Civil registration

Portugal

Country Report: Civil registration Last updated: 26/05/22

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Portuguese Refugee Council Visit Website

Registration of childbirth

Civil registration acts of foreign authorities, such as childbirth certificates regarding foreigners, can only be transcribed into the Portuguese civil registry if the applicant demonstrates a legitimate interest in the transcription,[1] and if the act is: duly translated;[2] legal, and does not raise well-founded doubts as to its authenticity.[3]

In practice, the need of beneficiaries of international protection to transcribe foreign birth certificates normally arises in the framework of naturalisation procedures that require the registration of birth by the Central Registrations Service (Conservatória dos Registos Centrais, CRC) based on a duly legalised birth certificate prior to the registration of the acquisition of Portuguese nationality.[4] Furthermore, it may arise in the case of marriage (transcription of foreign marriages and registration of marriages contracted in Portugal) and the regulation of parental authority as both are added to the birth registry of the parties involved.[5] However, in the case of Naturalisation procedures and registration of marriages, the law provides for alternative avenues in case the applicant is unable to produce a duly legalised birth certificate.

According to the experience of CPR, there are no other recurring instances where the need for the registration of childbirth arises as SEF does not require such registration for identification and issuance of international protection residence permits. Furthermore, according to the law, residence permits issued by the authorities replace identification documents for all legal purposes.[6]

Registering the birth of a child on Portuguese territory is mandatory, regardless of nationality.[7] The birth must be declared to the civil registry authorities of the Ministry of Justice either by: (1) the parents, another legal representative of the child, or a person assigned that responsibility in writing by the parents; (2) the next closest relative of the child, or; (3) an official of the institution where the birth took place or to which the birth was orally reported.[8] The time limit and the place for reporting the birth varies depending on where it occurs.[9]

According to the law, if the child is born in a medical facility where it is possible to declare the birth, that should be done before medical discharge of the mother. When that is not the case, the birth must be declared in a civil registry office within 20 days.[10]

The actual registration of birth that follows the declaration can either take place at the maternity ward or at a civil registry office.[11]

The law does not contain limitations on birth registration according to to the legal status of parents.

Following the registration of birth, the information is automatically transferred to the Ministry of Health, ISS and, upon request, to the Ministry of Finance for purposes of registration of the child with its services.[12]

The registration of birth requires that identification documents of the parents are presented “whenever possible”.[13] According to the Immigration Act, the residence permit replaces the identification document for all legal purposes.[14] Furthermore, according to the Civil Registration Code, if the parents cannot provide an identification document, this requirement may be replaced by the presentation of two witnesses.[15] An interpreter must be appointed in case the parents are unable to communicate with the civil registry officer in Portuguese and the civil registry officer is not familiar with the language spoken by the parents.[16]

If the child or his/her parent(s) are foreign citizens, were born abroad or have an additional nationality, the law allows for their registration under a foreign first name.[17]

According to CPR’s experience, applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection whose children are born in Portugal do not face significant or systematic challenges in registering their birth. However, some problems may arise with the registration of paternity where the father cannot personally declare his willingness to be registered as such before a Portuguese civil registry office and the marriage contracted abroad is not previously registered in Portugal, as is generally the case. In these cases, a paternity investigation is usually conducted by the Family Court with uncertain results given the potential difficulties of beneficiaries of international protection to meet evidentiary requirements.[18] The requirement of presenting two witnesses in the absence of an identification document may also be challenging in some cases.

Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, registration desks at maternity wards have been (temporarily) closed since 23 March 2020. Birth registrations continued to be performed in civil registry offices in urgent cases upon appointment. Since 13 April 2020, birth registration can be performed online in certain cases.[19]  Media reports from 2021 affirmed that the closure of registration desks at maternity wards led to significant gaps in birth registration, particularly of children born to foreign parents.[20]

Children born in Portugal to foreigners who are not at the service of their State of nationality are Portuguese by birth if:

  • one of the parents legally resides in the country at the time of the birth; or
  • one of the parents resides in Portugal for at least one year at the time of birth (regardless of status), and if they do not declare that they do not want to be Portuguese.[21]

According to official information obtained by CPR within the context of provision of legal assistance to applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection, this provision, that was amended in 2020, is applicable retroactively.[22] Furthermore, for this purpose, applicants for international protection are reportedly deemed to be legally residing in Portugal from the moment the application for international protection is made.

Nevertheless, in the course of 2021, CPR observed discrepancies in the practice of different registration services whereby some did not consider the certificate of the asylum application as proof of regular residence. Additional problems observed in this regard relate to the (non)issuance of citizen cards to such children due to the lack of an identification document from the mother.

 

Registration of marriage

In practice, according to CPR’s experience, the need of beneficiaries of international protection to transcribe foreign marriage registries is not a recurring issue given that SEF does not require such registration for the purposes of derivative international protection (i.e., when protection is extended to someone else) or family reunification of procedures (see Family Criteria).

Marriage between foreigners in Portugal, on the other hand, requires the presentation of the spouses’ residence permits,[23] birth certificates,[24] and certificates of no impediment,[25] that must be either duly legalised or not raise well-founded doubts regarding their authenticity.[26] Where the spouses are unable to produce a legal birth certificate or a certificate of no impediment for the purposes of marriage, the law provides for alternative legal avenues to either replace the birth certificate,[27] or justify the absence of the certificate of no impediment,[28] where there are adequate reasons. To that end, the civil registry officer may choose to conduct the investigations deemed appropriate,[29] and consider alternative evidence such as witness statements.[30]

According to CPR’s experience, beneficiaries of international protection do not face significant or systematic challenges in contracting marriage in Portugal as civil registry offices generally accept alternative legal avenues to either replace the birth certificate or to justify the absence of the certificate of no impediment where relevant reasons pertaining the international protection needs of the applicants were ascertained.

 

 

 

[1] Article 6(4) Civil Registration Code.

[2] Article 49(8) Civil Registration Code.

[3] Article 49(1) Civil Registration Code. In case the civil registry officer is not satisfied with the credibility of the foreign registration act, it may suspend the procedure and contact ex officio the issuing authority for clarifications at the expense of the applicant, an option that is ill adapted to beneficiaries of international protection (Article 49(2) and (3) Civil Registration Code). The applicant may also lodge a judicial appeal against the decision of the civil registration officer to refuse partially or in total the authenticity of the document (Article 49(4)-(6) and 292(2) Civil Registration Code) in which case he or she will be allowed to present statements and alternative evidence (Article 49(7) Civil Registration Code).

[4] Article 50(1) Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[5] Article 69(1)(a) and (e) Civil Registration Code.

[6] Article 84 Immigration Act.

[7] Article 1(1) and (2) Civil Registration Code.

[8] Article 97(1) Civil Registration Code.

[9] Articles 96 and 96-A Civil Registration Code. This can either be at the maternity ward up to the moment the mother leaves the premises; or at any civil registry office (Conservatória de Registo Civil) within 20 days from the date of birth.

[10] Article 96 Civil Registration Code.

[11] Articles 101, 101-A and 101-B Civil Registration Code.

[12] Article 102-A Civil Registration Code.

[13] Article 102 Civil Registration Code.

[14] Article 84 Immigration Act.

[15] Article 45 Civil Registration Code.

[16] Article 42 Civil Registration Code.

[17] Article 103 Civil Registration Code.

[18] Article 120 Civil Registration Code and Articles 1847, 1853(a), 1864 and 1865 Civil Code.

[19] Ministry of Justice, Nota à comunicação social – Registo de nascimento pela internet a partir de hoje, 13 April 2020, available at:  https://bit.ly/3a42QyM.

[20] TSF, Pandemia deixa dezenas de bebés por registar em Portugal: “É perigoso, mesmo a nível de tráfico“, 18 June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3Km1S1i.

[21] Article 1(1)(f) Nationality Act. Until the 2020 recast, a minimum of 2 years of legal residence of one of the parents at the time of birth was required.

[22] The provision’s retroactive application has also been confirmed by na opinion of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Registration and Notary Affairs (IRN). See Conselho Consultivo do Instituto de Registos e Notariado, Parecer n.º 1/CC/2021, 21 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/33jFXH3.

[23] Article 137(1) Civil Registration Code.

[24] Article 137(2) Civil Registration Code.

[25] Article 166(1) Civil Registration Code.

[26] Article 49(1) Civil Registration Code.

[27] Articles 135(5), 137(5) and 266 to 269 Civil Registration Code.

[28] Article 166(2) Civil Registration Code.

[29] Article 268(1) Civil Registration Code.

[30] Articles 143(1) and 166(3) Civil Registration Code.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation