Portuguese nationality law
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|Portuguese Citizenship Act|
|Parliament of Portugal|
|Enacted by||Government of Portugal|
|Status: Current legislation|
Portuguese nationality law is the legal set of rules that regulate access to Portuguese citizenship, which is acquired mainly through descent from a Portuguese parent, naturalisation in Portugal or marriage to a Portuguese citizen.
In some cases, children born in Portugal to non-citizens may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. However this does not apply to children born to tourists or short-term visitors. Portuguese citizenship law is complicated by the existence of numerous former colonies and in some cases it is possible to claim Portuguese citizenship by connection with one of these jurisdictions. The most notable of these are Portuguese India (annexed by India in 1961), East Timor and Macau.
The 1981 Portuguese nationality law, is based on the principle of jus sanguinis, while the previous law of 1959 was based on the principle of jus soli. This shift occurred in 1975 and 1981, thus basically making it difficult to access naturalization not only to first generation migrants, but also to their children and grandchildren. In 2006, was this situation slightly changed, but still stressing jus sanguinis.
In 2012, Portugal created the Golden Visa Program, which provides a way for non-EU residents to gain residency through property investment or job creation.
Portuguese by origin
Portuguese by origin are:
- The children of a Portuguese mother or father born in Portuguese territory
- The children of a Portuguese mother or father born abroad if the Portuguese parent is there serving the Portuguese State;
- The children of a Portuguese mother or father born abroad if they have their birth registered at the Portuguese civil registry or if they declare that they want to be Portuguese;
- The persons born in Portuguese territory to foreign parents if at least one of the parents was also born in Portugal and resides here, irrespective of title, at the time of birth;
- The persons born in Portuguese territory to foreign parents who are not serving their respective State, if they declare that they want to be Portuguese and provided that one of the parents has legally resided in Portugal for at least two years at the time of the request (There is no age limit for the registration or declaration and it is retroactive to the time of birth. This right is extensive to the next generation only if the previous one completed it before death. No generations can be skipped);
- The persons born in Portuguese territory who do not possess another nationality.
- Persons born abroad with, at least, one Portuguese ascendant in the second degree (grandparent) of the direct line who has not lost this citizenship.
Naturalisation as a Portuguese citizen
A person aged 18 or over may be naturalised as a Portuguese citizen after 6 years legal residence. There is a requirement to have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language and effective links to the national community. Children aged under 18 may acquire Portuguese citizenship by declaration when a parent is naturalised, and future children of such Portuguese nationals will be considered Portuguese citizens by birth. A naturalised Portuguese citizen only starts to be considered Portuguese once the naturalisation process is done. Therefore, nationality acquired through naturalisation is not transmitted to any possible descendants already adult by the time their parents' naturalisation process is finished.
From 2006 until 2015, a person whose grandparent did not lose Portuguese citizenship was exempt from the residence requirement when applying for naturalisation.
As of 29 July 2015, those born outside Portugal who have at least one grandparent of Portuguese nationality, are granted Portuguese citizenship by extension immediately. The new registration procedure replaces the current provision of Article 6, no. 4—according to which a person who was born abroad and is a 2nd generation descendant of a citizen who has not lost his or her citizenship can acquire Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation, without a residence requirement. The amendment still needs to be signed by the President before entering into law.[needs update]
Portuguese citizenship by adoption
A child adopted by a Portuguese citizen acquires Portuguese citizenship. The child should be under 18.
Portuguese citizenship by marriage
A person married to a Portuguese citizen for at least five years may be able to acquire Portuguese citizenship by declaration. No formal residence period in Portugal is necessary however sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language and effective ties with the Portuguese community are required.
Jewish Law of Return
An amendment to Portugal's 'Law on Nationality' allows descendants of Portuguese Jews who were expelled in the Portuguese Inquisition to become citizens if they 'belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin with ties to Portugal.'
The Portuguese parliament passed legislation facilitating the naturalization of descendants of 16th-century Jews who fled because of religious persecution. On that day Portugal became the only country besides Israel enforcing a Jewish Law of Return. Two years later, Spain adopted a similar measure.
The motion, which was submitted by the Socialist and Center Right parties, was read on Thursday 11 April 2013 in parliament and approved unanimously on Friday 12 April 2013 as an amendment to Portugal's "Law on Nationality" (Decree-Law n.º 43/2013). Portuguese nationality law was further amended to this effect by Decree-Law n.º 30-A/2015, which came into effect on 1 March 2015.
The amended law allows descendants of Jews who were expelled in the 16th century to become citizens if they "belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin with ties to Portugal," according to José Oulman Carp, president of Lisbon's Jewish community. The website of the World Jewish Congress says that the Jewish Community of Lisbon is the organization that unites local communal groups of Lisbon and its environs, while the Jewish Community of Oporto is the organization that unites local communal groups of Oporto.
Applicants must be able to prove Sephardic surnames in their family tree. Another factor is "the language spoken at home," a reference which also applies to Ladino (Judeo-Portuguese and/or Judeo-Spanish). Furthermore, applicants must be able to prove an "emotional and traditional connection with the former Portuguese Sephardic Community," commonly established through a letter from an orthodox rabbi confirming Jewish heritage. The amendment also says applicants need not reside in Portugal, an exception to the requirement of six years of consecutive residency in Portugal for any applicant for citizenship.
From 2015 several hundred Turkish Jews who were able to prove Sephardi ancestry have immigrated to Portugal and acquired citizenship. Nearly 1,800 descendants of Sephardic Jews acquired Portuguese nationality in 2017. By February 2018, 12,000 applications were in process, and 1,800 applicants had been granted Portuguese citizenship in 2017. By July 2019 there had been about 33,000 applications, of which about a third had already been granted after a long process of verification. As of 2020, Portugal has granted citizenship to about 23,000 people, about 30% of the roughly 76,000 applications submitted since 2015.
Portugal allows dual citizenship. Hence, Portuguese citizens holding or acquiring a foreign citizenship do not lose Portuguese citizenship. Similarly, those becoming Portuguese citizens do not have to renounce their foreign citizenship.
Citizenship of the European Union
Because Portugal forms part of the European Union, Portuguese citizens are also citizens of the European Union under European Union law and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament. When in a non-EU country where there is no Portuguese embassy, Portuguese citizens have the right to get consular protection from the embassy of any other EU country present in that country. Portuguese citizens can live and work in any country within the EU as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty.
Former territories of Portugal
Special rules exist concerning the acquisition of Portuguese citizenship through connections with Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Portuguese India, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Macau and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Portugal enacted Decree-Law 308-A/75 of 24 June 1974 to address the issue of losing or retaining Portuguese citizenship by those who had been born or were living in the Portuguese overseas territories which had gained independence. It was assumed that these persons would acquire the citizenship of the new state. The Decree-Law thus merely stipulated that Portuguese citizenship would be retained by those persons who had not been born overseas but were living there. In addition were those who, despite having been born in the territory of the colonies, had maintained a special connection with mainland Portugal by having been long-term residents there. All those not covered by one of the situations which enabled them to keep Portuguese citizenship would lose it ex lege.
On 19 December 1961 India annexed the territory by military force. The annexation was not recognised by Portugal until 1975, at which time Portugal re-established diplomatic relations with India. The recognition of Indian sovereignty over Portuguese India was backdated to 19 December 1961.
Portuguese nationality law allows those who were Portuguese citizens connected with Portuguese India before 1961 to retain Portuguese nationality. Acquisition of Indian citizenship was determined to be non-voluntary at the time.
One practical obstacle is that the civil records of Portuguese India were abandoned by Portugal during the invasion and hence it can be difficult for descendants of pre-1961 Portuguese citizens from Portuguese India to prove their status.
East Timor was a territory of Portugal (Portuguese Timor) until its invasion by Indonesia in 1975, followed by annexation in 1976. Indonesian citizenship was conferred by Indonesia; however, while the Indonesian annexation was recognised by Australia and some other countries, Portugal did not recognise Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. As a result, Decree-Law 308-A/75 of 24 June 1974 was not enforced to revoke the Timorese of their Portuguese nationality.
The question of whether East Timorese were entitled to Portuguese citizenship was raised on numerous occasions in the Australian courts in the context of applications for refugee status in Australia by East Timorese. The Australian immigration authorities argued that if East Timorese were Portuguese citizens, they should be expected to seek protection there and not in Australia.
In 1999, East Timor no longer remained a territory under Portuguese administration, which meant that children born in East Timor from then on were to be considered born abroad. Under Law 37/81, the attribution of Portuguese citizenship by origin to persons born in East Timor to a Portuguese parent is now dependent upon registration at the Portuguese civil registry or, alternatively, upon declaration of the will to be Portuguese.
Owing to the lack of employment opportunities in their country and the becoming a member of Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, many East Timorese have taken advantage of Portuguese citizenship to live and work in Portugal and other EU countries.
The former Portuguese territory of Macau became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China on 20 December 1999.
Portugal had extended its nationality laws to Macau with those born before 1981 acquiring nationality by jus soli and by jus sanguinis after 1981. Many residents of Macau (either of Chinese & Portuguese descent) hold Portuguese citizenship on this basis. It is no longer possible to acquire Portuguese citizenship by connection with Macau before 3 October 1981 and after 20 December 1999 transfer of sovereignty to China, except by birth or association with the territory previous to that date.
However, those born after 20 December 1999 to Portuguese from Macau or Macanese that hold Portuguese citizenship, and/or to Chinese who hold Portuguese citizenship, are eligible to the citizenship themselves due to the Portuguese heritage law (Jus Sanguinis), except when born to Chinese and/or Portuguese parents who possess Chinese citizenship after 20 December 1999 or when Chinese and/or Portuguese couple with Portuguese citizenship renounced their nationality by naturalization after 20 December 1999.
Rights and obligations of Portuguese citizens
All Portuguese citizens are:
- able to vote in political elections upon reaching the age of 18.
- able to run for political office.
- able to vote in referendums.
- able to obtain a Portuguese passport.
- prevented from getting deported from Portugal.
As Portuguese citizens are also European citizens, their rights include:
- the right to live, work and retire in any member state of the European Union, for unlimited period.
- the right to vote in local and European elections in other members states.
- the right to stand in local and European elections in other members states.
- the right to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of other member states when in a non-member state, if there are no diplomatic or consular authorities from the citizen's own state.
More information: Citizenship of the European Union
Travel freedom of Portuguese citizens
Visa requirements for Portuguese citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Portugal. As of February 2018, Portuguese citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 186 countries and territories, ranking the Portuguese passport 4th in terms of travel freedom (tied with American, Austrian, British, Dutch, Luxembourgian, and Norwegian passports) according to the Henley Passport Index.
The Portuguese nationality is ranked twelfth in Nationality Index (QNI). In addition to external factors including travel freedom, the QNI considers internal factors such as peace and stability, economic strength, and human development.
As of May 2015, under the newly approved Portuguese Nationality Act (Article 1, n.1, paragraph d) persons born abroad with, at least, one Portuguese ascendant in the second degree of the direct line who has not lost this citizenship, are Portuguese by origin, provided that they declare that they want to be Portuguese, that they have effective ties with the national community and, once these requirements are met, that are only required to register their birth in any Portuguese civil registry.
In Portuguese nationality law occurred in 2006 based on the proposals of deputy Neves Moreira, member of the Democratic Social Party (PSD). Due to these changes, a foreign-born person whose grandparent never lost Portuguese citizenship is now able to request naturalisation without the need to document 6 years residence in Portugal.
Because nationality acquired through naturalisation is not the same as nationality acquired through descent, members of the PSD proposed in 2009 another change in the law. This proposal would have given nationality by origin (descent) rather than by naturalisation to the grandchildren of Portuguese citizens but it was rejected. In 2013, members of the PSD tried to pass a similar measure again but due to the political and economic crisis that engulfed the country, no vote was ever taken on the measure.
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- Portuguese Immigration Office (Serviço de Estangeiros e Fronteiras – SEF)
- Portuguese Citizenship Act (unofficial)
- Portuguese Citizenship Application (in Portuguese)
- Portuguese nationality law (unofficial)
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