How to Become a Portuguese Citizen

(Shakira Nandini, Oporto)

By Shakira Nandini

Moving to Portugal from another EU country is relatively straightforward. This has made Portugal a popular destination for retirees from wealthier European countries, happy to take advantage of low property prices; and ready to enjoy some of the warmest nights and winters on the continent.
The benefits of setting up home in Portugal - in coastal Porto or more inland Braga - go well beyond the economic and practical. The capital city of Lisbon is populated by just 3 million souls. A large number of small villages have barely changed in layout since medieval times
Why become a Portuguese citizen
• Portuguese citizens are entitled to vote in elections and referendums, run for political office and obtain a Portuguese passport.
• As Portugal is a member of the European Union, they also enjoy all the rights associated with being a citizen of Europe.
These are broad and highly sought after, and include the right to live, work and retire in any EU state for an unlimited period, as well as the right to vote and stand for election in local and European elections of other member states.
• Given the extensive rights of free movement and residency already enjoyed by citizens of EU states, most who choose to relocate to Portugal do not feel the need to obtain Portuguese citizenship.
There may be benefits in doing so, however, if you are likely to be affected by the political and judicial ties that Portugal enjoys with another country, if you wish your offspring to be able to claim Portuguese nationality, or if you simply wish to demonstrate your allegiance to your adopted country.
Different ways of becoming a Portuguese citizen
There are a few different ways to obtain Portuguese citizenship, including:
• By Origin
• By Naturalisation
• By marriage
• Former Portuguese territories
It is not necessary to obtain citizenship in order to live and work in Portugal. Most non-Portuguese nationals who are resident in the country either have the right to be there as an EU citizen or have obtained a long-term residence permit for work, study, training or investment purposes.
Portuguese citizenship is governed by Portuguese nationality law dating back to 1981, with variations dating from 2006. The law strongly favours blood ties, although there is also limited provision for first- and second-generation migrants and their offspring to become citizens.
By Origin
Children of a Portuguese mother or father born in Portugal or abroad, or in certain cases those born to foreign parents in Portugal, may be declared Portuguese citizens.
If you are of Sephardic descent and can prove your family's presence in Portugal in the 15th century, you are also entitled to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This law is also the case for Spain.
By Naturalisation
An adult aged 18 or over may apply for naturalisation as a citizen of Portugal once they have resided legally for six or more years in the country.
In order to apply, in addition to the residency requirement you will need to prove that you have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language and that you have not been convicted of a crime that is punishable under Portuguese law with imprisonment of up to three or more years.
If you wish to transmit your Portuguese citizenship to your children, this can be done by declaration by any existing minors as long as they are under 18 when the process completes, while any future children may be considered Portuguese from birth.
By marriage:
If you are married to a Portuguese citizen you may obtain Portuguese citizenship after three years as long as you make your declaration while you remain married. If you divorce or the marriage is annulled at a later date your Portuguese citizenship will not be rescinded.
Unmarried partners
In the event that you are in a relationship with a Portuguese citizen but not married, you may still obtain citizenship on the basis that you are in a de facto union as long as the union has been officially recognised by a civil court.
There is no required residence period for obtaining citizenship in this way, but you may be required to demonstrate your knowledge of the Portuguese language and integration into Portuguese society.
Former Portuguese territories:
If you are a citizen of a former Portuguese territory special rules exist which may assist with you obtaining Portuguese citizenship.
If you are from Goa:
The former Portuguese territory of Goa was annexed by India in 1961 and the latter is now considered to have had sovereignty over the region ever since. Under Portuguese nationality rules, those who were connected with the territory prior to 1961 are permitted to retain or reclaim their Portuguese nationality if they can prove their connection to the country.
Recent rule changes have also made it easier for the offspring of Goan parents to claim Portuguese nationality, which has seen a spike in applications over the course of the past five years.
Citizens of East Timor and Macau also benefit from similar rights.
Dual citizenship with Portugal
Dual citizenship is permitted under Portuguese law, however it should be noted that certain countries, do not permit dual citizenship.
In this case you will be required to choose which nationality you wish to retain.
How to become a Portuguese citizen
Proving your right to claim Portuguese citizenship
In order to become a Portuguese citizen you will need to demonstrate your right under Portuguese nationality law and provide certain documentation as required according to the basis on which you are claiming citizenship.
You may wish to employ the services of a lawyer to ensure that you complete the process correctly and successfully, although it is also possible to go it alone.
Applying for Portuguese citizenship
Once you are sure that you have the right to claim Portuguese citizenship, you should obtain the correct form on which to make your declaration of your wish to acquire Portuguese nationality, and the basis upon which you are doing so.
You will need to provide::
• your birth certificate
• your photographic ID
• a document demonstrating your existing nationality
• Criminal record certificates from any country you have lived in since the age of 16.
If you are applying on the basis of your marriage to a Portuguese citizen, you will also need to submit your marriage certificate and your partner’s birth certificate. Any documents not originating in the Portuguese language should be accompanied by a certified translation.
Wish you Best of Lluck.
Shakira Nandini

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About the Author: Dr. Shakira Nandini

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