Last Updated on February 18, 2022 by Lea Melo
In this article, we will talk about a subject that frequently receives the spotlight: Portuguese nationality.
The importance of this topic is related to the advantages arising from obtaining the European Passport, since the Portuguese citizen, other than being able to exercise the rights related to the Portuguese citizenship, will also be able to enjoy the benefits related to European citizenship.
Therefore, we will address in this guide the following topics:
- Who has the right to apply for Portuguese nationality;
- What documents are required to require the Portuguese nationality;
- What are the advantages of being a Portuguese citizen;
- Recent updates and proposed changes to the Portuguese Nationality Law.
Let’s check together the main elements related to each type of application for the Portuguese nationality.
All information is based on the Portuguese Nationality Law (Law No. 37/81, of 03 October) and also on Viv Europe’s professional experience.
However, it is important to emphasize that the content in this guide is only informative and should not be used for decision-making.
Viv Europe has professionals with experience in Portuguese Nationality processes and will be able to assist you in obtaining a European passport.
Who is entitled to Portuguese nationality?
Before starting this topic, it is worth noting that nationality is not to be confused with citizenship.
Nationality is related to a person’s belonging to a nation. It means that that person shares historical and cultural ties with a group of citizens.
The requirements for defining nationality depend on the law of each country and, in general, are classified by:
- (i) place of birth, the so-called “jus solis”, which links the territory to nationality, or
- (ii) descent status, the “jus sanguinis”, which links “blood” to nationality, no matter where the person was born.
As for citizenship, it is a political link between the person and the country. In other words, citizenship makes a person the titular of rights and duties in relation to the State. As an example, we can emphasize the right to vote and, also, the military enlistment.
Nationality can be transmitted by the form of attribution or acquisition.
As for the attribution (such as children and grandchildren), it is considered as an original nationality. That is, it produces retroactive effects to the date of birth of the citizen who obtained the nationality.
The acquisition of nationality, on the other hand, produces an effect from the date on which the registration of acquisition of nationality. Also, the acquisition is divided into derivative and reacquired.
As for the derivative, nationality is usually acquired through procedures that have no relation to the offspring’s situation (like marriage and residency per period). As for the reacquired, it is the acquisition of nationality for those who lost it due to some legal reason.
We will therefore address the most common situations in which the application for Portuguese nationality is authorized under the terms of its legislation, Law No. 37/81.
Children of Portuguese
Sons and daughters of Portuguese citizens have the right to claim their nationality as a result of their direct descent, as provided for in the 1st article of the Nationality Law.
This is the simplest procedure for the purpose of obtaining nationality since there is no need to prove links to the Portuguese community, but only to prove to be a legitimate child.
The attribution of Portuguese nationality through the first-degree ascendant (father or mother) has an original nature, that is, its effects go back to the applicant’s date of birth. In the same way, you may transmit the Portuguese nationality to your own descendants.
It is important to mention that there is no age limit to request this right, which you may start by yourself or by your parents, as your representatives.
To apply for nationality as a child of the Portuguese citizen, it is necessary to present, among other documents, the birth certificate of the applicant and the parent’s, to prove the Portuguese connection ties.
If your parents haven’t acquired the Portuguese nationality and are dead, the grandchildren of Portuguese citizens may apply for their nationality directly in relation to their Portuguese grandparents.
This is the hypothesis provided for in the 1st article, pointed, of the Nationality Law.
The recent change in the Nationality Law published on November 10th, 2020, no longer requires the applicant to prove the existence of effective links with the Portuguese community; that is, you don’t need to prove points of connection with Portugal, just present the documentation proving that you are a descendant of a Portuguese citizen.
As for the required documentation to prove Portuguese descent, the applicant must present the birth certificate of the applicant and of the Portuguese citizen.
As well as the nationality obtained by children of Portuguese citizens, grandchildren will also have their nationality registered as attributed (and not acquired) – original way. Therefore it will produce effects from the date of birth.
It is worth mentioning that before the Decree-Law no. 71/2017 there was no obligation to prove ties with the Portuguese community to obtain the nationality as a grandchild. However, if nationality was recognized, it would have an acquired (derived) nature, and would only take effect as of the date registered at the Central Registry Office.
With the changes resulting from the decree, the nationality granted became original.
Great-grandchildren of Portuguese
The great-grandchildren of Portuguese citizens do not have the right to Portuguese nationality.
According to art. 1, 1, point d, of the Nationality Law, ancestry for purposes of obtaining nationality is restricted to the 2nd degree on the straight line.
However, the great-grandchildren of Portuguese citizens can obtain their Portuguese nationality if one of their grandparents or parents obtains it beforehand.
In this case, they will be able to apply for their own nationality directly from their grandparents or parents.
This procedure is commonly called the “stairs effect”.
Examplifying the stairs effect
Let’s consider that Mr. Joaquim de Sousa is a Portuguese citizen. After living 10 years in France, he had his son Francisco in that country.
Francisco, due to his work, moved to Brazil. There he met his wife and together they had their daughter Ana. Recently, Ana gave birth to little Bruno, also in Brazil.
Supposing that none of Mr. Sousa family has applied the Portuguese nationality so far, we can make some assumptions:
- If all members of the Sousa family are alive, Francisco could obtain his nationality through his father. After completing this procedure, Ana can obtain her nationality through Francisco and, finally, Bruno can obtain his nationality through Ana.
The process for obtaining nationality through the parents is the simplest, fastest, and cheapest one.
Although there is a possibility for Ana to seek her nationality directly through her grandfather (in the event that her father, Francisco, does not want to seek his nationality), it would be better to try to convince Francisco to obtain his nationality and, later, start the nationality process as the daughter of a Portuguese citizen.
- In the event of Francisco’s death without having obtained his Portuguese Nationality, Ana can also require her nationality through her grandfather, without the need to prove links with the Portuguese community, and, finally, Bruno can obtain his nationality through his mother.
- In the event of Ana’s death without having obtained her Portuguese Nationality, her son Bruno would only be able to obtain his Portuguese nationality if his grandfather, Francisco, had obtained his nationality before. In this case, Bruno would also have to prove links with the Portuguese community.
Under Portuguese law, it is not possible to apply for nationality for a family member who has already died.
Marriage to Portuguese citizens
Marriage to a Portuguese citizen is undoubtedly one of the most common ways to obtain Portuguese nationality.
It is worth mentioning that the wedding must have occurred more than 3 years ago.
The marriage needs to be registered in Portugal records and if the couple does not have Portuguese children, the applicant must prove the existence of links with the Portuguese community.
If the marriage took place more than 6 years ago, with or without Portuguese children it is legally assumed that the partner has a link with the Portuguese community, being exempt from proving such links.
Among the required documents for the application, we can highlight the following:
- Birth certificate of the applicant and of the Portuguese husband or wife;
- Marriage certificate registered in the Portuguese public register;
- Proof of links with the Portuguese community (depending on the case, as mentioned above).
For the application for nationality through marriage, the current civil status of the applicant and of the Portuguese citizen must be updated in the Portuguese public register.
Thus, let’s suppose that the applicant was registered in Portugal as married, then, after returning to his country of origin, he got divorced and remarried (now, with the Portuguese citizen).
In this case, for the application for nationality to be accepted, he must register both the divorce and the remarriage in Portugal’s public registry.
Stable Union with Portuguese citizens
Just like marriage, a stable union can also allow the partner to become a Portuguese nationality, if the applicant has been in a relationship for at least 3 years. If the couple doesn´t have Portuguese children, you must demonstrate that your partner has effective links with the Portuguese community.
It should be noted that the stable union can be proved by cohabitation between the partners and can be declared in a notary through the Public Deed of Stable Union.
Finally, it is worth noting that all legal presumptions to prove the existence of links to the Portuguese community related to marriage also apply to the stable union.
As for the required documentation to file the application, we can highlight the birth certificate of the applicant and the Portuguese citizen partner, in addition to the documents that prove the existence of a stable union between the partners for at least 3 years.
It is worth remembering that in Portugal same-sex marriages and stable unions are also recognized by law. One of the many achievements of the LGBTQ+ community in Portugal.
Regular residents in Portugal for 5 years
The Portuguese nationality can be required by citizens who legally reside in Portugal for at least 5 years.
For this procedure, the citizen must legally reside in Portugal for a period of 5 years, regardless of the activities performed in this country. This 5-year period does not need to be sequential.
For calculation purposes, the last period of 15 years is considered, among which 5 years must have been due to regular residence in Portugal.
Portugal is one of the countries that grant nationality as a result of regular residence, based on the benefits brought to the country by the citizen who respects the legal requirements to reside in this country.
The applicant must present, among other documents, a regular passport and residence permit, and proof of basic knowledge of the Portuguese language.
Finally, it is important to highlight that the acquisition of nationality after 5 years of residence in Portugal does not happen automatically.
Children of foreigners born in Portugal
The children of foreign citizens born in Portugal can also obtain Portuguese nationality.
However, for this nationality procedure to take place, one of the parents must:
- Legally reside in Portugal
- Reside in Portugal (even without being legal) for a period of at least 1 year
As for the documents to require the nationality of the child born in Portugal, it is necessary to present the passports and the child’s Birth Certificate.
It should be noted that Portugal was ranked as one of the countries with the lowest birth rate in Europe, which leads to a stimulus for granting nationality to citizens born in this country.
Situation of the Sephardic Jew
Since 2015, the Portuguese Nationality Law allows the acquisition of Portuguese nationality from descendants of Sephardic Jews.
This is a procedure that aims to grant nationality to citizens who prove they belong to the Sephardic Jewish community of Portugal.
To carry out proof of belonging to the community, many types of evidence can be used, such as:
- Surname bonds;
- Knowledge of the family language;
- Direct or collateral descent.
The procedure is regulated by article 6, n. 7 of the Nationality Law.
It is also important to highlight that the candidate doesn’t need to:
- Have resided in Portugal or
- Have to know the Portuguese language
Also, if proof of ties with the Sephardic community is carried out through ancestry, there is no limit to ancestry for application purposes.
In this way, you could seek your Portuguese nationality from your great-grandfather or even your great-great-grandfather.
The certificate proving belonging to the Sephardic community (or the existence of links) must be issued by a Portuguese Jewish Community. This document must be part of the application for Portuguese nationality.
It is, therefore, one of the simplest ways of acquiring Portuguese nationality, provided that you can prove the mentioned ties with the Sephardic community.
If I obtain Portuguese nationality, will I lose my original?
Each country regulates the way in which a citizen may lose his original nationality. Therefore, depending on the applicant’s nationality, it is recommended to check how the topic is regulated before applying to the Portuguese nationality.
There is usually no obstacle for citizens to have more than one nationality. However, it should be noted that although you can enjoy the rights arising from citizens of different countries, you must also comply with the respective duties.
Is it true that the law changed?
The changes have already been considered in this article, but let’s take a look at what has really been modified:
Yes, in November. 2020 the Portuguese Nationality Law was amended.
- Knowledge of the Portuguese language is not one of the criteria to prove the existence of links with the Portuguese community;
- If the parents have a child in Portugal, but reside in this country irregularly, they cannot apply for Portuguese nationality for the child;
- If the parents have a child in Portugal and reside in this country legally, they may apply for Portuguese nationality for the child, if they have lived in Portugal for more than two years.
- Knowledge of the Portuguese language becomes one of the criteria for proving the existence of links with the Portuguese community;
- If the parents have a child in Portuguese territory and reside in this country irregularly, they may apply for nationality for children, if they have lived in Portugal for more than a year;
- If the parents have a child in Portugal and reside in this country legally, they may apply for nationality for a child regardless of period of residence in Portugal.
What are the benefits of having a Portuguese nationality?
The benefits of becoming a Portuguese citizen are many. Here are some examples:
- Being able to live in Portugal (and enjoy this country’s quality of life, reduced costs and security)
- Being able to travel to European countries and those that integrate the Schengen area without a visa.
- The job opportunities arising from being a European citizen.
For a complete analysis of the advantages related to living in Portugal, we suggest the article “Complete Guide to Live in Portugal“.
We verified in this article the requirements to apply for Portuguese nationality as provided for in the Portuguese Nationality Law.
We hope this article has been helpful.
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