Got Portuguese parents, grandparents or earlier ancestors? In today’s episode, we unpack how you can get Citizenship By Descent in Portugal — for next to nothing…
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Getting Portuguese Citizenship By Descent
In a recent Knowledge Series episode, we looked at Greece as a Citizenship By Ancestry destination. In today’s installment, we bring you the details on Portugal.
(Sovereign Confidential members — a reminder that you recently received a 74-page Black Paper highlighting the various citizenship by ancestry programs in Southern Europe and the Balkans. You can get access to our network of trusted legal providers for the countries featured in that report — including in Portugal.)
If you have a Portuguese parent OR grandparent, then congratulations — you can qualify for a Portuguese passport on the basis of ancestry.
Here’s how it works…
Requirements for getting Citizenship By Ancestry in Portugal
Portugal is gorgeously beautiful and home to one of Europe’s best climates. Over the years, Portugal has become one of our favorite countries on the continent… despite being home to high taxes and a socialist government.
But nonetheless, Portugal is an excellent country for your Plan B when it comes to a second passport.
Portugal’s nationality law (in Portuguese) states that you are a Portuguese citizen by origin if at least one of your parents is a citizen of Portugal at the time of your birth. The place of birth is irrelevant.
If you don’t have Portuguese parents, the 2015 amendment to the law makes it possible to claim your Portuguese citizenship if one of your grandparents is/was Portuguese (and did not lose their nationality during their lifetime).
You will need to prove that you are directly connected to your grandparent through respective birth, marriage, and death certificates, as applicable.
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There is a caveat here, however — having a Portuguese grandparent is not enough. You still have to prove you have “effective ties to the national community”.
The same law explains that “effective ties” are:
- Sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language (at the B1 level), AND
- Not having been convicted, for three years or more, of a crime punishable under Portuguese law, AND
- Not being a threat to national security.
There are many ways to prove your language proficiency: Graduation from a Portuguese-speaking school or university, taking a certified exam, or providing a graduation certificate from a Portuguese language center anywhere in the world will work.
Considering that the B1 level is not that hard to obtain (for most folks), we believe this task is accomplishable.
Portugal Citizenship By Descent – Great-Grandparents
But what if it’s not your grandparent who was Portuguese, but your great-grandparent?
Would that mean you no longer qualify for a Portuguese passport by descent?
Not necessarily. Let’s look at this hypothetical family tree:
Antonio — Portuguese great-great-grandfather (deceased)
Beatriz — great-grandmother (deceased)
Linda — grandmother (alive)
Oliver — father (alive)
Daniel — you
You are four generations removed from your Portuguese ancestor, but there is still a way for you to become Portuguese.
Here is how:
- Your grandmother, Linda, applies for citizenship as the grandchild of a Portuguese citizen, Antonio. According to the law, she has to prove ties to the Portuguese community as discussed above. As a result, she becomes a Portuguese citizen.
- Then, your father Oliver applies for Portuguese citizenship as a son of a Portuguese mother. Since he is not jumping any generations, he doesn’t even need to prove any essential ties. The process is much quicker for him, and pretty much automatic.
- Finally, it’s your turn. You apply for Portuguese citizenship as the son of Oliver, who is a Portuguese citizen now. There is no need for you to prove essential ties to Portugal either.
Congratulations, you are now a Portuguese citizen!
And you won’t need to renounce your other nationalities either, as Portugal allows dual citizenship.
Also, in the scenario above, if your father, Oliver, happens to pass away by now, you can still claim your citizenship, as long as your grandmother Linda is still alive (and is willing to go through the process herself).
In this case, both you and your grandmother Linda will need to prove ties to Portugal, as both of you will be “jumping” a generation.
And respectively, if your grandmother Linda passes away before going through the process herself, then you will not be able to claim your Portuguese citizenship either, as the required link will be broken.
Capitalize on your Sephardic Jewish heritage from Portugal…
In 1492, Spain gave Spanish Jews a very tough choice via the Alhambra Decree: Convert to Christianity, or leave the country forever.
About 120,000 Spanish Jews took the latter path, fleeing to nearby Portugal. There, they found a decent life… for about five years. Portugal then became just as brutal and ugly as Spain. The country, too, expelled Jews who didn’t convert to Christianity.
To compensate for this persecution 500 years ago, Portugal today allows those with Jewish lineage to qualify for citizenship.
As we reported a few years ago, Spain also offered citizenship to those who could trace their Jewish roots back to Spain. But since then, Spain has terminated this program.
For more information on the process, you can join Sovereign Confidential to access this Sovereign Confidential Alert from 2018. (Again, note that Spanish citizenship via this route is no longer available.)
Sovereign Confidential members, please note: If you need assistance in researching your Jewish ancestry or have questions, we can refer you to a vetted law firm that we’ve worked with before.
One final note: In November 2020, Portugal announced that its law of return would change. But to date, COVID has delayed these potential changes, and there is no indication of what rules will be altered. We’ll keep our members updated when any changes are published.
Benefit from being a member of the EU as a Portuguese citizen
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership between 27 European countries. As a member of the European Union, Portuguese citizens enjoy free movement throughout the bloc, as well as the right to live and work in any EU country.
Portuguese citizens also have access to free healthcare and education in the EU. In addition, they can vote in EU elections and stand for office. As a Portuguese citizen, you’ll be able to travel visa-free to over 190 countries around the world.
You’ll also have the right to consular protection from any Portuguese embassy or consulate when you’re abroad.
Why Choose to Live in Portugal?
From its stunning coastline to its picturesque towns and villages, Portugal is an ideal place to call home. It benefits from a Mediterranean climate, which means that it enjoys mild winters and sunny summers. It’s also conveniently located near other popular tourist destinations, such as Spain and France.
Portugal offers a great quality of life with a very reasonable cost of living. In fact, it is among the least expensive in all of Western Europe.
Lisbon, the capital, is especially popular with expats, offering a lively social scene, plenty of job opportunities, and good schools. If you’re looking for a slower pace of life, Portugal’s smaller towns and villages are also worth considering.
Safety is not too much of a concern in Portugal, with a very low crime rate. In fact, Portugal is often ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.
Other Routes to Portuguese Nationality and Residency
The best way to acquire Portuguese citizenship is through ancestry. However, not everyone has Portuguese family members in their history. If you are interested in obtaining Portuguese citizenship and don’t have any ancestors from the country, there are several other ways you can go about it.
Portuguese nationality law reforms were relaxed in 2006, and the Portuguese Nationality Act was amended to allow non-EU residents to request citizenship. The minimum residency requirement was also lowered from 6 years to 5 years.
The first step is to obtain a long-term residency visa, which allows you to live in Portugal for an extended period. This is typically through the Golden Visa program or similar initiatives.
Once you have your residency visa, you will need to live in Portugal for 5 years before applying for citizenship. You also don’t need to live in the country for five consecutive years. They can be five years cumulatively over 15 years. Typically a residence permit is required to calculate how long you’ve resided in Portugal.
You will need to demonstrate that you have integrated into Portuguese society during this time. You will be required to take a Portuguese language test and show a basic knowledge of Portuguese culture and society.
Other stipulations include being over 18 and having a clean criminal record in Portugal and your home country. If approved, you will be granted Portuguese citizenship and a passport.
Investing in Portugal ( Golden Visa)
The Golden Visa Portugal program was introduced in 2012 as a way to attract foreign investment and stimulate the country’s economy. The program grants a residence permit to individuals who make a qualifying investment in Portugal, such as purchasing property or starting a business.
If you are unable to obtain Portuguese dual citizenship through ancestry and have the money to invest, the Golden Visa route may be a viable option for you. The investment required under this program starts at € 280,000 for real estate purchases. You will also need to show proof of financial means to support yourself and your family, as well as a clean criminal record.
Qualifying investments include purchasing a property worth around €500,000 (this depends on the area where you are buying the property), investing in a business that creates at least ten new jobs, or making a financial investment of at least €1.5 million in a Portuguese bank account.
If you meet the requirements and are approved for the program, you will be granted a residence permit. This grants you access to the Schengen Area EU countries without having to have a visa. After five years of living in Portugal, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship.
One of the significant benefits of the Golden Visa is that you are only required to spend seven days in Portugal during the program’s first year. After that, you only need to spend two weeks in the country every two years to maintain your residency status.
The Portuguese government offers a D7 visa for remote or passive income earners such as retirees. To qualify, you must demonstrate that you have a reliable source of income that meets specific minimum requirements. This can include employment, retirement, investments, or other passive income sources outside Portugal.
Unlike the Golden visa, you don’t need significant investment to obtain a D7; a passive income of just €705 per month is required. The main downside to this visa is that it has a minimum stay requirement, meaning that you can’t be consecutively out of the country for more than six months.
The D7 is valid for two years, and after that, you can extend it for an extra three years. You can then choose to apply for Portuguese residency after five years.
The highly qualified activity (HQA) visa is a fairly new visa devised by the Portuguese government to attract investment to the country. The visa requires €175,000 to be invested in a government-approved start-up. Often described as a hybrid between the Golden visa and the D7, the HQA offers fast-track residency and flexible stay requirements.
After just six months, holders of the HQA visa can apply for Portuguese residency. And after five years, they can apply for citizenship. There is also no limit on the number of times you can renew the HQA visa, provided you maintain your investment in the approved start-up.
The Portugal D2 visa is a long-stay visa that allows foreign entrepreneurs to establish and run a business in Portugal. To be eligible for a D2 visa, applicants must have a business plan and sufficient financial resources to support themselves and their families during their stay in Portugal. There are no restrictions on the type of business you can set up in Portugal, but the idea must have enough viability to get approved.
Marriage to a Portuguese Citizen
If you are married to a Portuguese citizen or have been in a long-term stable relationship ( de facto union) with one for at least three years, you may be eligible to obtain Portuguese nationality. You will need to provide proof of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate or cohabitation agreement.
You’ll also need to show ties to Portugal and might be asked to show language proficiency. It is not essential that you have lived in Portugal, but it may strengthen your application.
Citizens of former Portuguese Territories
The Portuguese were one of the first European colonial powers, and at their height, they controlled a vast empire that spanned four continents. As a result, there are currently citizens of former Portuguese colonies all over the world.
These former Portuguese territories included Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Portuguese India and East Timor. Each of these countries has its own requirements to determine if someone is eligible for Portuguese citizenship.
Can I keep my original citizenship if I have a Portuguese passport?
Yes, you can absolutely keep your original citizenship if you become a Portuguese citizen. Portugal does not have any laws or regulations that require you to renounce your previous nationality in order to obtain Portuguese nationality.
Is it possible for my children to obtain Portuguese citizenship as well?
Yes, it is possible for your children to also acquire Portuguese citizenship through you. If at least one parent is a Portuguese citizen, then your children should be eligible for Portuguese citizenship and your spouse as well.
Do I need to reside in Portugal after becoming a citizen?
No, you are not required to reside in Portugal after becoming a citizen. However, if you are applying for citizenship through naturalization, you must have lived in Portugal for at least 6 years before you can apply.
How easy is it to claim Portuguese citizenship by descent?
It really depends on your individual circumstances. If you can easily document your Portuguese ancestry, then it should be a fairly straightforward process. However, if you have difficulty tracing your roots back to Portugal, then it may be more complicated. A birth certificate, marriage certificate, or death certificate may help establish your Portuguese ancestry.
The Bottom Line
Portuguese citizenship by descent is one way to acquire Portuguese nationality. If you have a parent or grandparent born in Portugal, you may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. There are a few requirements that must be met, but the process is generally straightforward. In addition, acquiring Portuguese citizenship through ancestry typically allows you to keep your current citizenship and enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship.
The most significant benefit of Portuguese citizenship is the ability to live and work freely in Portugal and other countries within the European Union.
Residency and citizenship opportunities programs undergo changes — and tend to become more restrictive — all the time, so don’t delay applying if you do qualify today.
Our recent 74-page Black Paper on the Citizenship By Ancestry Programs of Southern Europe and the Balkans covers Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania.
So if you’re looking for reliable, step-by-step guidance on obtaining a second passport in any of these countries, Sovereign Confidential is just the resource for you.
Yours in Freedom,
Team Sovereign Man
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