For Brits, applying for citizenship in Portugal is an option to escape Brexit and stay a European citizen. There are several ways to get Portuguese citizenship, including by residency, marriage, or the ‘golden visa’ scheme.
In a nutshell, here are the simplest options for getting Portuguese nationality if you live in the UK:
- By living in Portugal for 5+ years
- By having Portuguese parents
- By marrying someone Portuguese
- By investing in Portugal (golden visa)
You can also get Portuguese citizenship in other, more complex ways. These include being a citizen of a former Portuguese territory, the Portuguese Sephardic Jew citizenship programme, or regaining your lost citizenship.
These are all simplified and have strict requirements and exceptions, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Why trust us on Portuguese citizenship?
At MSC Notaries, we often notarise personal documents to be used overseas. A popular country we get asked to notarise for is Portugal. We also have a Portuguese translator for documents who works in house with us.
Need documents notarised to apply for Portuguese citizenship? Please contact us for more information.
Portuguese citizenship vs permanent residency
Having a permanent residency in Portugal offers a similar range of benefits to citizenship:
- You can live in Portugal for as long as you want
- You can work, study and buy property there
- You can get access to social security benefits
Permanent residency is easier, and often cheaper, to get than citizenship. But you won’t have the same rights. In particular, you’ll have more freedom to travel, live and work in other EU countries as a Portuguese citizen.
Citizenship allows you to vote in Portugal and you may also be able to get dual citizenship (unlike Spain).
How to become a Portuguese citizen
Sure you want to apply for citizenship in Portugal? Read on to find out the application process and requirements.
Applying for Portuguese citizenship often involves submitting documents, which we can help to notarise so they’re recognised abroad. You will also need to have an acceptable level of Portuguese and not have a criminal record.
Portuguese citizenship by investment
One way of applying for citizenship in Portugal is through investing in property there. You can essentially jump the queue, without even having to live in Portugal. However, citizenship by investment will cost you a lot of money.
What is the Portugal Golden Visa program?
Launched in 2012, the Portugal Golden Visa allows you to gain Portuguese residency and citizenship by investing a minimum amount of €350,000 in real estate. After 5 years, you (and your family) can apply for citizenship in Portugal.
Own a company? Read our article about the positive and negative effects of Brexit on UK businesses.
Portugal Golden Visa requirements include you and your family visiting Portugal for two weeks every two years, in order to renew your visa. You will also need to prove commitment to Portugal, passing a language test and criminal check.
Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation
Don’t have half a million euros available? Most people apply for Portuguese citizenship through naturalisation. This basically means that if you’ve lived in Portugal for long enough, you should be able to become a citizen there.
How long do you have to live there to become a citizen?
The current length is 5 years of legal residency, in total. This is 5 years less than in Spain (10 years).
The 5 years can be spread across 15 years, but most people choose to spend 5 years in a row.
If you marry a Portuguese citizen, you can get citizenship after three years, even if you don’t live there.
Applying for Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation
Once you meet the Portuguese naturalisation requirements, you’ll have to apply yourself or by a suitable proxy.
This will involve following the official application process, filling out forms, and submitting documents. You will also need to take a test to show you understand Portuguese to an acceptable level and are invested in the culture of Portugal.
Common reasons for being rejected for Portuguese citizenship include having a criminal record or lack of integration.
Documents needed for Portuguese citizenship
If you’re applying for Portuguese citizenship, here are some of the documents you may need. Our notary can tell you whether documents will need to be notarised, apostilled or translated in order to still be legal and accepted abroad.
- Your passport, which needs to be valid and not expired
- Details of current residence permit and proof of 5 years
- Birth certificate and details of your origin and occupation
- Background records from your home country e.g. the UK
- Certificate from passing your language and cultural exams
Portuguese citizenship by descent
Portuguese parents? One way of getting Portuguese citizenship is through birth or descent. There are a variety of rules around this. The simplest includes having at least one Portuguese parent and being born in Portuguese territory.
If you’re adopted by a Portuguese citizen and under 18, you should be able to apply for citizenship immediately.
Other rules for citizenship by descent exist are quite complex. They include parents acquiring Portuguese nationality after your birth, having at least one Portuguese grandparent (who is familiar with the language), or declaring you want to be Portuguese if you were born in Portugal, to foreign parents, and one of them has lived in Portugal for 5 years.
It’s a good idea to get legal assistance if applying for Portuguese citizenship via this route, as it can get confusing. You’ll also need to gather historic paperwork. We can help with translating and notarising documents for your application.
Portuguese citizenship by marriage
If you’re married to or cohabiting with a Portuguese citizen for more than 3 years, you can apply for citizenship too.
You don’t need to have lived in Portugal for those 3 years, but you will need to prove your connection and commitment to the Portuguese community through documentation. And if you get divorced, you’ll still be a Portuguese citizen.
Documents needed for this route include birth certificates, marriage certificates and a criminal record check.
Read our separate blog on the legal requirements for getting married abroad.
Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews
Portugal allows descendants of Sephardic Jews to get Portuguese Sephardic citizenship. This is due to Portuguese Sephardic Jews being expelled from Portugal in the 16th century. Applicants will need to have a Portuguese Sephardic name and prove they belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, alongside being fluent in the language.
Citizens of former Portuguese colonies, such as Macao and Portuguese India, can also apply for citizenship.
Portuguese citizenship for former citizens
In certain circumstances, people who have lost their Portuguese citizenship may be able to acquire it again:
- Women who lost their Portuguese citizenship through marrying a foreign national
- Children who took another citizenship when their family moved to another country
- People who lost their Portuguese citizenship, but never got citizenship elsewhere
How long does it take to get citizenship?
Getting a Portuguese passport can sometimes take 2 to 3 years, depending on your circumstances and route.
If you want to apply for Portuguese citizenship, we’d recommend planning ahead and starting the application process as early as possible. You may also want to use a lawyer, to help with potential delays and lower the chances of rejection. Processing times vary, but if it’s an outright rejection you should hear back within 20 days of your application.
We’d also recommend doing the process online, as this can speed up applying for Portuguese citizenship.