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The 7 changes in the Portuguese Nationality Law

4 de August, 2018

The 7 changes in the Portuguese Nationality Law

Reading: 7 min

In June 2018, the Portuguese Nationality Law underwent new and important changes, which resulted in the flexibility of some rules previously in force and in the expansion of the chances of obtaining the original and derived Portuguese nationality.

Below we list the seven main changes in the Portuguese Nationality Law, in a didactic and summarized form. It is worth checking if you or your family do not benefit from these legal changes to obtain Portuguese citizenship even more simply and quickly.

1. Attribution of Citizenship (Original) for Children of Foreigners Born in Portugal

How It Was Before

Previously, individuals born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners who were not in the service of the respective State, in order to obtain Portuguese citizenship in an original way (attribution), needed to file a case with a Portuguese Conservatory, where they had to declare their will to be Portuguese. In this sense, citizenship was granted provided that, at the time of birth, one of his parents had been legally resident in Portugal for at least five years.

What Changed

The procedure has been reversed and the main requirement has become less demanding.

Now, the obtaining of Portuguese nationality is automatic, and it is enough that one of the parents presents his identification document before the registry for the child to obtain citizenship, without the need for a declaration in this sense and instruction of process as it occurred until then.

As for the time requirement, the number of years of legal residence of the parents has decreased: it is enough that one of the foreign parents has resided in Portugal for at least two years before the request, legally, for it to be possible to apply for the original citizenship.

It is important to point out that the original citizenship, or by attribution, is the one that produces effects from birth and that guarantees full rights to its holder. For example, it allows you to pass on your citizenship to your descendants, whether they are adults or minors.

In turn, naturalization, which will be seen below, is a derivative form of obtaining citizenship, with some restrictions, such as the transmission of citizenship to adult children or the impediment of candidacy for positions as President of the Republic.

2. Naturalization of Minors, Children of Foreigners, Born in Portugal

How It Was Before

Under the previous regime, the Portuguese Government could grant derived Portuguese citizenship (acquisition – naturalization) to minors born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners, provided that they had knowledge of the Portuguese language, had not been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison sentence of a maximum of 3 years or more, and provided that, at the time of application, one of the following conditions was met:

  1. one of the parents had been legally resident in Portugal for more than five years in Portugal; or
  2. That the minor had completed primary education in Portugal.

What Changed

The most significant changes occurred in the above-mentioned requirements 1) and 2), which continue to be required at the time of application for citizenship, but are now easier to achieve.

In the first case, the acquisition of citizenship does not depend on the legal residence of the parents. In other words, even the children of illegal immigrants may acquire Portuguese citizenship, provided that, at the time of the request, one of the parents has been legally or illegally resident in Portugal for at least five years.

In the second case, the minor may acquire citizenship if he or she has completed at least one cycle of primary or secondary education in Portugal. Which means the odds have been widened.

3. Naturalization of Major Children, Children of Foreigners, Born in Portugal

How It Was Before

Previously, the Portuguese Government could grant derived Portuguese citizenship (acquisition – naturalization) to individuals born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners, who have habitually stayed here for the 10 years immediately prior to the application, even if illegally.

What Changed

The length of residence required to obtain citizenship has been halved.

In other words, now individuals born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners who have resided in Portugal at the time of their birth, for at least five years, legally or illegally, may acquire Portuguese citizenship through naturalisation.

4. Naturalization by Time of Legal Residence

How It Was Before

The classic hypothesis of naturalization was that the Portuguese Government granted Portuguese citizenship (derived) to foreigners who met the following cumulative requirements:

  1. To be greater than or emancipated from Portuguese law;
  2. Have been legally resident for at least 6 years in Portugal;
  3. Have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language;
  4. Not to have been convicted of a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of imprisonment of three years or more, in accordance with Portuguese law, by a final and unappealable sentence;
  5. do not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defence.

What Changed

This hypothesis is still valid, however some of its requirements have become more beneficial to the applicants, especially the reduction of the time of legal residence necessary for the application: from six years now to only five years of legal residence.

5. Naturalization by ancestry

How It Was Before

There was no legal provision for the acquisition of Portuguese nationality due to ascendance. In other words, parents or grandparents could not acquire citizenship if they had Portuguese children or grandchildren.

What Changed

In an innovative way, the Government may now grant citizenship to the ascendants of Portuguese citizens who originate (who acquire by attribution), as long as they have been legally or illegally resident in Portugal for at least five years immediately prior to the application and as long as the ancestry was established at the time of the birth of the Portuguese citizen.

6. Opposition to Spouse and Partner Citizenship

How It Was Before

According to the Nationality Law, in any of the hypotheses of acquisition of citizenship by marriage or stable union, the inexistence of an effective connection to the Portuguese national community constituted grounds for opposition to the acquisition of nationality by the Public Prosecution Service.

However, the Regulation of the Law of Nationality provides that the said connection shall be presumed when the applicant, among other circumstances, is a national of a Portuguese-speaking country and there are children, Portuguese of origin, of the marriage or stable union on which the declaration is based. That is, in this case, there would be no reason to oppose the acquisition of nationality by spouse or partner.

What Changed

The Nationality Law itself now states that the opposition to the acquisition of nationality, due to the inexistence of an effective link to Portugal, does not apply to situations of acquisition of nationality in the event of marriage or stable union when there are joint children of the couple with Portuguese nationality.

In other words, the Law ends up broadening the scope of the presumption of ties already provided for in the Portuguese Nationality Regulation, making it applicable also to the applicant who is not a native of a Portuguese-speaking country and even if the child of the couple does not have original citizenship, but rather derived.

7. Counting of Legal Residence Deadlines

How It Was Before

There was no specific legal provision for counting the time of legal residence. Thus, for the purpose of applying for citizenship, time was counted through the sum of visas, residence permits and other legal titles obtained successively by the applicant in Portugal.

What Changed

In an innovative way, the Law foresees that for the purposes of counting the periods of legal residence foreseen, the sum of all the periods of legal residence in the national territory, followed or interpolated, provided that they have elapsed in a maximum interval of 15 years.

For example, imagine that you were legally resident in Portugal for 3 years, having returned to Brazil in 2010. In the meantime, you decide to return to Portugal in 2016, where you will be legally resident for another two years. Adding up both periods, you have completed the 5 years to which Portuguese Law now refers, and you can apply for Portuguese nationality by naturalization. Pretty cool, huh?

But be aware that the maximum counting interval cannot exceed 15 years. In the example above, if it returned to Portugal after more than 15 years, the counting period restarts.

Final Considerations

In general, it is perceived that these changes bring with them the expansion and facilitation of the chances of obtaining Portuguese citizenship, with emphasis on the extended protection of illegal immigrants, long-term residents in Portugal.

There are also some other changes that we have not listed above, so we advise you to read the complete and updated Nationality Law and always directed to the specific case.

Article published on the Euro Tips website: https://www.eurodicas.com.br/alteracoes-lei-da-nacionalidade-portuguesa/

Author: Roberta Fraser
Citizenship & Immigration

*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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