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Adoption and Portuguese Nationality

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Adoption in Portugal

An adoption is a form of establishing a filial relationship between a child deprived of a family and a person or a couple.

This bond can only be established by a court decision, made under a proper proceeding.

Portuguese Nationality of Adopted Children

The Portuguese Nationality Law establishes that adopted children can acquire Portuguese Nationality through naturalization.

It is important to highlight that only the filiation established during the time of minority produces effects relative to nationality. Therefore, the adoption must have occurred when the adopted child was a minor.

Naturalization is the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by manifestation of will and produces effects only from the date on which the registry of acquisition of nationality is drawn up in the Central Registry Office. This modality is in opposition to the attribution of nationality by origin, which produces effects from the date of birth.

There are several divergences to this provision of the Nationality Law since it creates a differentiation between adopted and biological children since adopted children are eligible to obtain nationality by acquisition (naturalization) and not by attribution (by origin) as is the case of biological children.

The necessity of revision of foreign adoption decisions

All decisions made by a foreign court, to have effect in Portugal, must be reviewed and confirmed by the Portuguese Court of Appeal.

Therefore, for an adoption carried out abroad to be recognized for the purpose of acquiring Portuguese nationality, it is necessary to review the foreign adoption decision through a judicial proceeding to be conducted by a lawyer licensed to practice law in Portugal.

Exceptions to this rule are foreseen in the law that established the Legal Regime of the Adoption Process, by which it was established that international adoption decisions made abroad have automatic effectiveness in Portugal if (i) certified in accordance with the Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption or; (ii) covered by a bilateral legal and judicial agreement that exempts the review of a foreign court decision.

For all cases where the revision of the foreign adoption court decision is necessary, the main document to be presented is the certificate of the foreign judicial decision of adoption, duly legalized.

When filing the lawsuit, if the Applicant is a minor, he must be represented by the adopter(s) to obtain the revision of the adoption decree.

In the case of a minor applicant and when there is more than one adopter, it is recommended that both acts jointly, in the process of revision of the foreign court decision as well as in the procedure for the acquisition of Portuguese nationality.

It is important to emphasize that if the Portuguese citizen was or is married, it will be necessary for each of his or her marriages to be transcribed in Portugal. In order to have the second and subsequent marriages transcribed, it will always be necessary to homologate the dissolution of the previous marriage and therefore to file a foreign court decision review suit for each divorce.

For any questions regarding applying for Portuguese nationality for adopted children, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Article was originally published by the author Lidiane de Carvalho, in her personal profile, on December 7, 2022.

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