Naturalisation

Portugal

Country Report: Naturalisation Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Portuguese Refugee Council Visit Website

Competence for obtaining Portuguese nationality lies either with the Minister of Justice regarding naturalisation,[1] or the Central Registry Office (Conservatória dos Registos Centrais, CRegC) of the Ministry of Justice regarding other modalities for obtaining Portuguese nationality.[2] According to the law, and in the absence of any deficiencies or irregularities in the procedure attributable to the applicant the time limit for taking a final decision on the file is at least 3.5 months in naturalisation cases,[3] and 3 months in the remaining cases.[4]

Some of the modalities for obtaining Portuguese nationality are of particular relevance to beneficiaries of international protection.

Foreign citizens, including refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, are eligible for naturalisation under the following conditions:[5]

  • 18 years of age or emancipation in accordance with Portuguese law;
  • Minimum legal residence of 5 years in Portugal;[6]
  • Proof of proficiency in Portuguese (A2);
  • No conviction of a crime punishable with a prison sentence of at least 3 years;
  • Not being a danger or a threat to national security or defence due to their involvement in activities related to the practice of terrorism, in accordance to the law that governs terrorism.

Furthermore, children of foreign nationals born on national territory are eligible for naturalisation under the following conditions:[7]

  • Proof of proficiency in Portuguese (A2);
  • No conviction of a crime punishable with a prison sentence of at least 3 years;
  • Not being a danger or a threat to national security or defence due to their involvement in activities related to the practice of terrorism, in accordance to the law that governs terrorism;
  • At least one parent resided in the country (regularly or not) at least for the past 5 years at the time of application; or the child completes at least one level of basic education or the secondary education in Portugal.

It should be noted that, on the basis of a reasoned request, the Ministry of Justice may decide to exempt naturalisation applicants from presenting supporting evidence in special and justified cases where it is shown that the facts for which supporting evidence is required are true beyond doubt.[8] The law also provides in detail for the specific modalities regarding supporting evidence of proficiency in Portuguese,[9] notably regarding assessment tests that are of particular relevance to beneficiaries of international protection.[10]

Children born in Portugal to foreigners who are not at the service of their State of nationality are Portuguese by origin if one of the parents has been legally residing in the country for at least 2 years at the time of the birth and if they do not declare that they do not want to be Portuguese.[11]

Foreign citizens, including refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, can acquire Portuguese citizenship if they have been married or have been in a civil union with a Portuguese citizen for at least 3 years.[12]

It is worth mentioning that, while a recast of the Nationality Act was approved in July 2018 and introduced provisions that may have a positive impact for applicants and beneficiaries of international protection (in particular unaccompanied children), the corresponding regulation has not been adopted at the time of writing, thus hindering the possibility of conducting an adequate analysis of its impact.

CPR’s experience shows that the main challenges in obtaining naturalisation are related to poor language skills and obtaining supporting evidence. Supporting evidence required in naturalisation applications generally consists of legal and original birth certificates as well as criminal records from the country of nationality and former countries of residence, including EU Member states in the case of Dublin returnees. In accordance with applicable provisions, the CRegC is generally flexible regarding supporting evidence in naturalisation procedures involving refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection who present reasoned justifications. CPR further provides support to that end, e.g. by clarifying the international legal standards that apply to administrative assistance.

According to information provided by CRegC, 180,060 applications for Portuguese citizenship were filled and 127,294 were concluded in 2019. Out of them, 115 beneficiaries of international protection were granted Portuguese nationality in 2019 according to SEF.

 


[1] Article 27 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[2] Article 41 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[3] Article 27 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[4] Article 41(1) and (2) Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[5] Article 6(1) Nationality Act; Article 19 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[6] The Nationality Act was recast in July 2018. The recast reduced the residence requirement established in the above-mentioned article from 6 to 5 years.

[7] Article 6(2) Nationality Act; Article 20 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[8] Article 26 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[9] Article 25(2)-(9) Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

[10] Ministerial Order 176/2014.

[11] Article 1(1)(f) Nationality Act.

[12] Article 3 Nationality Act; Article 14 Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

 

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