Portugal citizenship comes with a huge range of benefits. Not least is the right to live and work in Portugal. Keep reading to find out how to get Portuguese citizenship – we look at 7 great ways to get a Portugal passport today.
How to get Portugal citizenship
Here are 7 ways to get Portuguese citizenship and a Portuguese passport.
- Birth or birthright citizenship.
- Descent from your parents or grandparents.
- Portuguese Sephardic citizenship.
- Marriage or de facto partnership.
- Naturalization by living in Portugal.
- Citizenship by Investment.
- Citizens of former Portuguese territories.
1) Citizenship by birth in Portugal
Portugal’s nationality law applies some principles of Jus Sanguinis (the right of blood) and some of Jus Soli (the right of soil). What does that mean in practice?
For those born in Portuguese territory
You can apply to become a Portuguese citizen if you meet these requirements.
- Your mother or father is a Portuguese national.
- Even if they are not Portuguese nationals, your mother or father was born in Portugal.
- Your mother or father legally lived in Portugal for two years before your birth. And, they declare they want to become a Portuguese citizen.
- You do not possess another nationality.
2) Portuguese Citizenship through Parents and Grandparents
If one or both of your parents are Portuguese citizens, you are eligible to become a Portuguese citizen. Where you are born affects the process, not your rights.
- You were born in Portuguese territory – You are automatically a Portuguese national by origin.
- You were born in a non-Portuguese territory – You are a Portuguese nation by origin if your parents register you on the Civil Registry.
Double Descent (You have a Portuguese grandparent).
If one or both of your grandparents are citizens of Portugal, then you are eligible to become a citizen of Portugal by origin.
For those adopted by a Portuguese citizen
Any child under 18 who a Portuguese citizen adopts is eligible for Portuguese citizenship.
The Sephardic Jewish community was expelled from Portugal and Spain in the late 1400s. To right this wrong, Portugal offers descendants of this group naturalization as Portuguese citizens. The law made Portugal the second country after Israel to pass the Jewish Law of Return.
We have a detailed article with information on qualifications and applications for Portugal Sephardic citizenship.
4) Portuguese Citizenship through Marriage / Partner
If you are in a long-term relationship with a Portuguese citizen, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship after just three years. Eligible relationships are:
- Spouse in a legal marriage.
- Living with a partner in a de facto union.
Portugal does allow gay marriage (and has done so since 2010), and all requirements are identical for same-sex partners.
You do not need to move to Portugal for the qualifying time, or indeed, when you apply. However, you must show verified ties to the Portuguese community.
5) Portuguese Citizenship by Naturalization
Once you have been a legal resident of Portugal for five years, you can apply for citizenship.
Popular visa options for naturalization include:
6) Portugal’s Citizenship by Investment
Portugal does not have direct citizenship by investment program where you can buy EU citizenship immediately.
However, it does have a Residency by Investment program, the Portugal golden visa program. You can use this residence permit to qualify for Portugal citizenship by naturalization. The program is especially popular as you don’t have to move to Portugal to retain the permit. You only need to visit for 7 – 14 days each year.
This program is often mistakenly referred to as Portugal Citizenship by Investment.
Once you have held this residence permit for five years, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship and a passport. At this time, you’ll need to have passed the A2 language test.
7) Portuguese Citizenship for former Portuguese Territories
There are some circumstances where citizens of former Portuguese territories and colonies can apply for Portuguese nationality. The criteria vary by date of birth and by territory. If you were born in one of the following countries, it is worth discussing your case with a trusted immigration lawyer.
- Former Portuguese States of India (Goa, Daman, Diu and Dadrá, and Nagar-Aveli)
- Cape Verde
- São Tomé and Principe
The benefits of Portuguese citizenship
Portuguese citizenship is one of the most respected in the world. Portugal is seen as a good global citizen and has very few diplomatic or international issues. This reputation means that if you are traveling as a Portuguese citizen, you’ll receive a worldwide welcome.
The powerful Portuguese passport
Portugal citizenship gives you a Portuguese passport, recognized as one of the most powerful in the world. Most passport power rankings have Portugal’s passport in the Top 10, with visa-free access to more than 180 countries and territories.
These include high-value destinations like:
- European Union (EU), European Economic Area, and Switzerland.
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom (UK)
- United States of America (USA)
Portugal allows Dual Nationality
Portugal allows dual and multiple citizenships. This allowance is important, as it means you can retain any citizenship and passport you have. It also means if you get another citizenship in the future, you can maintain your Portuguese nationality and Portugal passport.
You will need to understand the dual citizenship policies for those nationalities that you already hold. Some countries insist you give up citizenship when you take on a new nationality.
You can live, study, and work in the European Union
Portugal is a founding member of the European Union. As a citizen, you can work, live, and travel freely in any of the 30 European Economic Area countries. Portugal is also a SCHENGEN state, so you can enjoy border-free travel throughout this area.
You can pass your Portuguese nationality on to your children
In many cases, you can pass Portuguese nationality onto your children. Please see the citizenship by Birth section below for all the details.
How to show ties to the Portuguese National Community
You can prove your connection to Portugal in many ways. The evidence for your Portugal citizenship application will be assessed together, so the more items you cover, the more certain your ties.
Effective links to the Portuguese community could include:
- Speaking Portuguese to C2 level.
- Living in Portugal.
- Own or rent a property in Portugal.
- Portuguese tax residency, tax identification number, and social security registration.
- Portuguese bank accounts.
- Regular travel to Portugal.
- Active involvement in Portuguese cultural or social organizations.
- Portuguese friends and family.
- Investing in Portugal or Portuguese companies.
A2 Portuguese Language Proficiency level
The Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) is the standard used by the government to assess your ties to the country.
You need to be at the A2 level:
“Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.”
There are many language testing centers and schools that can help you with this requirement.
Next steps for your Portugal citizenship
If you found a path to Portuguese citizenship and a Portugal passport, great news! Now, what next? First is to identify the full requirements of your citizenship option.
Next is to start to gather all the documentation you’ll need to present to make your case.
Our partner in Portugal, an experienced and qualified Portugal immigration lawyer, will make the process simpler. They’ll be best placed to understand the law’s nuance and be on top of any changes. They’ll help you submit an application that will be approved as fast as possible. You can see all the reviews of Goncalo and his team from happy Where Can I Live clients here.
Becoming a citizen of Portugal opens up wonderful opportunities for you and your family. And, with the excellent immigration options, this is a real possibility for many people.
FAQ – Citizenship in Portugal
1. How can I get citizenship in Portugal?
There are several pathways to obtaining Portuguese citizenship, including:
- Descent: If you have a Portuguese parent or grandparent.
- Naturalization: After legally residing in Portugal for five years.
- Marriage or De Facto Partnership: If you’re married to or in a long-term relationship with a Portuguese citizen.
- Sephardic Descent: For descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal in the 15th century.
- Investment: Through the Golden Visa program, which requires specific investments in Portugal.
- Birth: If you were born in Portugal under certain conditions.
- Former Portuguese Territories: Certain individuals from former Portuguese colonies may be eligible.
2. Can a US citizen have dual citizenship with Portugal?
Yes, Portugal recognizes and allows dual citizenship. As a US citizen, you can obtain Portuguese citizenship without renouncing your American citizenship. However, it’s essential to be aware of the obligations and rights associated with holding citizenship in both countries.
3. How long does it take to get Portuguese citizenship?
The duration varies depending on the pathway. For instance:
- Through naturalization, it typically takes five years of legal residency.
- For those applying through marriage or partnership, the eligibility starts after three years of being in the relationship.
- The Golden Visa program requires a minimum of five years of legal residency before one can apply for citizenship. Once the application is submitted, the processing time can range from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the complexity of the case and the volume of applications at the time.
4. Can I buy property in Portugal and get citizenship?
No, Portugal’s Golden Visa program was amended in 2023 to exclude property from the Residency By Investment program. This change means that buying a property is no longer a path to Portugal citizenship by naturalization.