Portugal for citizenship under Sephardic Ancestry.

New regulation: Under the new regulation, applicants must reside in Portugal for three years.

Are there language requirements for obtaining Portuguese citizenship through naturalization?

Yes, there are language requirements for obtaining Portuguese citizenship through naturalization if you are not a citizen of a Portuguese-speaking country.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Minimum level: You need to demonstrate proficiency in Portuguese at the A2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

  • Passing the test: The most common way to prove your proficiency is by passing the Portuguese language test for foreigners, also known as the Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira (CIPLE). This exam tests your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

  • Alternative options: In some cases, attending a Portuguese language course and obtaining a certificate of completion might be accepted, but this depends on the specific regulations in place at the time of your application.

Apart from demonstrating language proficiency, you’ll have to provide proof of integration in the Portuguese community.

What is the process for obtaining Portuguese nationality if I have Portuguese parents but live overseas?

If you have Portuguese parents but live overseas, you likely qualify for Portuguese citizenship by descent. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

Eligibility:

You were born outside of Portugal to at least one parent who was a Portuguese citizen at the time of your birth.

Documents required:

  • Your birth certificate (apostilled or legalized, if issued outside Portugal)
  • Your parents’ marriage certificate (apostilled or legalized, if applicable)
  • Your parents’ Portuguese citizenship documents (birth certificates or passports)
  • Proof of your Portuguese ancestry (may vary depending on your specific situation)
  • A criminal background check from your country of residence

Application process:

  • Contact your nearest Portuguese consulate or embassy. They will provide specific instructions and application forms.
  • Schedule an appointment to submit your application and required documents.
  • There may be a processing fee associated with the application.
  • You might be required to attend an interview at the consulate or embassy.

What are the benefits of obtaining Portuguese nationality?

If you obtain Portuguese nationality and get a Portuguese passport, you can live, work, study, and retire in any of the EU countries. Plus, your family members can join the fun without needing a separate work permit. Travel the world easier with visa-free access to over 180 countries. Enjoy Portugal’s high quality of life, healthcare, and climate.

What is the Portuguese nationality processing time?

The processing time for Portuguese nationality can vary depending on your situation, but here’s a general idea:

  • Citizenship by descent: If you have Portuguese parents, processing times are usually faster, ranging from a few months to a year.
  • Citizenship by naturalization: This route typically takes longer, anywhere between several months to up to two years. Factors like your nationality and completeness of your application can affect the waiting period.

Can someone from one of the former Portuguese territories get Portugal citizenship?

People from some former Portuguese territories may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship under specific circumstances. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Descent from Portuguese citizens: If you have at least one parent or grandparent who was a Portuguese citizen before the independence of their territory, you might qualify for citizenship by descent.
  • Residence in Portugal: If your ancestors were born in Portuguese territory (mainland Portugal or the Azores/Madeira Islands) and resided there for more than five years before April 25, 1974, you might be eligible for reacquisition.

Key territories:

  • Africa: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Asia: Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (India)

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