This guide to Portuguese citizenship will show you exactly what’s needed to qualify for citizenship and submit a successful application.
I’m a British national living in Funchal, Madeira. I was successfully granted Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation in June 2023.
The information here is based on a first-hand account of my personal experience, originally written up for the British in Portugal advocacy group on Facebook.
I’ve tried hard to provide the most accurate possible account of the process. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, or to get advice on your specific situation, then you should seek the advice of a qualified immigration lawyer.
Benefits of Portuguese citizenship 🇵🇹🇪🇺
- You can get a Portuguese passport – one of the most powerful in the world. It allows you to travel visa-free to 187 countries.
- As a Portuguese citizen, you’ll also be a citizen of the EU. This gives you the right to freely live, work, study and retire across 31 nations in the EU, EEA and Switzerland.
- You can vote in Portugal’s elections and run for office in Portugal.
- You can also vote and run for office in the European elections.
- If you’re British, becoming a Portuguese citizen restores the EU rights that Brexit took away from you.
Qualifying for citizenship
You can qualify on any of the following grounds:
- Born in Portugal to Portuguese parents
- Born in Portugal to foreign parents
- Born abroad to Portuguese parents
- Married to a Portuguese national
- Legally resident in Portugal for at least five years
- Various other categories such as children of naturalised Portuguese citizens or descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews.
The information in this guide mainly focuses on citizenship by residence – being legally resident in Portugal for at least five years (as that’s the situation of most of our readership).
You will be refused citizenship by residence if you have been:
- Convicted of a crime which in Portugal would be punishable by at least 3 years in prison.
- Involved in terrorism-related activities.
- Service in another country’s military (other than by conscription) will usually also disqualify you.
Getting residency to live in Portugal
If you’ve lived in Portugal for at least five years, you may already be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Keep in mind though, you’ll first need to pass the Portuguese language exam at A2 level (known as the CIPLE).
If you haven’t got your residency in Portugal yet, here’s a rundown of the different ways you can get residency by moving to Portugal to start your five year timeline.
Residency routes that lead to citizenship:
- Residency under freedom of movement rights (EU/EEA/Swiss nationals only)
- D7 Passive Income / Retirement Visa
- Digital Nomad (D8) Visa
- D2 Entrepreneur Visa
In most cases, qualifying for citizenship requires you to live full-time in Portugal for the entire five years.
Specifically, that means you should avoid being out of the country for either six months consecutively or eight months non-consecutively in any single year.
Investing for residency (no need to move to Portugal)
The Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa is NOT a shortcut to Portuguese citizenship. It’s a residency by investment program.
But the Golden Visa has one big advantage – it allows you to get on the five-year path to citizenship without having to actually live full time in Portugal.
Earlier in 2023, the Portuguese government announced major changes to the Golden Visa program.
Most importantly, it’s no longer possible to invest for residency through any real estate related route. Out of the remaining routes, the easiest one is investing in Portuguese venture capital or private equity funds (minimum investment €500,000).
Alternatively, you could get the Golden Visa by supporting local cultural heritage projects, such as film production. The minimum investment is €250,000 (which can be reduced to €200,000 for productions in a low-density area of Portugal).
However, the details of this route are still being ironed out and suitable projects may not be immediately available.
Digital Émigré is in regular contact with key players involved, and will update the online materials once we know more.
The HQA (Highly Qualified Activity) Visa
Designed for entrepreneurs, the HQA visa requires you to invest at least €175,000.
These funds are used to set up your own Portuguese company and conduct research in conjunction with a Portuguese university.
Portuguese law states that all HQA visa applications must be decided within 30 days – much faster than the Golden Visa.
The HQA visa also allows you to maintain residency status with no physical stay requirements.
Language requirements: Passing the CIPLE exam
When applying for naturalisation, you’ll need to prove Portuguese language ability at A2 level (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
Fortunately, this isn’t too challenging, as A2 level is just one step up from complete beginner (A1).
Most people show proof of this by taking the CIPLE exam. That’s what I did.
The CIPLE exam is structured in four parts, covering all the basic skills: speaking, listening, reading comprehension, and writing.
The reading comprehension part makes up the biggest chunk of your overall mark. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest, as the questions are all multiple-choice.
The most difficult part for me (and many others), was the listening part. There’s a lot of background noise and they speak quite fast.
It’s also possible to get the necessary proof by going through a government approved course of language classes.
To prepare for the CIPLE exam, I watched a lot of Portuguese TV, particularly shows designed for young learners.
Other useful resources include:
- Practice Portuguese
- Memrise mobile app
- Talk the Streets (Liz Sharma) – check out the behind the scenes video where Liz sits the CIPLE exam
- Learn Portuguese Online (has dedicated CIPLE prep classes and materials)
The Application Process in Detail
Here’s a detailed write up of everything I did during my preparation and application for Portuguese citizenship
What you need to apply
#1. Proof of legal residence in Portugal for at least 5 years at the date of application
This is normally your official residence document or card, showing the date on which you became legally resident.
I suggest getting a certified copy of this document to include with your bundle of documents.
If you’re applying by post, then you’ll definitely need a certified copy. Any Portuguese lawyer can certify the document.
#2. Proof of knowledge of Portuguese to at least A2 level
You can prove this by one of two methods:
- Taking an exempting course of Portuguese lessons at a government-approved institution
- Passing the CIPLE exam
#3. Apostilled copy of your birth certificate
For British nationals, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides an apostille service. The cost at the time of writing is £30 per document.
Applications must be made online, and then you have to post documents to FCDO using the official cover sheet. (Other apostille providers are available, but may be more expensive).
You may also need to provide an official translation of your birth certificate into Portuguese.
You must use an officially certified translator or translation bureau for this. The translated document must be accompanied by a certificate. The cost varies but it’s usually in the range of €70 – €100.
As a general rule, the translation may be done:
- by a Portuguese notary;
- by a registrar or registry officer;
- by a lawyer or solicitor practicing in Portugal;
- by a chamber of commerce or industry, recognised under the terms of Decreto Lei no. 244/92, of 29 October 1992;
- by a suitable translator, in which case it must be certified* by one of the aforementioned organisations;
- by a Portuguese consulate in the country where the document was issued or by the consulate of that country in Portugal.
* To certify the translation, the translator must appear before the notary, registrar, lawyer, solicitor or chamber of commerce and, under oath or pledge of honour, declare that the text has been faithfully translated by him or her.
#4. Apostilled copy of official evidence of any name change
This could be a marriage certificate, deed poll, or statutory declaration.
As with the birth certificate, you may need to provide an official translation into Portuguese to accompany the document.
#5. Certified copy of your current, valid passport
You don’t need an official apostille for this. A copy certified by a Portuguese lawyer will suffice.
#6. Criminal record check
This must come from your country of citizenship (plus any other countries where you’ve held legal residency since the age of 16).
This document must be no older than 3 months before you submit your application for citizenship. You may also need to provide an official translation into Portuguese.
UK nationals can request a criminal record check via the Police Certificates section of the ACRO website.
ACRO will issue the document by post. So (allowing for postal delays) you’ll need to time your application carefully to make sure the document is less than three months old at the date of your application.
#7. Completed application form
You can download a copy from the official government website.
You must sign this form in person in the presence of an official at the Nationality office.
Or, if you’re applying by post then an authorised person must witness your signature.
This could be a lawyer or a government official who is authorised to witness signatures (but the website doesn’t specify exactly who these are).
#8. Payment of €250
You can pay by:
- Multibanco card at the Nationality office
- Certified cheque or banker’s draft (if applying by post)
How to complete the application form
The form can be confusing, so I’ve put together some notes on how to complete it.
First, it must be printed DOUBLE-SIDED, not on two separate sheets.
Make sure you complete the form in BLOCK CAPITALS.
Then follow the below steps for each part of the form.
|Section of form||What to do|
|Nome próprio||Your forename(s) [given name(s)]|
|Data de nasicmento||Date of birth [DAY de MONTH de YEAR]|
|Estado civil||Single, married, divorced, widowedSolteiro/a, casado/a, divorciado/a, viúvo/a|
|Naturalidade||Where you were born (city/town and country as stated on your passport)|
|País ou países de nacionalidade||Your country/ies of citizenship|
|Nome do pai & Nome da mãe||Your father’s full name & your mother’s full name|
|E-mailTelefone||Your email address & your telephone number (mobile is best)|
|Profissão||Occupation (if retired, write REFORMADO/A)|
|Residência atual||Your address, as officially recorded on the reverse of your biometric card or residence document|
|Código Postal||Your postcode|
|Localidade||The village or town or city you live in|
|Documento de identificação||Tick PASSAPORTE|
|emitido por||Write REINO UNIDO (assuming it is a British passport) or the name of the country that issued the passport (if not British)|
|em||Date of issue of passport|
|Dados do procurador||This applies only if you’re using an intermediary (i.e. a lawyer)|
|Preamble||This is your declaration that you wish to apply for citizenship, have been legally resident in Portugal for at least five years, have sufficient knowledge of Portuguese, have no serious criminal convictions and are not a threat to national security.|
|Para além de Portugal, residiu nos seguintes países||Any countries you’ve lived in previously (e.g. the UK – in which case write REINO UNIDO).|
|Pretende ser identificado com o seguinte nome||Write your name in full, as shown on your passport. (The reason it says “I want to be known by the following name” is that Portuguese people have long strings of surnames, some of which they don’t use.)|
|Considera relevantes as seguintes circunstâncias||Any circumstances relevant to your application. If you own your property in Portugal, write “Sou proprietário/a da minha casa/do meu apartamento desde [date you bought your property]”|
|Pretende que o certificado do registo criminal português seja obtido oficiosamente pela CRC.||This just gives them permission to obtain your Portuguese criminal record.|
|Junta os seguintes documentos (Assinalar com X as opções pretendidas)||Put a cross in all the boxes.|
|Certidão do registo de nascimento …||Birth certificate, apostilled etc.|
|Documento comprovativo de que conhece suficientemente a língua portuguesa||CIPLE or other language certificate|
|Certificado(s) do registo criminal emitido(s) no(s) seguinte(s) paíse(s)||Write REINO UNIDO [or whichever country(ies) you got your criminal record check(s) from]|
|Fotocópia certificada do documento de … identificação||Certified copy of passport|
|Outros documentos||Write the names of the following documents:|
1) Título de Residência (essential)
2) Certificado de Casamento/Declaração de Mudança de Apelido (one or other of these is essential if you have changed your name since birth) Caderneta Prédial* (not required, but recommended if you own a property)
*This is the official record of your ownership of your property. It may be obtained via the Portal das Finanças by going to: Posição Integrada (left-hand menu) Património: ImoveisClick on Caderneta – the 7th box alongPrint to .pdf (don’t click Download – it will save it as some inaccessible document type).
3) Faturas de gás/eletricidade (not required, but recommended: a utility bill from the start of your legal residence and a recent one, to show that you have actually been living in the property)
|Pagamento 250 €||If sending by post, tick the appropriate box for cheque. It must be a cheque visado (cheque certified by the bank as having sufficient funds) or cheque bancário (bank draft).|
If applying in person, you can pay by Multibanco.
|Asks how you want any refund to be paid: |
1) To you by bank transfer
2) To someone else by bank transfer or cheque
3) By bank transfer to a foreign account
Fill in as appropriate. You don’t need to fill in the address unless you’re requesting a refund by cheque.
|Declara …||Asks whether you will accept notifications by email. If yes, tick the first circle.|
|Local e data||The place where and date on which you are signing the form|
|Assinatura do requerente ou do procurador||Your signature. You’re supposed to sign it in front of one of the nationality officials, or if sending by post have it witnessed by an authorised person (i.e. a government official of some kind – but it doesn’t specify who is authorised).|
How to submit your application
At the time of writing (October 2023), intermediaries, namely lawyers, can now submit your application for you online.
But individual applicants must still apply in person or by post, using the paper application form and hard-copy supporting documents.
The application form states that applications must be posted to the Central Registry (address below).
But it’s been known for people to post them to their local Balcão de Nacionalidade (nationality desk), where they’ve been accepted.
To avoid any issues, I recommend checking with your local Balcão before posting your application there.
Here’s a list of all local Balcãos around Portugal:
Abrantes, Alcobaça, Amadora, Aveiro, Braga, Castelo Branco, Chaves, Coimbra, Évora, Elvas, Faro, Figueira da Foz, Fundão, Guarda, Guimarães, Lamego, Leiria, Lisbon, Maia , Mangualde, Marco de Canaveses, Marinha Grande, Matosinhos, Moita, Monção, Oliveira de Azeméis, Ovar, Pombal, Ponta Delgada, Ponte de Lima, Santarém, Santo Tirso, São João da Madeira, Setúbal, Torres Vedras, Viana do Castelo, Via do Conde, Vila Nova de Gaia, Vila Real, Vila Verde, and Viseu.
You can submit your application in person at various locations. Some require appointments.
- At a Balcão da Nacionalidade (Mainland and Azores – there isn’t one in Madeira)
- At a Conservatória do Registo Civil
- At the Instituto dos Registos e Notariado [IRN] no Centro Nacional de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes in Lisbon*
- At the Espaço Registos in Areeiro, Lisbon
- At the Loja do Cidadão in Odivelas
- At a Portuguese consulate (or the consular section of the Portuguese embassy) abroad
Note: There are usually long queues at the central Instituto dos Registos e Notariado in Lisbon.
You can make an appointment in advance, although that’s no guarantee of avoiding a long wait. But it’s likely to be shorter than if you have no appointment at all.
What happens next?
You’ll receive an email containing a personal key (in the format XXXX-XXXX-XXXX).
You can use this key to track the progress of your application here
There are seven stages of application, as follows:
- Awaiting enquiries (checks with external organisations)
- Verification of documents
In theory, they will email you each time you progress to a new stage. But in practice this doesn’t always happen. It’s therefore worth checking from time to time.
(It will stay at Stage 1 for a long, long time…)
Once the application has been approved, you will see on the online system: “O seu pedido de nacionalidade foi aprovado e aguarda que seja criado um Registo de Cidadão Português”:
Your application for citizenship has been approved, and is awaiting the creation of an entry in the register of Portuguese citizens.”
Presumably if it is denied, it will say something like “O seu pedido foi recusado”.
At the time of writing [October 2023] it’s taking at least 2 years for Portuguese citizenship applications to be processed.
(In my case, it took 8 months to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 – I received emails about both of those. Then it went from Stage 2 to Stage 7 all in one go, another 8 months later, without any notification.)
Assuming your application is approved, you now have to wait for the Ministério da Justiça to create the entry in the register and send you a notification in the post. This can take several months (June to October in my case).
In due course you’ll receive a letter telling you that the Conservatória dos Registos Centrais has the pleasure of communicating that your application was concluded with success.
The letter also directs you to any Registo Civil in Portugal to obtain your Cartão de Cidadão (citizen’s card).
Getting your Portuguese Passport
You won’t automatically receive a passport after being approved for Portuguese citizenship. You have to apply for one separately.
The good news is – getting a passport is a straightforward and fast process, taking around five business days and costing €65.
Your Portuguese passport will be valid for five years.
As you’re now an EU citizen, you have full freedom of movement rights. That means you can live, work, study, retire, and do business anywhere in Europe without restrictions. No more visas!
You can also use the e-gates for EU/EEA nationals when going through immigration at European airports.
Portuguese Citizenship vs Other EU Countries
|Country||Timeline||Dual citizenship ok?||Physical stay||Tax residency required?||Language level|
|French citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 French|
|Italian citizenship||10 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 Italian|
|German citizenship||6-8 years||No||183 days per year||Yes||B1-B2 German|
|Portuguese citizenship||5 years||Yes||7 days per year with Golden Visa||No||A2 Portuguese|
|Spanish citizenship||10 years||No||183 days per year||Yes||A2 Spanish|
|Irish citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year, 365 in final year||Yes||English only|
|Luxembourg citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 French or Luxembourgish|
|Cyprus citizenship||7 years (5 in some cases)||Yes||183 days per year, 365 in final year||Yes||English only|
|Swedish citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||Fluency in either Swedish or English|
Other Routes to Portuguese Citizenship
This guide has focused mainly on the process of getting citizenship through residency, as that’s the situation for most of our readers.
Here’s a quick overview of the other available routes to Portuguese citizenship.
For help with any of these routes, please contact our team for an introduction to a Portuguese immigration lawyer.
#1. Citizenship by marriage
If your spouse or partner is a Portuguese citizen, then you could qualify for citizenship.
You’ll have to prove that you’ve been in the marriage or partnership for at least three years before applying, but you don’t need to live in Portugal.
Portugal recognizes long-term stable relationships (known as a de facto union) as well as marriage.
You’ll need proof of the relationship and its duration, such as a shared rental contract or property deed, or shared utility bills.
You’ll usually be asked to show proof of other ties to Portugal, such as owning property in Portugal, or having lived there.
You may also be asked to prove your Portuguese language skills are at least at A2 level.
#2. Citizenship by descent (parents or grandparents)
If you have a Portuguese parent, you may be able to obtain Portuguese citizenship. If you were born outside Portugal and have a Portuguese grandparent, you could also qualify for citizenship.
Citizenship by descent is one of the easiest routes to Portuguese citizenship. Typically, you’ll only need to prove your ancestry via your birth certificate and those of your parents.
You’re automatically eligible for Portuguese citizenship without having to live there or prove any other ties to the country.
The only possible challenges could be if you don’t have contact with your parents, or if birth certificates have been lost.
#3. Citizenship by Sephardic Jewish heritage
If you’re interested in family tree research, you might want to check to see if there are Sephardic Jews in your ancestry. If so, then you might have a ticket to Portuguese citizenship.
During the Inquisition, thousands of Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Modern-day Portugal and Spain have offered citizenship as a way of reparation.
Portugal’s program is still in full swing, with over 90,000 successful applicants as of January 2022.
To be eligible, you’ll need to trace your family tree back far enough to show that you have Sephardic Jewish ancestry. This might come in the form of a Sephardic surname, cemetery records, or proof that the Ladino language was used among your ancestors.
Or perhaps you’ll strike lucky and find a copy of the certificate from the Portuguese Jewish community in Lisbon or Porto.
Getting citizenship through Sephardic Jewish heritage can be a time-consuming process. If you don’t fancy doing the research yourself, you might want to hire a genealogist.
#4. Citizenship via Portugal’s former colonies
During the Age of Discovery, Portugal became the world’s first colonial power.
It has since given up all its colonies, but still allows their citizens to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Portugal’s former colonies are: Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil, Portuguese India, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Macau, São Tomé and Principe, and Mozambique.
If you have links to any of these former colonies, it may be worth exploring whether you can apply for Portuguese citizenship (although there’s usually a time limit in which to apply).
Does Portugal allow dual citizenship?
Yes, Portugal allows you to hold multiple citizenships, although you should first check whether your original country allows you to hold a second citizenship.
How hard is the language test for Portuguese citizenship ?
The Portuguese citizenship language test is relatively easy, because you’re only being tested at A2 level. What’s more, you only need to score a minimum of 55% to pass the exam.
How long does it take to be approved for citizenship?
At the time of writing [October 2023] it’s taking at least 2 years for Portuguese citizenship applications to be processed.
In this guide, I’ve aimed to provide comprehensive instructions on getting Portuguese citizenship via residency, so that anyone can go through the process themselves without seeking legal assistance.
But if you’d feel more comfortable hiring a professional immigration lawyer, please contact the Digital Émigré team for an introduction to our recommended law firm.