Portuguese Citizen: Steps to Becoming a Portuguese National

Published: 22 May 2024

For those aiming to acquire Portuguese citizenship, finding a clear and efficient route is often a priority. Grasping the various methods – be it through lineage, marriage, or financial investment – is essential. This guide simplifies the journey, outlining the steps and requirements necessary to achieve Portuguese nationality.

Key Takeaways

  • Several pathways exist for obtaining Portuguese nationality, including through descent, marriage, or naturalization, each necessitating distinct criteria like sustained legal residence, mastery of the Portuguese language, and a clear criminal history.
  • The Golden Visa scheme provides a residency avenue leading to citizenship for investors, necessitating the retention of an investment over a five-year span and adherence to minimal residency obligations.
  • Portugal’s nationality legislation supports dual citizenship, enabling individuals to reap the advantages of holding citizenship in more than one country.

The Road to Portuguese Nationality: A Detailed Overview

Acquiring Portuguese citizenship is a desirable goal for many, offering numerous benefits such as visa-free travel, access to the European Union, and a high quality of life. Portugal provides several pathways to citizenship, each with its own set of requirements and procedures.

Citizenship by Naturalization

Naturalization is one of the most common methods for obtaining Portuguese citizenship. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Legal Residency: Applicants must have legally resided in Portugal for at least five years.
  • Language Proficiency: Demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language, typically at an A2 level or higher, is required.
  • Clean Criminal Record: Applicants must have no criminal record that would be considered an impediment under Portuguese law.
  • Community Ties: Showing ties to the Portuguese community can strengthen the application.

The process involves submitting various documents, including a valid residence permit, passport, proof of language proficiency, and evidence of legal residency over the past five years.

Citizenship by Marriage or Civil Union

Foreigners married to Portuguese nationals for more than three years, or those in a long-term civil partnership for the same duration, can apply for Portuguese citizenship. The necessary documentation includes a marriage certificate or proof of the civil partnership. This pathway recognizes the importance of family unity and provides a streamlined process for spouses and partners of Portuguese citizens.

Citizenship by Descent

Individuals born outside of Portugal but with Portuguese parents can apply for citizenship by descent. Required documents include:

  • Valid passport of the applicant
  • Detailed birth certificate of the applicant
  • Birth certificate of the non-Portuguese parent
  • Proof of current address

Applications must be submitted in person at the relevant consular services, and an appointment is required.

Citizenship by Investment (Golden Visa Program)

The Golden Visa program offers a pathway to Portuguese citizenship for investors. This program requires:

  • Investment: Making a significant financial investment in Portugal, such as in real estate, art & culture, scientific research, investment funds, or companies.
  • Duration: Maintaining the investment for at least five years.
  • Residency: Staying in Portugal for at least 14 days during a two-year period.

The Golden Visa program is attractive due to its flexibility and the inclusion of family members in the application. It provides a quicker route to citizenship compared to traditional immigration processes.

Citizenship for Descendants of Sephardic Jews

Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews can apply for citizenship under a special regime. Applicants must provide:

  • Evidence of the applicant’s family history of connection to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese origin
  • Certificate from a recognized Jewish community in Portugal

This special regime has been in place since 2015 and is expected to end by 2024. It acknowledges the historical ties and contributions of the Sephardic Jewish community to Portuguese society.

The Golden Route: Portugal’s Golden Visa Program

Portugal’s Golden Visa program has emerged as one of the most attractive residency-by-investment schemes in the world. Launched in 2012, the program offers a pathway to residency and eventual citizenship for non-EU nationals through various investment options.

Key Benefits of the Golden Visa Program

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides numerous advantages, making it a popular choice among investors:

  • Residency and Citizenship: The program offers a straightforward route to obtaining Portuguese residency, with the possibility of applying for permanent residency or citizenship after five years.
  • Visa-Free Travel: Golden Visa holders enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen Area, enhancing their global mobility.
  • Family Inclusion: The program allows for the inclusion of family members, including spouses, children, and dependent parents, in the application.
  • High Quality of Life: Portugal is known for its high-quality healthcare and education systems, low cost of living, and overall safety.
  • Tax Benefits: Investors can benefit from Portugal’s favorable tax regime, which includes exemptions on wealth, gift, inheritance, foreign income, and capital gains taxes.
  • Investment Returns: The program offers potential returns on investment, particularly through real estate and investment funds.

The Golden Visa Program – Investment Options

The Golden Visa program offers several investment routes, each with its own criteria and minimum investment requirements:

  1. Real Estate Investment: Although the real estate option has been phased out in some areas, it remains a popular choice. Investors must purchase property worth at least €500,000, or €350,000 if the property is over 30 years old or located in a designated urban rehabilitation area.
  2. Investment Funds: Investors can choose to invest a minimum of €500,000 in qualified investment funds. These funds typically focus on sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and real estate.
  3. Capital Transfer: A capital transfer of at least €1 million into a Portuguese bank account or approved investment is another option.
  4. Business and Job Creation: Entrepreneurs can qualify by creating at least 10 jobs in Portugal. This option does not have a minimum investment amount but requires the establishment and maintenance of a business that meets the job creation criteria.
  5. Research and Development: An investment of at least €350,000 in research activities conducted by public or private scientific research institutions is also eligible.
  6. Cultural Heritage: A minimum investment of €250,000 in the preservation of national cultural heritage through approved projects is another pathway.

Application Process

The application process for the Golden Visa involves several steps:

  1. Initial Investment: Applicants must make the required investment before submitting their application.
  2. Documentation: The application requires various documents, including proof of investment, personal identification, financial records, and a clean criminal record.
  3. Submission: Applications can be submitted online or in person at the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF).
  4. Approval: Once the application is reviewed and approved, the applicant receives a temporary residence permit, valid for one year and renewable for two-year periods.
  5. Residency Requirements: Golden Visa holders must spend at least seven days in Portugal during the first year and 14 days in subsequent two-year periods.
  6. Permanent Residency and Citizenship: After five years, Golden Visa holders can apply for permanent residency or citizenship, provided they meet the necessary requirements, including language proficiency and proof of ties to the Portuguese community.

Potential Drawbacks

While the Golden Visa program offers numerous benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Elimination of Real Estate Option: Recent changes have eliminated the real estate investment option in high-density areas like Lisbon and Porto, limiting investment opportunities.
  • Upfront Investment Requirement: Applicants must make the investment before receiving approval, which can be a financial risk.

Holding Two Passports: The Advantages of Dual Citizenship

Acquiring Portuguese citizenship offers the unique advantage of not having to renounce your original nationality.

Portugal’s national laws permit dual citizenship, allowing individuals to maintain their original nationality while also enjoying the benefits of Portuguese citizenship. This dual status provides a range of opportunities and advantages, particularly given Portugal’s membership in the European Union.

The Benefits and Challenges of Dual Citizenship

  1. Extended Rights and Freedoms: As a Portuguese citizen, you gain the right to live, work, and study in any of the 27 EU member states. This includes countries like Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, among others. The freedom to move and reside across the EU is a significant benefit, offering vast opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  2. Visa-Free Travel: Holding a Portuguese passport allows for visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 175 countries, making international travel more convenient and less restrictive. This includes access to the Schengen Area, which comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport and other types of border control at their mutual borders.
  3. Economic and Social Benefits: Dual citizenship can provide access to social services, healthcare, and education systems in both countries. Portugal, in particular, is known for its high-quality healthcare and education systems, which can be a significant advantage for families.
  4. Tax Planning Opportunities: Dual citizenship can offer various tax planning opportunities. For instance, Portugal has favorable tax regimes for new residents, such as the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax regime, which can provide significant tax benefits for a period of ten years. However, it is essential to understand the tax implications in both countries to avoid issues like double taxation.

Legal Procedures and Requirements

To obtain Portuguese nationality, one must follow the legal procedures and meet specific requirements set by the country. These include:

  • Residency: Applicants must have legally resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years. This can be achieved through various visas, such as the D2 Visa for entrepreneurs or the Golden Visa for investors.
  • Language Proficiency: Demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language is required, typically at an A2 level or higher.
  • Clean Criminal Record: Applicants must have no criminal record that would be considered an impediment under Portuguese law.
  • Community Ties: Showing ties to the Portuguese community can strengthen the application.

Considerations for Dual Citizenship

While dual citizenship offers numerous benefits, it is crucial to verify that your home country permits dual citizenship to avoid any conflicts with your existing nationality. Some countries do not allow their citizens to hold dual nationality, which could result in the loss of your original citizenship if you acquire another.Additionally, dual citizens must comply with the laws and obligations of both countries. This can include tax obligations, military service, and other civic duties. It is essential to be aware of these responsibilities to manage your dual status effectively.

Understanding the Documentation and Procedures for Portuguese Citizenship Application

The journey to obtaining Portuguese citizenship involves a series of well-defined steps, each requiring careful attention to detail and thorough documentation. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

Essential Documents Needed

Applicants must gather and submit a variety of documents to support their citizenship application. Key documents include:

  • Clean Criminal Record: A certificate proving that the applicant has no criminal convictions.
  • Proof of Legal Residency: Documentation showing that the applicant has legally resided in Portugal for the required period.
  • Identification Documents: Valid passport and residence permit.
  • Proof of Language Proficiency: Certification of passing the Portuguese language test (CIPLE).

Understanding Fees and Tracking Your Application

The application process involves a fee, typically around €250. Once the application is submitted, applicants can track the status of their application online using a query code provided by the Central Registry office. This allows for real-time updates and ensures transparency throughout the process.

The Portuguese Language Exam: A Key Step to Citizenship

Proficiency in the Portuguese language is a critical requirement for acquiring citizenship. Applicants must demonstrate their language skills at an A2 level, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This is assessed through the ,,Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira’’ (CIPLE) exam, which evaluates:

  • Reading: Understanding written texts.
  • Writing: Ability to write in Portuguese.
  • Oral Comprehension: Understanding spoken Portuguese.
  • Oral Expression: Ability to speak and communicate effectively in Portuguese.

A passing score of 55% or above is required to meet the language proficiency component of the citizenship application.

Proving Connection to the Community

For those applying for Portuguese citizenship through marriage or a de facto union, demonstrating a connection to the Portuguese community is essential. This requirement goes beyond legal documentation and involves showing active participation in the community. Ways to establish this connection include:

  • Photographic Evidence: Photos from time spent in Portugal, particularly those showing involvement in cultural or community events.
  • Receipts: Lodging, dining, and medical service receipts that indicate regular presence in Portugal.
  • Flight Tickets: Proof of travel to and from Portugal.
  • Memberships: Participation in Portuguese clubs, organizations, or cultural groups.

Additional Considerations

  • Due Diligence: The application process includes a thorough due diligence check to verify the authenticity of the provided documents and the applicant’s background.
  • Family Inclusion: Many citizenship programs allow for the inclusion of family members, such as spouses, children, and dependent relatives, in the application. This can secure a better future for the entire family by extending the benefits of Portuguese citizenship to them.

Understanding Your Role: Rights and Responsibilities in Portugal

Portugal is a popular destination for expatriates due to its warm climate, beautiful landscapes, and high quality of life. However, living in Portugal as a citizen comes with a set of rights and responsibilities that are important to understand.

Rights of Portuguese Citizens

  • Portuguese citizens have the right to live, work, and travel freely within the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area. This provides significant mobility and access to opportunities across Europe.
  • Citizens have the right to vote in local, national, and European elections. This includes the ability to participate in referendums and other democratic processes, ensuring that citizens have a voice in the governance of their country.
  • Portuguese citizens are entitled to access the national healthcare system, which provides comprehensive medical services at low or no cost. This includes general practitioner services, specialist consultations, hospital care, and emergency services.
  • Citizens have the right to free education at public schools up to the secondary level. Higher education is also accessible, with public universities offering affordable tuition fees and various financial aid options.
  • Portuguese citizens are eligible for social security benefits, including unemployment benefits, pensions, and other forms of social assistance. This safety net helps ensure financial stability and support during times of need.
  • Citizens are protected by the Portuguese legal system, which guarantees fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and protection against discrimination. The judiciary is independent, ensuring that citizens can seek justice and fair treatment under the law.


  • Being a citizen also involves active participation in the democratic processes of both Portugal and the residing EU member state, such as voting in elections and potentially standing for public office.
  • Citizens are expected to comply with all national and European laws, including those governing employment, business operations, and social conduct.
  • Engaging with and contributing to the local community and respecting Portugal’s rich cultural heritage are considered important aspects of citizenship, promoting social cohesion and national pride.

The rights afforded by Portuguese citizenship provide individuals not only with personal freedoms but also with opportunities for economic and social advancement within Portugal and across the European Union. Conversely, the responsibilities ensure that citizens contribute positively to the maintenance of a stable, inclusive, and progressive society.

Making Your Move: Assistance with Portuguese Residence Application

Initiating your journey towards Portuguese citizenship is a significant step, and seeking professional guidance can make the process smoother and more successful. Comprehensive advice, application guidance, and fast-track options are available through specialized assistance services, ensuring that your application is handled efficiently and effectively.

Comprehensive Advice and Consultation

Engaging with a specialized advisory firm can provide you with tailored advice and consultation services. These firms have in-depth knowledge of the Portuguese immigration laws and the specific requirements for various citizenship routes, including the Golden Visa program. They can help you understand the eligibility criteria, necessary documentation, and the overall process, ensuring that you are well-prepared from the outset.

Application Guidance

The application process for Portuguese citizenship involves several steps and requires meticulous attention to detail. Assistance services can guide you through each stage, from gathering and preparing the necessary documents to submitting your application. This includes:

  • Document Preparation: Ensuring that all required documents, such as proof of investment, personal identification, financial records, and language proficiency certificates, are correctly prepared and submitted.
  • Application Submission: Helping you submit your application to the appropriate authorities, whether it be the Institute of Registration and Notary Affairs, the Central Registry Office in Lisbon, or Portuguese consulates abroad.
  • Follow-Up: Monitoring the status of your application and providing updates, ensuring that any additional requirements or queries from immigration officials are promptly addressed.

Specialized Services for Golden Visa Applicants

Potential Golden Visa applicants can greatly benefit from engaging with a specialized advisory firm. These firms offer services specifically tailored to the Golden Visa program, including:

  • Investment Guidance: Advising on the best investment options to meet the Golden Visa requirements, such as real estate, investment funds, or business ventures. This includes identifying qualifying properties or projects and ensuring that the investment meets the minimum threshold.
  • Legal Assistance: Providing legal support to navigate the complexities of the investment process, including property purchase agreements, tax implications, and compliance with Portuguese laws.
  • Family Inclusion: Assisting with the inclusion of family members in the application, ensuring that all dependents meet the eligibility criteria and that their documentation is correctly prepared and submitted.

Benefits of Professional Assistance

Engaging with a professional advisory firm offers several benefits:

  • Expertise: Access to knowledgeable professionals who are well-versed in Portuguese immigration laws and procedures.
  • Efficiency: Streamlined application process, reducing the likelihood of errors or delays.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that your application is being handled by experts, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your move to Portugal.


Making your move towards Portuguese citizenship is a significant and complex process, but with the right assistance, it can be a smooth and successful journey. Comprehensive advice, application guidance, and fast-track options provided by specialized advisory firms can greatly enhance your chances of a successful application. Whether you are applying through the Golden Visa program or another route, professional assistance ensures that your application is handled with the utmost care and expertise, paving the way for a new chapter in Portugal.

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