✅ February 24, 2024 update: Some good news! While the President in January referred the bill to the constitutional court for their take on the constitutionality of a section relating to the citizenship program for Sephardic Jews, the bill recently cleared that hurdle. The President has now given it his final approval. The law takes effect the first day of the month following its publication in the official gazette—so likely either April 1 or March 1, 2024.

⚠️ January 27, 2024 update: The President has referred the law to the constitutional court over a section relating to Sephardic Jews. While this is unrelated to the changes discussed in this article, it means that future of the entire bill now hangs in the balance. If the court finds any part of the law unconstitutional the bill is sent back to parliament. However, as discussed, the Government that passed the bill is no longer in power. Whether the bill will be passed again with the necessary modifications is then up to the next Government after the March elections.

In a significant update, the Portuguese Parliament has approved changes to the Nationality Law, which will—assuming it’s approved by the president—come into effect in 2024.

The key modification? The waiting time between your residency application submission and its approval will now count towards the 5-year residency requirement needed to apply for citizenship—assuming you eventually receive a thumbs up. While perhaps a surprising amendment, it seems only fair to compensate applicants for the very slow approval process which is entirely out of their control.

What does this mean for Golden Visa investors?

For those of you who’ve taken the Golden Visa route, this is potentially great news. The administrative waiting period, which has stretched to approximately two years at present, will now be recognized in your citizenship timeline. This should remove some of the angst and frustration when awaiting your residency card.

As a cherry on top, it could potentially lead to fewer expensive residence permit renewals needed before being able to apply for citizenship.

Still, it wouldn’t make it easier to move to Portugal while awaiting your permit, in case that’s your primary goal.

Uncertainties ahead

However, like any new law, there are still some uncertainties. For instance, it’s not crystal clear when the time towards citizenship officially begins ticking—is it from the date of your initial online application, your biometric appointment, or some other milestone? We’ll have to wait and see, though my hunch would be it would start when you pay your initial application fee (DUC).

This is also supported by an analysis by Prime Legal. Their interpretation is that—for Golden Visa applicants—the relevant moment for starting the 5-year period is likely the date of the online application submission and payment of the analysis fee. They also outline the various possible legal interpretations, so give their report a read to fully understand all the nuances and risks.

Another point that a few people have raised is whether you’d need to meet the 7/14 days minimum stay requirement before your residence permit has been approved for that time to count towards citizenship. My very much non-legal opinion is that you probably won’t. The reason being that the requirements for renewing your residence permit is a distinct issue from qualifying for citizenship.

Will it be approved?

While Golden Visa investors should see this as a positive development potentially reducing their wait time for citizenship eligibility significantly, don’t pop the champagne just yet!

The Portuguese President still needs to sign off on the law. He has 20 days to make his decision, starting from the date he receives the final text from parliament. That is expected to happen later this week on January 18.

If he chooses not to approve the law, there’s a chance it will never come into effect. The government stepped down on January 15 in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections, so there’s no guarantee the next government would want to pursue the same amendments.

So stay tuned for further updates and interpretations as they unfold, and make sure to join the discussion in the community forum.

Cover image credit: Daniele Franchi