In an increasingly 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 Portuguese citizenship opens the door to numerous benefits, including 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, benefits, and more. Read on to learn how to embark on your journey toward acquiring Portuguese nationality.

Benefits of Becoming a Portuguese Citizen

Portuguese nationality comes with several privileges that make it highly desirable. These benefits cover a range of areas, including travel, work, study, healthcare, and more.

Visa-free travel and European Union (EU) perks

One of the most significant benefits of being a citizen of Portugal is the right to travel visa-free or have visa-on-arrival access to 188 destinations worldwide. Being a citizen of Portugal also means you’re a citizen of the European Union. 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

Free access to 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 citizen, you also enjoy these privileges. Portuguese citizens can 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.

Employment opportunities

A Portuguese passport is your permanent identity for holding Portuguese nationality 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

Foreign nationals may become citizens by naturalization after living in Portugal for more than five years and showing proficiency in Portuguese. 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 as a legal resident, your application should include a SEF-certified criminal record, evidence of your fluency in the Portuguese language, a clean health record, and proof of your Portuguese residency. The language fluency requirement involves passing the CIPLE exam, which tests applicants’ ability to understand and use everyday Portuguese expressions.

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Naturalization Through the Five-Year Residency Requirement

Living legally in Portugal for at least five years is one of the main routes to obtaining Portuguese nationality. This process, called naturalization, requires an applicant to hold a legal residence permit during this period. Let’s delve deeper into the visa and permit types you may utilize to fulfill the requirements of this naturalization route.

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 Portuguese residence permit. It’s important to note that both these residence permits count towards the five-year residency requirement for naturalization.

Portugal Golden Visa program

The Portugal Golden Visa Program offers non-EU nationals an opportunity to invest in Portugal and, in return, receive a fast-tracked 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 or citizenship.

There are a number of investment routes to choose from, including:

Residential Property Investments

Acquiring residential properties in certain designated interior regions of Portugal is a well-known investment method for the Portuguese Golden Visa. It requires a minimum investment of €500,000, or €350,000 if the property is to be renovated. A 20 percent discount applies if the residential investment property is in a specified ‘low-density’ region.

Following the amendments made in 2022, residential property investments are restricted in urban zones such as Lisbon, Porto, and most areas of the Algarve or Silver Coast.

Commercial Property Investments

Commercial properties can be invested in throughout Portugal for a minimum value of €500,000, or €350,000 if the property is a rehabilitation project. Unlike residential properties, commercial properties do not have location restrictions. The 20 percent discount for ‘low-density’ areas is applicable here as well.

Investments in residential or commercial properties in Portugal’s autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores also qualify, given they meet the minimum value requirements of Portugal’s Golden Visa program.

Capital Transfer

Another pathway for qualifying for the Portuguese Golden Visa is through a capital transfer of at least €1,500,000 to a Portuguese bank account.

Supporting Scientific Research

Investments in scientific research projects, requiring a minimum investment of €500,000, also qualify for the Golden Visa investment program.

Investing in Business and Creating Employment

Investing a minimum of €350,000 in a registered Portuguese company or creating ten jobs with a minimum value of €500,000 can also secure a Golden Visa.

Making Donations

Lastly, a donation of a minimum of €250,000 towards promoting Portuguese culture, art, and national heritage, or a €200,000 donation for cultural production in specified low-density regions, can also help acquire the Portuguese Golden Visa.

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

For consideration in the Portuguese 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 a permanent Portuguese residency permit 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 capital or private scientific research bodies. The minimum investment amount can be as low as €200,000, but it varies based on the type of investment.

Appropriate documentation proper documentation must be presented when applying for the Portuguese Golden Visa. This involves legalizing and translating documents and paying corresponding fees. The necessary documents include:

  • A filled 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 valid in Portugal.
  • A certificate of clean criminal record or a police clearance letter from the applicant’s home country
  • A completed form allowing the SEF (Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service) 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 Applicants also need to open a Portuguese bank account and acquire a NIF (Tax Identification Number), which is essential for any financial transactions in Portugal, such as opening a bank account, buying property, renting a home, employment, and signing any contract. The NIF is also required when applying for a Golden Visa.

Consider reviewing our comprehensive guide on the Golden Visa Portugal 2023 for a comprehensive understanding of the golden visa route process.

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

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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.

For more information on this visa category, please read our article: Understanding the D3 Visa Portugal

D7 Visa

The D7 Visa or the “Passive Income Visa” is for individuals who can demonstrate regular income from pensions, rental income, financial investments, or other sources. The visa provides a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship after five years.

See: Global Citizen Solutions for your D7 Portugal Application

D8 Visa

The D8 Visa is designed for entrepreneurs intending to invest in a business or start a business in Portugal. After five years of legal residence, D8 Visa holders can apply for Portuguese nationality.

In all cases, to be eligible for naturalization, in addition to the residency requirement, you must demonstrate ties to the Portuguese community, pass the Portuguese citizenship language test, and maintain a clean criminal record.

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How To Apply For Portuguese Citizenship

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 community in Portugal. There is no minimum residency requirement for this route. Your citizenship application remains valid even if you divorce or separate in the future.

Portuguese citizenship by descent

You can acquire Portuguese citizenship by descent if you have Portuguese parents or at least one Portuguese parent. To obtain citizenship through this route, you have your parent’s birth certificate stating that they were born in Portugal. You can also apply for Portuguese nationality by descent if you have a Portuguese grandparent.

Portuguese citizenship by investment

The Portugal Golden Visa investment program is another route to Portuguese nationality. 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 a residence 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.

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 nationality. This is possible due to the Sephardic Portuguese Jewish community.

See: Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews.

Individuals who were born in 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 in Portugal are also allowed to maintain their citizenship status. You must present your birth certificate in order to obtain Portuguese citizenship through this route.

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Dual Citizenship in Portugal

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

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. Ancestry: 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: If you were born in Portugal to non-Portuguese parents, but your parents have legally resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years, you qualify for Portuguese citizenship.
    See: Portugal Amends its Birthright Citizenship
  3. Marriage: If you’re married to someone with Portuguese nationality 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 six years, including one year with a permanent valid residence permit, 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 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.

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Portuguese Citizenship Eligibility

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 Portuguese, maintain a clean criminal record, and present evidence of your Portuguese residency.

How Global Citizen Solutions Can Help You Obtain Portuguese Citizenship

Global Citizen Solutions is a specialized investment migration advisory firm dedicated to guiding individuals in finding the most suitable residency or citizenship through investment programs. Our mission is to help you secure your future and enhance your global mobility. Feel free to contact us to explore how we can assist in achieving your citizenship or residency goals.

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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 someone with Portuguese nationality, 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, and 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 dual citizenship with Portugal. 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 the laws and 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.