How to Legally Reside in Portugal: Portuguese Nationality or Residency Visa? What are the Differences?

1 de February, 2019

How to Legally Reside in Portugal: Portuguese Nationality or Residency Visa? What are the Differences?

Reading: 7 min

These are some of the questions that people who want to live in Portugal ask the specialists at their first consultation. Most of the time, they contact us after some researches made on the Internet about the subject and they are faced with a large amount of information available, often contradictory and confusing, being, in that measure, without knowing for sure which is the best strategy to reside for Portugal.

In addition to this first contact with the subject on the Internet, the experiences of friends and acquaintances who give their advice and recommendations (personal or legal) are also often added, causing these experiences to be shared, as each case is a case and the most advisable for one person or people or companies may not be exactly the most convenient for others.

Thus, the first legal consultation with specialists in nationality and visas for Portugal is a moment where several clarifications are made that seem to be decisive for the definition of the best project for that person or company that comes to reside or establish itself in Portugal. See also I want to apply for my Portuguese Nationality: do I need to hire a legal advisor?

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How to legally reside in Portugal?

First of all, it is important to realize what the purpose of the person, or the family, is, trying to get answers to some preliminary questions, such as:

  • What’s your family situation?
  • If you have Portuguese ancestors;
  • What’s your level of education?
  • If and when you live in Portugal;
  • If you have a defined deadline to come and live in Portugal;
  • If you come to Portugal, what are your personal or professional goals:
    • within personal goals: e.g. improving your quality of life, in relation to public safety or living in a European Union country to travel and have other experiences;
      • within professional objectives: for example, if you want to start up in Portugal, work as an employee or study.
  • What is the average waiting time for the completion of your process?

After answering these and many other questions, it is possible to suggest the best or best solutions for your case. In this phase, the paths for the realization of the dream of the Brazil-Portugal transition project, via Nationality or Residence Visa, begin to be designed.

How to apply for Portuguese Nationality?

First, it is crucial to assess the feasibility of applying for nationality in the specific case of each person, seeking to understand whether the person fulfils the requirements that the law requires for the Attribution or, on the other hand, for the Acquisition of Portuguese nationality. See also Portuguese Citizenship, who has the right and how to acquire it.

In our experience, the two most recurrent groups of cases are those in which the interested party is residing in Brazil and has Portuguese ancestors, i.e., is a child of a Portuguese national or is a grandson of a Portuguese national and, in what concerns the acquisition of nationality, the cases in which the interested party is married or maintains a stable union with a Portuguese national, or those other cases in which the foreigners have been legally residing in Portugal for at least five years.

The cases of children of Portuguese nationals are mostly viable, however the cases of grandchildren of Portuguese nationals are more complicated because there are additional requirements in relation to those that are required for the application for the attribution of nationality for children of Portuguese nationals. One of the additional requirements is, precisely, the need for the grandson of a Portuguese national to have to instruct his or her process of attribution of Portuguese nationality with the greatest number of effective links that prove his or her connection to the Portuguese national community. For this reason, there is a high probability that this type of process will be denied. Learn more in Changes in Portuguese Nationality Law for grandchildren

One of the main advantages of a successful application for Portuguese nationality by a child or grandchild is the fact that it can pass on its Portuguese nationality to subsequent generations, even with children who are already of full age.

With regard to applications for nationality by acquisition, the most recurrent cases we have received are cases of marriage and stable union, in which one of the spouses/convivors is a Portuguese national and the other is a foreign national. In both cases, one of the fundamental requirements is that couples must have been married or united for more than three years when they enter the Portuguese nationality process in the event of marriage or stable union, and there are other requirements that must also be met. Learn more in Portuguese Citizenship for spouses and partners (without legalese)

Still within the hypotheses of acquisition of Portuguese nationality is the case of citizens of foreign nationality who have been legally residing in Portugal for at least five years, and may therefore enter their Portuguese nationality process by acquisition and naturalization due to the legal time of residence being fulfilled.

Can I apply for a residence visa?

A very interesting alternative for those who do not meet the requirements to acquire Portuguese citizenship is the search for a residence visa that enables them to live in Portugal legally.

In this context, there are several proposals that Portuguese law grants to citizens of foreign nationality who have chosen Portugal as their host country.

Depending on the personal and professional objectives of the interested party, there are several visa options for obtaining a residence permit, such as:

  • A residence visa for entrepreneurial immigrants or for self-employment;
    • Oriented for entrepreneurs who want to open their business in Portugal or for self-employed professionals who want to exercise their activity in Portugal. Learn more about D2 Portugal Visa
  • Golden Visa or Residence Permit for Investment.
    • Generally requested for people interested in investing in the Portuguese real estate market, with the acquisition of real estate above 500 thousand euros or 350 thousand euros for real estate to be restored. See also Golden Visa Portugal, how it works.
  • Residence visa for highly qualified activity carried out by a subordinated worker;
    • Aimed at professionals who wish to sign an employment contract with a Portuguese company, focusing on management positions or more specialized higher education professionals. Read more D3 Visa for IT Professionals.
  • Residence permit for the exercise of a subordinate professional activity;
    • Designed for professionals who want to sign an employment contract with a Portuguese company.
  • Highly qualified or cultural residence permit for teaching activity;
    • Requested by teachers or researchers who wish to practice their profession or research at a higher education institution in Portugal.
  • Residence permit for research, study, pupil exchange, internship and voluntary service.
    • Frequently required for students who wish to pursue a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in Portugal.

As a rule, this route to live in Portugal is made in two successive moments:

  1. Entry to the visa application at the Consulate or Embassy of Portugal in Brazil.

    You must submit all the documentation required for the chosen visa application to the Consulate or Embassy of Portugal in Brazil, which will assess and evaluate the documentation attached by the Applicant, notify this for the scheduling of a personal interview. If this process is successful, the competent body will grant the application and the respective visa will be affixed to the applicant’s passport.

  2. Conversion of the visa into the respective residence permit issued by the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) in Portugal.

    Once you are already in Portugal, you must submit the necessary documentation to the SEF to apply for the “conversion” of the visa into a Residence Permit. If the additional documentation attached is all correct, as required by the Portuguese Government, the applicant’s application for a residence permit is granted, and a residence card is then issued for an initial period of one year from the date of issue of the residence card and is renewable for successive periods of two years, until five years have elapsed.

Main Differences between Citizenship and Visa

Although both ways allow legal residence in Portugal, the rights of those who acquire Portuguese citizenship are different from the prerogatives of holders of a visa or residence permit for Portugal.

In short, Portuguese citizenship is permanent and guarantees all the rights inherent to a Portuguese national, including the right to vote, transit and reside in any country of the European Union. In practice, the holder will have a citizen card and a Portuguese passport.

In turn, a visa/residence permit entitles the holder to reside temporarily in Portugal, even if it is renewable and provided that it continues to meet the objectives set out in the visa (study, work, investment, etc.). Its holder also has a number of rights, however in a more limited perspective than a Portuguese national, and he is not allowed to reside in another European Union country, but only in Portugal.

However, after 5 years of legal residence, it is possible for the holder to apply for Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation through a visa/residence permit.

We hope this article has been enlightening and enriching, if you still have any questions, please contact us.

Article published on the Euro Tips website.

Want to Live in Portugal? Click Here To Contact Us >

Author: Filomena Maurício

Legal Advisor

*The information contained in this Article shall be provided in a general and abstract manner and shall not replace consultation and qualified professional assistance addressed to the specific case. The content of this article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the express permission of the author.



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