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Applying for Portuguese Citizenship – Requirements & Guide

Simon Colwill - May 10, 2021 - 0 comments

Portugal is both a popular holiday destination and place of residence, offering beautiful coasts, peaceful greenery and a rich culture to enjoy. For Brits in particular, applying for citizenship in Portugal is also an option to escape Brexit and stay a European citizen. There are several ways to get Portuguese citizenship, including by residency, marriage, descent, or Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme.

How can you get Portuguese citizenship?

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 descent and having Portuguese parents or grandparents
  • By marrying or being in a long-term relationship with 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 in this guide.

What are the benefits of Portuguese citizenship?

Becoming a citizen of Portugal offers a range of benefits, including:

  • The right to work, live, study, and travel in Portugal as well as any other of the 27 countries part of the European Union without requiring a visa. 
  • Like the UK, Portugal also allows dual citizenship, unlike other EU countries such as Spain, so you can also be a citizen of multiple countries at the same time. 
  • You can vote in all elections.
  • You can obtain a Portuguese passport and citizen card, which allows visa-free entry to 174 countries, allowing you improved travel opportunities and freedom.
  • You have access to Portugal’s quality social security system, including its quality healthcare and free education.
  • Ability to live a high standard of life at low costs in comparison to some other EU countries. 
  • Ability to work full or part-time without a permit and access to an array of employment opportunities.

Portuguese citizenship vs permanent residency

Having a permanent residency in Portugal offers a similar range of benefits to citizenship, such as:

  • 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. However, there are certain differences and you won’t have the same rights. In particular, you’ll have more freedom to travel, live and work visa-free in other EU countries as a Portuguese citizen.

How can you become a Portuguese citizen?

In this section, we run through the application process and requirements for different ways to obtain Portuguese citizenship.

Applying for Portuguese citizenship often involves submitting documents, which we can help to notarise so they’re recognised abroad. 

Other requirements for applicants of Portuguese citizenship include:

  • You will need to have a basic level of knowledge of Portuguese (A2 international level)
  • You must not have a criminal record equal to a penalty of more than three years, in line with Portuguese law
  • You must be over 18 years of age

Portuguese citizenship by investment 

One way for non-EU citizens of applying for citizenship in Portugal is through investment, commonly referred to as Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme. You can essentially jump the queue, without even having to live in Portugal. However, citizenship by investment is generally only an option for wealthy individuals and families, as the minimum investment amount is high at €250,000 for property with specific conditions. Read more about Portugal’s Golden Visa programme in our comprehensive guide.

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 €250,000 in real estate. Unlike gaining Portuguese citizenship by other means, the Golden Visa scheme does not require you to visit the country and stay for any specific or lengthy period of time. 

For example, if it is an investor’s first Golden Visa permit, they are only required to visit and stay in Portugal for 14 days in the two years that their permit is valid. After the five years of holding a Golden Visa, you (and your family) can apply for citizenship in Portugal.

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 have a biometric interview, prove commitment to Portugal, pass a language test and criminal check.

If you’re applying for the Portugal Golden Visa, we can help with any notarisation, legalisation and translation requirements.

Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation 

Don’t have around 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 in Portugal to become a citizen? 

The current length is five years of legal residency, in total. This is five years less than in Spain (ten years).

The five years can be spread across 15 years, but most people choose to spend five 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.

Portuguese citizenship by descent

Do you have Portuguese parents or grandparents? 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)
  • Declaring you want to be Portuguese if you were born in Portugal, to foreign parents, and one of them has lived in Portugal for five 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 three years, you can apply for citizenship too.

You don’t need to have lived in Portugal for those three 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, including:

  • 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

If you’re applying for the Portugal Golden Visa, we can help with any notarisation, legalisation and translation requirements.

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 the five-year residency requirement
  • Birth certificates for yourself, your parents and grandparents depending on the route you are applying through, as well as details of your origin and occupation
  • Marriage certificates or evidence of a de facto relationship if you apply through this route
  • Background records from your home country e.g. the UK
  • Certificate from passing your language and cultural exams

How long does it take to get Portuguese citizenship?

Getting a Portuguese passport can sometimes take two to three 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.

How much does it cost to apply for Portuguese citizenship?

The application is free for those applying through descent who are over 18, and differ slightly depending on which route you go down:

  • If you apply through birth, the cost is €250
  • If you apply through descent however, your parent or guardian became a Portuguese citizen after you were born, the cost is €200
  • If you apply through naturalisation, the cost is €250
  • If you apply through marriage or de facto union, the cost is €250
  • If you apply through investment, the cost is €250 (in addition to the large investment amount)

Why trust us to help you obtain Portuguese citizenship?

At MSC Notaries, we often notarise and legalise 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.

Need documents notarised to apply for Portuguese citizenship? Please contact us for more information, call 0208 907 2699 or email

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