Portuguese Language Test for Citizenship

20 de September, 2022

Portuguese Language Test for Citizenship

Learn all about the Portuguese language test for Portuguese citizenship: who needs to take it, where, how it is, and how much it costs.
Reading: 8 min

In the global world we live in today, having dual citizenship is the desire of many people. And with more people living in different places throughout their lives, and more intercultural marriages, this desire is becoming a trend. However, for many applicants, acquiring a new nationality requires learning a new language, and this can seem challenging. In Portugal, knowledge of the language is a requirement for several cases of obtaining citizenship, either by inheritance or by naturalization. But is this a barrier? How does the Portuguese language test work for acquiring Portuguese citizenship?

In this article we will clarify which candidates actually need to present this proof, how the assessment is made and what the associated costs are. What’s more, we will show you that learning Portuguese and obtaining a language proficiency certificate can be simpler than you think!

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Is it necessary to speak Portuguese to obtain Portuguese citizenship?

In general, yes. The Government of Portugal expects all its citizens to have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language. However, proof of language proficiency is waived in many cases where it is assumed that the applicant is already fluent in the language.

Who is required to prove knowledge of the Portuguese language?

  • Grandchildren of Portuguese nationals;
  • Spouses of Portuguese nationals with less than 6 years of marriage;
  • Applicants for naturalization by residence time;

In the last case mentioned are the holders of Golden Visa and their family members.

ALSO READ: Portuguese great-grandchild is entitled to Portuguese citizenship?

Who is exempt from the Portuguese test?

Nationals of countries whose native language is Portuguese do not need to prove knowledge of the language, which is presumed. Those are also exempt:

  • Children of Portuguese nationals;
  • Spouses of Portuguese nationals, with 6 or more years of proven marriage;
  • Descendants of Sephardic Jews;

There are other, less common cases in which proof of Portuguese language knowledge is not required. For example, people who have had Portuguese nationality and, having lost it, have never acquired another nationality.

What is the level of Portuguese required to apply for Portuguese citizenship?

According to the legislation in force, level A2 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is the minimum level required to obtain Portuguese nationality. It is a basic level, but sufficient to interact in certain common communication situations in our daily lives.

To apply for nationality, it is necessary to present a certificate of proficiency in the Portuguese language, and there are two options, the CIPLE and the PAN. The PAN is done by computer, and the CIPLE is done on paper.

What is CIPLE:

CIPLE is the acronym for Certificado Inicial Português Língua Estrangeira, which corresponds precisely to level A2 of the CAPLE. The CAPLE is the Centro de Avaliação e Certificação de Português Língua Estrangeira, a unit of the Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa that administers the certification of language proficiency.

The CAPLE exams are administered in more than 100 institutions around the world, in locations identified as LAPE (Local Application and Promotion Places for Examinations).

CIPLE is the most popular and well-known certificate among the two mentioned above.

What is the CIPLE exam like?

This test is paper-based, and is composed of 3 parts:

1 – Reading comprehension and written production, lasting 1h30, and a percentage of 45% of the total weight of the grade;

2 – Reading comprehension, with a duration of 30 minutes, and a percentage of 30% of the total marks;

3 – Oral production and interaction, lasting 15 minutes, and representing 25% of the total grade.

You can view here models of written test and oral test (here is the audio) applied to obtain the CIPLE.

Briefly, it can be said that in part 1 of the exam, the candidate is required to read and interpret important notices in public places and short texts. Multiple-choice, matching, true/false questions are used. You are also asked to write a short text, such as a message or postcard to a friend.

In part 2, the candidate will listen to and interpret the audio of an informal dialogue, typical of communication in a public space. Also in this part the questions are multiple choice, matching or true/false.Finally, in part 3, oral production and interaction, the test can take place with two candidates at the same time. You will be asked to establish an informal conversation in which the participants introduce themselves and talk a little about a topic related to current events.

PAN Portuguese Proof for Portuguese Nationality

What is PAN:

The PAN is a Portuguese Language Test for Acquisition of Nationality conducted by the Instituto de Avaliação Educativa, I.P. (IAVE, I.P.) for people over 18 years of age.

What the PAN test looks like

This test is computer-based, lasts 75 minutes, and also consists of 3 parts:

1. Listening comprehension. Includes listening to a text, and knowledge is assessed through multiple choice items.

2. Reading comprehension. Includes texts that can be of various types, and knowledge is also assessed through multiple choice items.

3. Written Expression. It consists of a composition item with guidelines concerning the type of text (letter, message, report, description, short narrative, short opinion text, among others), the topic and the length (from 50 to 80 words).

See here a sample proof and test your knowledge.

Do children also need to take a Portuguese test?

There is an adapted version, called CIPLE-eaimed at young people between the ages of 12 and 15. It has a theme and vocabulary appropriate for these ages. For children under 12 there is also TEJO, which is a progressive exam at levels A1 to B1, aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 11, also administered by CAPLE.

However, if the child is enrolled in school in Portugal, he or she can be exempted from the exam.

What grade is required for approval?

For the purpose of obtaining Portuguese citizenship, the candidate only needs to obtain a minimum of 55%.

Where to register?

Registration can be made online, on the platform or on the website.

When is the exam season?

The registration deadline and the date of the tests may vary a little from year to year, usually occurring in October and November, with registration occurring until September.

How much does the exam cost?

The exam costs 65€ (PAN) and 75€ (CIPLE), and payment can be made by credit card. In case of absence or withdrawal, the fee will not be refunded.

What if the candidate fails?

You can repeat the exam as many times as you like. However, the same candidate cannot take two exams at the same time. In addition, you will need to re-register and pay the registration fee again.

Are there alternatives for proving knowledge of the Portuguese language?

Yes. The Regulation of the Nationality Law provides some alternatives to submitting the CIPLE and the PAN. These are certificates issued by verified educational and vocational training institutions. The cases provided for in the law are:

  1. Certificate issued by an educational establishment recognized in legal terms, provided that the holder has successfully attended the curricular unit of Portuguese or of Portuguese as a non-native language for at least two school years;
  2. Certificate of approval in a Portuguese language test carried out in public schools in Portuguese territory, or in places accredited by the Camões Institute, when carried out abroad.
  3. Certificate in Portuguese as a foreign language, issued by taking a test at an assessment center for Portuguese as a foreign language, recognized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, by protocol;
  4. Certificate attesting to the completion of level A2 or higher of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, issued by a public educational establishment, employment and training centers, and protocol centers of the Institute of Employment and Professional Training;
  5. Certificate of the Portuguese course Língua de Acolhimento attesting to the A2 level or higher of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, issued by public schools, by schools that are part of the network of centers directly managed by the IEFP (national public employment service) and by the Qualifica Centers;
  6. Certificate of completion of competence units/training units in Portuguese language that integrate the schooling component of a qualification from the National Qualifications Catalog, obtained through dual certification training modalities from the National Qualifications System, and that make up a minimum of 100 hours.

Is a general knowledge test about Portugal required?

No. Although a general knowledge test about the local culture may be required in some countries, this is not the case in Portugal.

Is Portuguese a difficult language?

The answer to this question is very subjective!

The truth is that any language has its own characteristics, peculiarities and degree of difficulty. In the case of Portuguese, it is worth noting that it is a language spoken by more than 200 million people around the world. It is one of the languages with the largest number of speakers on the planet. This in itself serves as an incentive to start learning it!

For Mia Esmeriz, a Portuguese teacher for foreigners, the ease of learning will depend a lot on the student’s background. “If you already speak another Romance language (Italian, Spanish or French, for example) it will, in principle, be easier to learn Portuguese. If the first language is Germanic, for example, like English, it might be a little more difficult,” he explains. “For Americans, the most difficult part will be the pronunciation of certain sounds of Portuguese, and also the more complex conjugations of verb tenses. The easiest part will be remembering those similar words that exist between Portuguese and English,” he concludes.

How to prepare for the evaluation?

There are several language courses that prepare for the assessment, many of them taught remotely, targeting the foreign public that has not yet migrated to Portugal. At Atlantic Bridge, we recommend the services of Mia Esmeriz Academy, which has been working in this market for at least 10 years, with a 100% online course and excellent results. Her course can be followed autonomously with professional support, and the advantage of unlimited access. “Once you buy the course, their access will no longer be revoked, and students can view the lessons as many times as they like,” Mia explains.

Do I need to take a Portuguese course to take the exams?

It is not mandatory to attend a preparation course to take the exam. Candidates can prepare for the exams in the way they prefer. For those who already live in Portugal, learning can happen naturally, by experiencing everyday scenes, and with the help of local friends. It will undoubtedly be a fun and an enriching experience!

If you want to move to Portugal or apply for Portuguese citizenship, talk to our consultants!



Atlantic Bridge

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