The Portuguese citizenship (nationality) law nr. 37/81 distinguishes three methods of acquiring citizenship, apart of the citizenship by right (by origin).
These methods to obtain Portuguese citizenship are outlined below:
- Upon request, through declaration;
- Through adoption;
- Through naturalization.
Among the citizenship professionals, all these paths to citizenship are usually referred as to “citizenship by naturalization”. This is so, because citizenship is not acquired “automatically”, i.e. at birth. Therefore we are also using the term “naturalization” for all of these options.
The Portuguese law on the nationality defines how can one become Portuguese citizen through naturalization:
Portuguese citizenship on request (through declaration)
Citizenship for children of naturalized parent(s)
- Minor or incapable children of a father or mother who obtain Portuguese citizenship can also obtain Portuguese citizenship. This is done by means of a declaration.
This legal provision is very important for the Golden Visa applicants. This means that the minor children of the main applicant will obtain Portuguese citizenship as well as incapable children.
Citizenship through marriage
- A foreigner who has been married for more than three years to a Portuguese national may obtain Portuguese citizenship. This is done by means of a declaration made during the marriage.
- The termination of the marriage does not affect the citizenship obtained by the spouse if he has acted in good faith;
- The foreigner who, at the date of the declaration, has been living in a de facto union for more than three years with a Portuguese citizen may acquire Portuguese citizenship too. This is done after the de facto union is recognized by the civil court in Portugal.
Restoration of citizenship by regaining eligibility
- Individuals who have lost their Portuguese citizenship as a result of a declaration made during their incapacity may obtain it, when capable, by means of a declaration.
Citizenship through adoption
- Portuguese citizenship is granted to a person who is adopted by a Portuguese citizen.
Citizenship through naturalization
This is probably the most important chapter for our clients as it describes the legal ground for obtaining citizenship through the Golden Visa program.
Naturalization after 5 year residence in Portugal
- The Government grants Portuguese citizenship, by naturalization, to foreigners who cumulatively meet the following requirements:
- Are of legal age under Portuguese law;
- Have legally resided in Portugal for at least five years;
- Have sufficient knowledge of Portuguese language;
- Are not convicted for a crime with prison sentence equal to or greater than 3 years, for a crime punishable under Portuguese law;
- Do not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defense, due to their involvement in activities related to the practice of terrorism.
Naturalization to adult children of foreigners in Portugal
- The Government grants Portuguese citizenship, by naturalization, to minors born in Portugal, children of foreigners, if they have reached the age of criminal liability. Citizenship is granted if they are not convicted for a crime with prison of 3 years or more and they do not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defense. Additionally, to be granted citizenship, one of the following conditions must be met:
- One of the parents resides in Portugal, irrespectively of permit, for at least five years;
- One of the parents has legal residence in Portugal;
- The minor has attended at least one year of pre-school education or basic, secondary or vocational education.
Naturalization for children in institutions
- In the case of a child under 18, hosted in a public, cooperative, social or private institution – special conditions apply.
Naturalization for people who have lost their Portuguese citizenship
- The Government grants citizenship without the requirements to have legally resided for 5 years in Portugal and to know Portuguese. Such regime is applied to individuals who once had Portuguese citizenship and after losing it, have never acquired another citizenship.
Naturalization for people born in Portugal by residents and having lived for 5 years in the country
- The Government grants citizenship, by naturalization, without the requirements to have legally resided for 5 years in Portugal, to individuals who cumulatively meet the following requirements:
- They are born in Portugal;
- Are children of a foreigner who was resident in Portugal, regardless of permit, at the time of their birth;
- They reside in Portugal, regardless of permit, for at least 5 years.
Naturalization for Portuguese descendants
- The Government may grant citizenship, without the requirements to have legally resided for 5 years in Portugal and to know Portuguese, to individuals who, not being stateless, have had Portuguese citizenship. They should be considered to be descendants of original Portuguese, to members of communities of Portuguese descent and to foreigners who have provided or are called upon to provide relevant services to the Portuguese State or the national community.
Naturalization for Portuguese Sephardic Jews
- The Government may grant citizenship by naturalization, without the requirements to have legally resided for 5 years in Portugal and to know Portuguese, to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. The applicants must demonstrate the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements for connection to Portugal, namely surnames, family language, direct or collateral descent.
You can read our article: Why Roman Abramovich chose to obtain Portuguese citizenship?
Naturalization for foreigners who have stayed in Portugal during the last 5 years
- The Government may grant citizenship, by naturalization, without the requirements to have legally resided for 5 years in Portugal, to individuals who are ancestors of original Portuguese citizens, who have resided in Portugal, regardless of permit, for at least five years immediately preceding the application and provided that the ancestry has been established at the time of birth of the Portuguese citizen.
Naturalization for residents of the Portuguese ex-colonies
The Government grants citizenship, by naturalization, with exemption from the requirements established in subparagraphs a), b) and c) of Decree 308-A/75, of 24 June (the decree concerning the Portuguese ex-colonies). Additional provisions apply, please contact us for details.
How is the Portuguese citizenship formally granted
Portuguese citizenship is granted, at the request of the interested party, by decision of the Minister of Justice. With this, the applicant becomes and is considered to be Portuguese citizen.