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How to Get Portuguese Citizenship

David Bonellie

David Bonellie

Last updated: February 20, 2023

How to Get Portuguese Citizenship

European citizenship is an incredibly sought-after commodity. Tens of thousands of hopeful applicants make applications through various routes to citizenship. Portugal is no different. The Iberian country’s Servico De Estrangeiros E Fronteiras (commonly referred to as SEF) processes thousands of applications for citizenship. The exciting thing about citizenship is that there are several routes to apply. 

Global Residence Index provides its clients with the most cost-effective and efficient plans to ensure that money and time are not spent unnecessarily. We uncover the best solution to your goals by consulting with you one-on-one. If there are alternatives, our experts will guide you through the process. 

Obtaining Portuguese citizenship might be one of those scenarios. A hopeful client with Portuguese ancestry might not fit the exact criteria for citizenship, or a business person cannot spend six to eight months in the country to naturalize after five years. 

There are countless real-life scenarios that we have assisted clients through. We’ll discuss the routes for Portuguese citizenship and give you a better perspective on your options to get a Portuguese Passport:

  • Various Routes To Get Citizenship in Portugal;
  • Beneficial Changes to Portuguese Citizenship and Nationality Laws;
  • Which Residence Program Might Best Fit Your Needs;
  • Investment Options Ideal for Portuguese Citizenship;
  • Benefits of Becoming a Portuguese Citizen; and
  • Frequently Asked Questions About How to Become A Portuguese Citizen. 

Portuguese Citizenship and Nationality Laws

Portuguese nationality law details the conditions by which a person is a Portuguese citizen and can apply for a passport. There were several iterations of Portuguese citizenship, some contentious because of its status as a Colonial Empire. However, today the primary law governing nationality regulations is the Nationality Act of 1981, including amendments up to 2022.

The Portuguese Nationality Act establishes that individuals may acquire citizenship through birth, descent, naturalization, or marriage to a Portuguese citizen. Additionally, the law recognizes the concept of dual citizenship, meaning that a person may simultaneously hold Portuguese citizenship and citizenship of another country. 

The requirements and procedures for acquiring Portuguese citizenship can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the individual seeking citizenship. In recent years, Portugal has implemented several changes to its citizenship laws, including changes to the eligibility criteria for naturalization and the introduction of a program for granting citizenship to Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin.

Various Routes To Get Citizenship in Portugal

The SEF (The Foreigners and Borders Service) manages all applications for residency and citizenship. There is significant time take for citizenship approval depending on the route taken. It is not uncommon to wait up two to three years for a citizenship by descent. 

Portuguese Citizenship by Birth 

A child will receive Portugal citizenship at birth if at least one parent must be a Portuguese citizen at the time of their birth. The birth location is irrelevant as long as the parent is a registered citizen. Portuguese citizenship follows the Jus Sanguinis, although there are a few exceptions. 

Portugal also has some provisions for jus soli. Recent changes to the Portuguese nationality allow children born in Portugal to become citizens if their non-Portuguese parents have been legal residents for at least one year. 

Citizenship From Being a Descendent of a Portuguese Citizen 

Although citizenship is automatic when a parent is Portuguese, it is possible to get a Portuguese passport through a grandparent under certain circumstances. 

The grandparent’s Portuguese citizenship is not directly transferred to the individual. Instead, the individual may be able to apply for citizenship, which requires meeting specific criteria (language, ties to Portugal) and going through an application process. 

Portuguese Citizenship by Marriage   

Portugal is one of the few countries that transfers citizenship by marriage. Although not immediate, it is possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship and get a Portugal passport. If you have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language, provided the applicant has been married to, or in a life partnership with, a Portuguese citizen for at least five years. You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after three years if you reside in Portugal for at least six months per year. 

Naturalization as a Portuguese Citizen  

The most common option for our clients is to naturalize them as Portuguese citizens. Several residency options can lead to citizenship in Portugal. The typical requirements to naturalize in Portugal for citizenship include being a legal resident for a minimum of five years.

During these five years, you must be physically present in Portugal for a minimum of 183 days per year. There is an exception for the Portuguese Golden Visa and High Qualified Activities (HQA) residence programs.

There is a language requirement, and you’ll need to show proof of integrating into Portuguese society by presenting connections. Connections can be through cultural or social integration, investments, or other means. 

Which Residence Program Might Best Fit Your Needs to Get Portuguese Citizenship

There are a few European Golden Visa programs available to investors. Greece and Spain are popular options for obtaining residency, but it is unlikely that investors will obtain citizenship. They require permanent physical presence for seven (Greece) and ten (Spain) years to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Portugal is incredibly popular for its reduced physical presence requirements that can lead to a passport. 

The Golden Visa – Investor’s Dream Route to Portuguese Citizenship 

Portugal’s Golden Visa residence program provides investors the opportunity to have a clear pathway to a Portugal passport. More than 12,000 primary investors are Golden Visa recipients, many of whom are now permanent residents or citizens of Portugal. 

Before 2019 there was speculation that the program would not convert its Golden Visa residents to Portuguese citizens. That is false, as hundreds of investors and their dependents are now Portuguese citizens and hold a passport from Portugal. A large proportion of the investors in Portugal’s Golden Visa are Chinese citizens. China does not allow dual citizenship, and thus can only obtain another citizenship by renouncing (which is incredibly difficult to do in China).

The route to citizenship for nationalities that do allow dual citizenship makes the Portuguese Golden Visa an ideal program. The limited physical presence requirements are one of the most attractive features of the program that leads to Portuguese citizenship after five years. 

Other Residence Options 

If there is a better match for you than the Golden Visa, we will show you several other residence options available. Although not going into detail, applicants can use one of the below to gain legal residence in Portugal. The Highly Qualified Activities (HQA) Residence Visa has some physical presence leniency. All other residence options require continuous physical presence to obtain Portuguese citizenship:

  • D7 Passive Income and D6 Family Reunification Residence;
  • D8 Digital Nomad Visa;
  • Startup Visa and Tech Visa; 
  • Highly Qualified Activities (HQA) Residence Visa; and
  • D2 Entrepreneur Visa.

Part of the Global Residence Index consulting services includes finding which country and program fits your needs. If there are better alternatives, we will provide you with a long-term strategy. It is common for our clients to obtain immediate citizenship by investment and a second residence together. This strategy often includes a second passport from the Caribbean and finding a residence program that accommodates where you want to live on your new passport. 

Golden Visa Investment Options Ideal for Portuguese Citizenship

The Golden Visa provides several immediate benefits to investors and their dependents. Multiple investment options further strengthen the case to opt for the program and pathway to Portuguese citizenship. 

Real Estate Investment:

  • €500,000 investment in any real estate in Portugal;
  • €400,000 investment in any real estate in a low-density area in Portugal;
  • €350,000 investment in real estate that is older than thirty years old, with the requirement to renovate; and
  • €280,000 investment in a low-density area property older than thirty years old, with the condition to renovate. 

There are restrictions on where investors can purchase a specific type of real estate. Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, and Silver Coast all have restrictions on residential types of real estate. Our business has several relationships with top developers and real estate companies in the country. We provide a step-by-step process for ensuring your real estate investment will yield positive outcomes. 

Portuguese Investment Fund:

  • €500,000 investment in a Portuguese-held investment fund. The investment fund has an offshore allowance of 40%. 

Other Investment Options Available:

  • €200,000 investment into a program specifically designed to protect and enhance the Cultural Heritage of Portugal if in a low-density area;
  • €250,000 investment into a program specifically designed to protect and enhance the Cultural Heritage of Portugal if in a low-density area;
  • €1.5m capital transfer to a Portuguese financial institution;
  • €500,000 investment into research and development in Portugal; or 
  • Create a business that employs at least ten Portuguese residents or eight in a low-density area. 

These investment options are less popular than real estate and investment funds. There are exciting developments to attract more investors to the “other investment” options. The Cultural Heritage investment is developing strategically sound business cases for investors, which can yield impressive returns and lead to Portuguese citizenship. 

Step-by-Step Golden Visa Process

Our process for ensuring a successful Golden Visa has been through the stress test by handling hundreds of applications from all types of investors. The step-by-step process that an investor needs to follow is as follows: 

  • Select the investment: Choose the option that you want to invest in. Our local team will help you to select the investment type based on your needs;
  • Complete the legal necessities in Portugal (done remotely);
    • Obtain a Portuguese non-resident tax number (NIF);
    • Open a Portuguese bank account; and
    • Execute a Power of Attorney (optional).
  • Complete the transfer: 
    • Transfer the investment amount into your Portuguese bank account and sign the investment contracts after the due diligence checks; and
    • Make the final transfer from your Portuguese bank account to the developer, investment fund, or public entity.
  • Finalize the application: complete the Golden Visa residence application and submit it;
  • Visit Portugal: Schedule the biometrics appointment at the SEF office for yourself and your family; and
  • Activate the Golden Visa: Receive the approval of the Golden Visa applications and activate your Golden Visa Residence Card/s.

Benefits of the Golden Visa that Leads to Portuguese Citizen

Pathway to Portuguese Citizenship

After meeting the financial requirements of the investment and passing due diligence, the investor and dependents receive the Golden Visa residence. The initial residence permit is valid for one year with a seven-day physical presence requirement. The following residence permit is issued for two years, carrying a fourteen-day physical presence. After three years, the investor gets their final two-year residence permit with a fourteen-day physical presence. 

After five years of residence and spending at least thirty-five days in Portugal, the investor may sell your investment and will immediately qualify for permanent residence. At the same time, you may apply for citizenship. Additional citizenship requirements include proof of passing a Portuguese language test at the A2 level and integration (ties) to Portugal. 

Benefits of Golden Visa Residence

While you are a resident of Portugal, there are immediate benefits to enjoy. Some of these include:

  • Ability to live, work and study in Portugal (Spain and Greece do not allow Golden Visa holders to work);
  • Travel through Europe’s Schengen area without needing to apply for a Schengen visa;
  • Top ten safest countries in the world;
  • Business Opportunities: You can use Portugal as a gateway to the rest of Europe for business;
  • Access to healthcare: You can have access to free and subsidized public healthcare while living in Portugal and contributing to social security;
  • Reduced Taxes: The Non-Habitual Tax residence allows you to reduce your income taxes to a maximum of 20% for ten years. Certain incomes can be tax-exempt (dividends, pension, and interest income);
  • Financial Opportunities: Open Portuguese bank accounts and easily open new businesses as a resident. Ability to borrow funds from Portuguese institutions; and
  • Education: Access to multiple internationally recognized universities within Portugal and free public top schooling.

Benefits of Portuguese Citizenship

After obtaining your citizenship from Portugal, your ability to live, work and study in Europe becomes a reality. Many of the benefits from the residency will now apply to any other European Union member state. Some of these benefits include: 

  • Freedom of movement: As an EU citizen, you can travel and live in any EU member state without needing a visa or work permit. Other freedoms also include the right to work and study; 
  • Access to healthcare: EU citizens have access to healthcare in any EU country as long as they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or its successor, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); 
  • Education Opportunities: EU citizens have the right to study in any EU member state, with the exact fees and conditions as nationals of that country. Many public education universities have some degrees that have zero fees;
  • Right to vote: EU citizens have the right to vote and stand as candidates in European Parliament and local government elections in the country where they reside;
  • Protection of rights: Portuguese citizens will receive protections following EU law, which ensures that their fundamental rights and freedoms are respected, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equality before the law;
  • Job opportunities: EU citizens have access to job opportunities across the EU without discrimination based on nationality.

Final Thoughts on Portuguese Citizenship

The Portuguese citizenship and nationality laws are arguably the most favorable for non-EU citizens in Europe. The Golden Visa provides a very low physical presence requirements that legally allow an applicant to apply for citizenship. Children born in Portugal can apply for citizenship immediately if their non-EU parent has been a resident for at least one year. Spouses have the ability to apply for Portuguese citizenship even if they do not live in Portugal. 

Finally, even the naturalization requirements for a standard residence is quite favorable, being six consecutive months per year for five years. Many other countries require two hundred and seventy days per year (an additional three months per year). Others also require an uninterrupted twelve consecutive months the year before you apply. 

Time in the modern world is valuable and people move around more than ever. Which ever residence route you choose, there is a clear and relatively simple route to Portuguese citizenship. The expert team at Global Residence Index are here to help you. Why don’t you book a free consultation to learn more about Portugal, its Golden Visa program or any other citizenship and Golden Visa program. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Portuguese Citizenship

What are the standard options for getting Portuguese citizenship?

Naturalization is the primary route our clients are using to obtain Portuguese citizenship. Most of our clients apply for citizenship after being residents for five years in Portugal. The D7 residence is famous for retirees who spend more than six months per year in Portugal. The Golden Visa is the best option to become a citizen of Portugal if you only want to spend a limited time in the country.

What are the other options to qualify for Portuguese citizenship?

The other options are through birth, which is possible if parents have been residents for at least one year. Descent is the next best option through a parent or, at times, through a grandparent. Something to be aware of is that it can take between two to three years to process citizenship by descent application.

Should I get a Passport if I am married to a Portuguese Citizen?

Yes, you can increase your global mobility by applying for Portuguese citizenship by marriage if you meet the criteria set by the government. A passport from Portugal allows you to enjoy various benefits, and currently, there are no negatives to becoming a Portuguese dual citizen.

What is the Non-Habitual Tax Residency Program? Can I use the tax program once I have Portuguese citizenship?

You can reduce your income taxes using the NHR tax program in Portugal. The program allows Non-EU citizens to pay a maximum of 20% for income earned outside of Portugal. Other income, such as dividends, foreign pensions, and interest income, can be tax-exempt.

Can I use the NHR Tax Program after I have Portuguese citizenship?

No, after becoming a Portuguese citizen, you also become a European citizen. The NHR tax program is for Non-EU citizens only.

Is the Portuguese language test challenging to pass? Are there any exclusions?

It is difficult to answer this question objectively. The language test for Portuguese citizenship will evaluate your ability to communicate effectively in Portuguese. The test usually includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections, and it can vary in length and format depending on the specific test center.

Where can I travel to on my Portuguese passport?

The Portugal passport is a Tier A passport. It is the sixth-best passport in the world, with visa-free access to over one hundred and eighty-eight countries and territories. You do not need a prior visa to enter the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, to name a few.

Is there an option to get another citizenship immediately before getting a Portuguese passport?

Yes, some of our clients opt to invest in Caribbean citizenship by investment program first. They receive their new citizenship and passport within a few months. At this time, they obtain residence in Portugal on their new Caribbean passport. After five years, they will be eligible to apply for their Portuguese citizenship and passport. Over time you will start building a passport portfolio, collecting multiple citizenships.

Need help?

Navigating through golden visa & citizenship by investment programs can be complex and overwhelming, regardless of the country or program you’re interested in. If you’re struggling to find clear, accurate information, you’re not alone. Our team is here to offer you clarity and reliable advice across a wide range of immigration programs.

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