Portugal has the 6th strongest passport in the world, giving you visa-free, e-visa, or visa-on-arrival access to 187 countries and territories worldwide, including unrestricted movement between the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area.
Aside from having a strong passport, let’s not forget that Portugal offers an excellent quality of life, a sunny climate all year round, and affordable access to quality healthcare and education—and only after five consecutive years of living there as a resident. Compared to many other EU countries, such as neighboring Spain, which requires 10 years of strict residency for citizenship, Portugal is definitely on the shorter end. So, it’s no wonder that many people worldwide, looking for a way into Europe, will consider Portugal an option for citizenship.
How to qualify for Citizenship
Suppose you are currently a permanent resident in Portugal. In that case, this article is definitely for you, which highlights all the essential documents and requirements you will need for your citizenship appeal, as well as the cost, application procedure, and timeline.
However, if you are not yet a resident of Portugal, you will either need to find a suitable visa option to live in the country, or alternatively, there are several (though more niche) pathways for citizenship, some of which don’t even require you to live in Portugal at all in order to qualify.
Living in Portugal for at least 5 years
For the vast majority of people, you will need to live in Portugal consecutively for the past five years to apply and qualify for citizenship. This means you cannot be out of the country more that 8 months non-consecutively per residence permit (first residence permit is valid for 2 years, second residence permit for 3 years), or 6 consecutive months once per permit.
There are numerous visa options for living in Portugal, including:
- The D7 Visa– It’s considered a retirement visa; however, all you need at the least is a passive income more than the Portuguese minimum wage. Thus, it’s also very popular among investors and basically anyone with the passive income to support themselves in Portugal.
- The D2 visa– This is a visa for entrepreneurs, and you must buy a Portuguese company or shares in one, start a new company (including, submitting a substantial business plan) or open up a branch of an existing business in Portugal.
- The Digital Nomad Visa– A new option aimed to digital nomads and remote workers looking to reside in Portugal while working for a foreign employer.
Investing in portugal for at least 5 years
The Portuguese Golden Visa, while not a citizenship by investment program, grants you Portuguese residency in exchange for an investment in the Portuguese economy. There are several options, such as purchasing real estate or buying shares in Portuguese investment funds. Eventually after 5 years, you are eligible for permanent residency and citizenship.
Similar to the D7, D2 and Digital Nomad visas, the Golden Visa grants you permission to live and work in Portugal. However, you are only required to spend on average 7 days per year in Portugal. Meaning that you actually don’t necessarily have to live in Portugal if you don’t want to, you just have to maintain the investment for the duration of 5 years.
Most people will probably fall under the umbrella of citizenship through naturalization (i.e., living in Portugal as a resident for a certain period of time). However, there are several alternative routes for citizenship, again, some without needing to reside in Portugal at all.
Some of these options include:
- If you were born in Portugal
- If one of your parents or grandparents has Portuguese citizenship
- If you have been married or in a non-marital relationship with a Portuguese Citizen for three consecutive years
- If you previously had Portuguese citizenship but abandoned it for another one
- If you can prove yourself to be a descendent of Portuguese Sephardic Jews and to be able to prove significant ties to Portugal (which since September 2022 has been made quite difficult to do)
Portuguese Language Requirement
Not all pathways to citizenship require a knowledge of the Portuguese language, such as if your parents or grandparents are Portuguese citizens, or if you are applying as the decendent of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. However, for those who intend to get citizenship through naturalization, you will also need to demonstrate enough knowledge of the Portuguese language.
It shouldn’t be too hard though, as you only need A2, which is not even an intermediate level. The most common way of proving this is by passing an official A2 state exam, known as CIPLE. Also, if you were born in a Portuguese-speaking country, you don’t have to prove your language abilities.
There are quite a few online resources for learning Portuguese to A2 level, most of which are free. For a time, the majority of Portuguese language resources have been aimed towards Brazilian Portuguese rather than European Portuguese, but European Portuguese resources have been increasing.
For apps, we recommend trying out Memrise, which has a 7-part series on European Portuguese, plus you can make your own study lists as well or use ones that other users have made.
On YouTube, you will find Talk the Streets, which is a handy resource from a British native who speaks flawless Portuguese and lived there for many years. She often makes videos of her daily life and Portuguese culture, but in Portuguese so you can improve your listening skills, as well as on topics such as common language pitfalls, and how to express yourself in more local ways rather than textbook Portuguese.
If you’ve been through the lengthy procedures that are required for getting and renewing a visa, then you will perhaps be surprised that the citizenship application is relatively simple in comparison.
You need to get the required documentation, and then, submit your application at one of the relevant registry options (see next section for those) and pay the application fee–which is much less than what you will be used to paying for some of the visa options.
First, you will need to gather all the relevant documentation that proves the requirements mentioned above.
Birth certificate-You will need a copy of your birth certificate. If it is foreign, you will need to get it verified with an apostille stamp from any Portuguese consulate, and if it isn’t in Portuguese, you will also need to provide a certified translation.
Additional documentation related to specific case for citizenship—If you are trying to acquire citizenship through marriage for example, you will need your marriage certificate. If you are acquiring it through your parents or grandparents, then you will need their birth certificate in addition to yours.
Proof of Portuguese language—You need to have passed the CIPLE A2 exam to prove adequate language skills. As mentioned, there are exceptions for people born in a Portuguese-speaking country. Also it depends on your citizenship path as mentioned, not all require proof of Portuguese language proficiency
Criminal record—You must get one for every country you have lived in since you were 16 years old, along with a certified translation in Portuguese.
Next, you will need to create a written application, which must be addressed to the Ministry of Justice in Portuguese. It must include the following:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Parents’ names
- All the countries where you have lived
- The full name and address of your legal representative
- Information about your residence permit: the document number, date of issuance, and the entity that issued it.
It must then be signed together with a credible witness. This person can either be a staff member at the registry where you submit the application or, if sent by post, someone with the power to recognize the signature (like a lawyer or public notary).
Pay the fee
To make the application, you must pay a one-time €250 fee.
If you choose to apply in person at the registry, this can be paid on the spot when submitting your application, either with cash or card.
If instead, you opt to post your application, you must post it with a certified bank check, in euros, of a bank / financial entity with representation in Portugal payable to IRN (Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado). Alternatively you can submit a postal order, in euros, to the IRN.
Where to apply
As mentioned above, you can either do this all remotely via post, in which case, you must submit everything together in an envelope, together with the fee with signatures recognized by a notary. You will have to mail the application to the Central Registry Office in Lisbon – the address can be found here.
Honestly speaking, while you can opt to post your application, I would only recommend doing it if you are absolutely unable to go in person. That way, you can ask about the query code for tracking your application online.
If you send it by post, you could be waiting for ages as it isn’t exactly clear when and how you will get some confirmation that it was received. Chances are that if you submit it by post, you will end up visiting the registry to enquire about its status at some point anyways, so you might as well get it over with.
To apply in person, you can go to various offices in Portugal and abroad, such as the National Immigrant Support Centers in Lisbon and Porto, the Central Registry Office in Lisbon, or any civil registry office or Portuguese consulate. There are also nationality desks at certain civil registry offices around Portugal. These are:
Abrantes, Alcobaça, Amadora, Aveiro, Braga, Castelo Branco, Chaves, Coimbra, Évora, Elvas, Faro, Figueira da Foz, Fundão, Guarda, Guimarães, Lamego, Leiria, Lisbon, Maia , Mangualde, Marco de Canaveses, Marinha Grande, Matosinhos, Moita, Monção, Oliveira de Azeméis, Ovar, Pombal, Ponta Delgada, Ponte de Lima, Santarém, Santo Tirso, São João da Madeira, Setúbal, Torres Vedras, Viana do Castelo, Via do Conde, Vila Nova de Gaia, Vila Real, Vila Verde, and Viseu.
How do you track your application?
When you submit your application at the registry office, you can ask for a query code that you will be able to use for tracking your application online through nacionalidade.justica.gov.pt.
If you made your application via mail, then you can call using the registrations official line at (+351) 211 950 500. You will be required to identify yourself, and they will provide you with the query code.
How long will it take?
Processing times can vary a lot depending on what kind of citizenship route you are applying for, due to usual administrative delays. However, the official estimate is between 6 and 12 months for adults applying through naturalization.
In practice it often takes more than a year, however. The latest figure we’ve heard is about 14 months, but it does vary depending on the backlog, and could take as long as two years.
Due to the announced amendment of the citizenship program for Sephardic Jews in 2022, thousands of applications were submitted prior to the change and may cause further delays.
The stages for reviewing your application are as follows:
- Submission is received
- Your application is registered with IRN (Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado)
- Application is reviewed: They check that all the necessary documents meet legal requirements, verify that it is authentic (such as that you don’t have a criminal record), and conditions for nationality are evaluated.
- Decision is made, and you will be registered in the civil registry if successful.
When you receive an approval for Portuguese nationality, you will be issued a naturalization certificate. It’s important to note that you will not get a passport. You’ll have to apply for this separately. Luckily, Portugal is one of many countries that allow dual citizenship, so it will still be fine for most people to travel outside of the EU in the meantime.
The passport application is, thank goodness, much faster than the citizenship application. You can be issued a passport in as quick as five business days.
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