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In this article, we will talk about a subject that frequently receives the spotlight: the 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

Therefore, this guide is structured as follows:

Table of Contents

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 the 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 (e.g., 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 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 situation (e.g., 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

The son of an Portuguese citizen has the right to claim its nationality as a result of his / her direct descent, as provided for in 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 being 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, the applicant may transmit the Portuguese nationality to his / her descendants.

It is important to mention that there is no age limit to request this right, which may be started by the descendant himself / herself or by his / her parents, as 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, to prove the Portuguese connection link.

Portuguese Grandchildren

Grandfather Portuguese

If the parents haven’t acquired the Portuguese nationality and are dead, the grandson of the Portuguese citizen may apply for his nationality directly in relation to their Portuguese grandparents.

This is the hypothesis provided for in 1st article, point d, 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, he / she doesn´t need to prove points of connection with Portugal, just present the documentations proving that he / she is 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 the son of the Portuguese citizen, the grandson will also have his 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 grandson. 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 the 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-grandson of a Portuguese citizen can obtain his / her nationality if one of his / her grandparents or parents obtains it beforehand.

In this case, he / she will be able to apply for his / her nationality directly from his / her grandparents or parents.

This procedure is commonly called the “stairs effect”.

Let’s consider that Mr. Joaquim de Sousa is the 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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 obtaining the Portuguese nationality.

It is worth mentioning that the wedding must have occurred for more than 3 years ago.

The marriage need 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 get divorces and remarries (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 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 a relation of at least 3 years. If the couple doesn´t have Portuguese children, the applicant must demonstrate that he / she 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 applies 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.

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 grants 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 the 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 the 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 ancestry for application purposes.

In this way, the applicant could seek his /her nationality from his / her great-grandfather, or even 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 for the applicant, provided that he/she 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?

Yes, in November. 2020 the Portuguese Nationality Law was amended.

The changes have already been considered in this article, but let’s take a look at what has really being modified:

Before approval
After approval

Knowledge of the Portuguese language is not one of the criteria to prove the existence of links with the Portuguese community.

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 Portugal, but reside in this country irregularly, they cannot apply for Portuguese nationality for the child.

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 Portuguese nationality for the child, if they have lived in Portugal for more than two years.

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:

  1. Being able to live in Portugal (and enjoy this country’s quality of life, reduced costs and security)
  2. Being able to travel to European countries and those that integrate the Schengen area without a visa.
  3. 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 the Portuguese nationality as provided for in the Portuguese Nationality Law.

We hope this article has been helpful.

Don’t forget to like our Facebook page to receive notification as soon as new articles are published and count on Viv Europe to assist you in the procedure to obtain your Portuguese Nationality.

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