Portugal’s New Law: Faster Citizenship for Residents

The Portuguese parliament recently ratified crucial alterations to the nation’s nationality law, revolutionizing the path to citizenship for foreign residents. The revised legislation offers a crucial amendment, shifting the countdown to citizenship eligibility from the date of residency approval to the application submission date. This monumental shift holds the promise of expediting the citizenship process, potentially shaving off years for aspiring citizens. 

Easing Delays: Changing Timelines for Portuguese Citizenship

The prior law dictated that foreign residents could seek Portuguese citizenship five years post the approval of their residency permit. However, persistent administrative backlogs within the immigration system prolonged the gap between application submission and approval, often extending the wait to two or more years. This bottleneck not only affected investors under the golden visa program but also impacted diverse residency categories, creating a substantial disparity between legal provisions and practical implementation. 

Understanding Changes in Portugal’s Citizenship Laws

The revised law, notably Article 15, introduces a significant shift by recalibrating the initiation point for citizenship eligibility, factoring in the duration since requesting a temporary residence title. This transformative step aims to rectify delays caused by administrative inefficiencies, addressing inherent injustice faced by applicants due to systemic processing inadequacies.

However, the successful implementation of this groundbreaking amendment hinges on interpreting the phrase “from the moment when the temporary residence permit was requested.” Legal experts and practitioners, including Prime Legal and AIM Global, grapple with delineating the precise starting point for the countdown. These nuanced interpretations significantly impact various immigration categories, particularly concerning golden visa investors, shaping the practical implications of these reforms. 

Reasons Behind Starting Points in Citizenship Process

Prime Legal presents key arguments shaping the beginning of citizenship eligibility within Portugal’s revised law. These justifications spotlight the importance of application submission in defining the residency journey, aligning with the amended legislation’s core principles. These insights underscore the critical role of the submission moment in determining the pathway to citizenship: 

  • Legal Requirements Fulfilled at Application: Prime Legal argues that critical legal prerequisites, such as executing the investment and showcasing a clean criminal record, are met precisely at the time of application submission. This aligns with the initiation of the residency journey. 
  • Assignment of Process Number: They highlight that the assignment of a process number at the time of submission serves as a significant milestone. This number signifies the formal recognition of the application within the system. 
  • Acknowledgment by Online Platform: The online platform acknowledges this submission moment as the registration of an official application. This acknowledgment solidifies the commencement of the residency application process. 
  • Explicit Payment Labeling: Prime Legal points out that the proof of payment explicitly designates the fee as being for the “golden visa permit.” This specificity in the payment receipt corroborates the application’s nature and purpose. 
  • Title and Labeling: The form submitted through the online platform is explicitly titled as an “application.” This labeling reinforces the understanding that the process commences at the moment of submission, aligning with the intent of the revised law. 

Effects and Next Steps in Portugal’s Citizenship Law Updates

Ana Rita Reis of Edge International Lawyers delves into the practical implications of the revised law, shedding light on scenarios concerning golden visa investors. Her insights illustrate how the amendment realigns the citizenship timeline, acknowledging the crucial role of residency application submission as the pivotal marker for eligibility. Yet, the implementation of these amendments awaits subsequent procedural steps. The pending review by the President, subject to potential approval, vetoes, or further Constitutional Court scrutiny, underscores the ongoing evolution and potential hurdles in enacting these transformative changes within Portuguese nationality law. 


In conclusion, the recent modifications in Portugal’s nationality law signify a pivotal stride towards rectifying administrative inefficiencies and ensuring a fairer, more expedited pathway to citizenship for foreign residents. While the amendments hold promise, their implementation and interpretation will determine the practical impact on various residency categories, particularly for golden visa investors, ushering in a new era of streamlined citizenship processes in Portugal. 

Scroll to Top