Portuguese Citizenship by Residency: New Rules

28 de February, 2024

Portuguese Citizenship by Residency: New Rules

Portuguese Citizenship by time of Residency is possible after legally residing in the country for a period of 5 years.
Reading: 7 min

A Portuguese citizenship based on residency time offers a valuable opportunity for those who wish to become Portuguese citizens but do not have ancestors to transmit them that nationality. In this article, we will explore in detail the portuguese citizenship by residency modality, highlighting its requirements and associated benefits, as well as addressing recent changes to Article 15 of the Citizenship Law that have facilitated the naturalization of foreigners in Portugal.

Update: New Rule for Portuguese Citizenship by Residence Time en 2024 | Time Counting

On March 5, 2024, a new amendment to the Nationality Law (in effect on April 1, 2024) was published, benefiting many foreigners living in the country and awaiting their residency permit (AR). This change concerns the counting method of the time required to apply for Portuguese citizenship.

The law stipulates that it is necessary to legally reside in Portugal for 5 years before initiating the citizenship process. Previously, this time was only counted after the issuance of the residency authorization (AR). However, for some, obtaining the AR took months, even years! And this time was not recognized by the government. This particularly affected immigrants who arrived as tourists and expressed interest in living in the country, as well as workers facing delays due to errors from their employers or the SEF.

With the new law, the general expectation was that the waiting period and the progress of the AR issuance process would also be fully considered as valid residence time for citizenship applications. However, attention should be paid: as soon as the law was finally published in the Official Gazette, a new question arose.

The legislation does not specify whether the deadline will effectively be counted from the expression of interest or from the interview at SEF.

Many lawyers are interpreting that the deadline would start counting from the moment of the SEF interview, as it is at that moment that temporary residence is effectively requested. However, it will be necessary to wait for the amendment to the Nationality Law regulation to obtain a definitive confirmation of this interpretation. Meanwhile, it will be important to follow the interpretation adopted by the Civil Registries.

Requirements for portuguese citizenship by residency, including living in Portugal for 5 years.

How many years of residence do you need to have Portuguese nationality?

In Portugal, you must have lived in the country for a period of 5 years.

According to the new law, the counting of time will start from the request for the residence permit.

For those entering the country with a residence visa, it is possible that the counting may begin earlier, on the date the visa becomes effective.

How to request time counting at SEF online?

If you have any doubts about counting in your particular case, you can ask SEF/AIMA for clarification. Fill in this form and take it to SEF and request a certificate of length of residence in Portugal.

Keep your Residence Permit renewed at all times! Don’t let your permit expire so you don’t miss out on the legal residency period!

Do you want to live in Europe?

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How do I obtain Portuguese citizenship by length of residence?

To live in Portugal legally, you need to enter the country with a residence visa or to express interest with the authorities. There are different types of visa, aimed at different people. The most popular visas are: retirement visa, remote worker visa and student visa. This is the recommended route for those wishing to live in Portugal.

After obtaining a residence permit to live in Portugal, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Residence for 5 years in Portugal;
  • Be over 18;
  • Knowledge of basic Portuguese (A2 level);
  • Have a clean criminal record (you cannot have been convicted of a crime that in Portugal is punishable by a prison sentence of 3 years or more or be involved in terrorism-related activities).

What is the difference between Residence Permit and Expression of Interest?

What is a Residence Permit in Portugal?

The residence permit in Portugal is the permission to reside regularly in the country, differentiating from visas, such as work or study, which can be requested still in the country of origin, at the Consulate.

Upon arriving in Portugal with the visa, the interested party must request the residence permit, also known as a residence permit, to the Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (Aima), which has representations in different locations.

What is an Expression of Interest in Portugal?

And since we talked about citizenship by residence, many may wonder: what is the difference between the expression of interest and the residence permit? The names already say everything. One is a request. The other is the granting of the right.

An expression of interest (manifestação de interesse) in Portugal refers to the act of formally expressing the desire to stay in the country, made by foreigners, including those who entered illegally. Before obtaining the Residence Authorization (AR), some immigrants may face considerable waiting periods, of years, due to delays in the processes of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF). The expression of interest does not allow the interested party to leave the country, under penalty of invalidating the request.

How long can I stay out of the country without losing my entitlement?

Once you have acquired your residence permit, you may not leave the country for more than 6 consecutive months or 8 interpolated months. If you do, you may lose the right to maintain your residency status.

And another detail: it is possible to aggregate different intervals of legal residence in the country, so that this sum reaches the required 5 years, as long as all the periods are contained within a 15-year period.

Proof of residence for citizenship applications

To qualify for Portuguese nationality on the basis of length of residence, as with citizenship by marriage,  the applicant must have communication skills in the local language .

The level of Portuguese required is basic (A2). After 5 years living in the country, the applicant will most likely be able to communicate minimally in the local language. See all the details about the required to apply for citizenship.

Candidates from countries where Portuguese is the official language (CPLP), such as Brazil, are exempt from the language proficiency test.

Where can I apply for nationality by length of residence?

You can apply for Portuguese citizenship by length of residence at the following locations locations :

  • Online, through a lawyer;
  • Civil Registry Offices
  • At a Nationality Desk
  • At the Central Registry Office in Lisbon
  • At the Consular Posts of Portugal, if you live outside the country

Documents required to apply for citizenship by residence?

The following documents are required to apply for nationality by length of residence:

  • Application completed and signed at the time of application;
  • Birth certificate:
    • if possible, a full copy issued by photocopy;
    • legalized (if the certificate is foreign, it must be legalized with an apostille or visa from the Portuguese consulate);
    • if the certificate is not in Portuguese, you must also bring the certificate translated into Portuguese and certified
  • Criminal record certificate from the countries where you have lived (translated);
  • Valid passport and residence permit;
  • Document proving knowledge of the Portuguese language:
    • certificate from a Portuguese public, private or cooperative educational establishment;
    • a certificate for passing the Portuguese language test.

How much does it cost to apply for nationality by length of residence in Portugal?

Applying for Portuguese nationality costs 250 euros. You should also take into account the costs of collecting the documentation, sworn translations and apostilles.

How long does it take to get a residence permit in Portugal?

Although it is very difficult to predict exactly what the waiting time will be, the General Registry Office says that processes can take between 24 and 29 months to complete.

Can I lose my original citizenship when I obtain Portuguese citizenship for length of residence?

Adopting Portuguese citizenship does not necessarily mean losing your original citizenship. Portuguese law allows citizens to have more than one nationality.

However, it is important to check the laws of your country of origin regarding dual citizenship.  Some nations may have regulations that could result in you losing your citizenship if you acquire another one. It is important to check the citizenship laws of your home country to make sure there are no conflicts.

In the case of Brazil, since September 2023 the Brazilian Federal Constitution has allowed dual citizenship in the country. in the country.

Get a citizen’s card and passport

At the end of the process of obtaining citizenship by length of residence, you will receive a letter at home confirming that your nationality has been granted. It will contain your Portuguese birth certificate number.

With this number in hand, you can apply for your Portuguese birth certificate at the Civil Registry. You can also go on to apply for other documents, such as the citizen’s card and passport.

The citizen’s card can be requested at Lojas do Cidadão (Citizen’s Shops) or at a service counter of the Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado (IRN). The card costs 18€ and is valid for 5 years for people under 25 and 10 years for people over 25.

Once you have obtained your citizen’s card, you can also apply for a Portuguese passport. You can apply for this at the Conservatoria, Lojas do Cidadão, Lojas do Passaporte (at Lisbon airport and Porto airport) or at the Portuguese Consulates. The passport is valid for 5 years, costs 65€ and is usually delivered within 5 working days.

Atlantic Bridge is ready to support you in obtaining your Portuguese citizenship, whatever the modality. Our experienced specialists are ready to provide personalized guidance and comprehensive support. Visit our website for more information.

Apply for your portuguese citizenship with support of an expert!



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