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Portuguese Nationality: general considerations

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

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In these seven years of working with Portuguese Nationality cases, it never ceased to astonish us how much misinformation there is dispersed in the social networks (and not only) on this topic.

The main regulatory instrument for obtaining Portuguese nationality is the Nationality Law and its regulation. However, several other norms - including some that are no longer in force that directly affect the matter - imply other necessary steps or even the impossibility of obtaining Portuguese nationality.

The application of the law over time, the several and successive changes that the Portuguese nationality law has undergone in recent years and the interaction with other legal norms, especially the civil registration law, are factors that bring more complexity to the matter and end up justifying why so many people do not have clear information about their specific case and which procedures to adopt in order to obtain Portuguese nationality.

There are many cases in which a citizen is the son or grandson of a Portuguese citizen, but to be eligible, he or she must update the civil registry of his or her Portuguese ancestor, in order to establish parentage, for example.

Frequently, it is necessary to inscribe or register in Portugal the birth, marriage, civil partnership, adoption and/or divorces of the ancestral that occurred abroad, or even rectify documents in which there is incorrect information regarding family members before it is possible to obtain Portuguese nationality.

For these reasons, in some cases, we provide an eligibility study before starting the procedures, for the purpose to advise whether or not the applicant is eligible.

If so, it will be analysed and afterwards presented the necessary procedures for the specific case to obtain Portuguese nationality.

In this regard, I intend to make a series of publications aimed at generating a better understanding of these factors and their articulation with the possibility of obtaining Portuguese nationality.

To begin with, let us make some terminological distinctions that may be useful.

Nationality and citizenship

Nationality can be defined as the bond between a given social group united by the same historical origin, the same language and common traditions, interests, and aspirations (nation).

It can also be defined as the legal and political condition of a national citizen, acquired by origin or naturalisation.

Citizenship, on the other hand, is a personal condition that endows its holder with the right to have rights and corresponding obligations.

It is a fundamental right linked to nationality. Nationality is therefore a prerequisite for citizenship.

Original and Derived Nationality

In Portugal, the fundamental criterion for establishing original nationality is jus sanguinis, that is, by blood ties or descent. In this sense, the children and grandchildren of Portuguese citizens are Portuguese citizens.

Portuguese legislation has also adopted and still adopts the jus solis criterion, i.e. by attachment to the territory in a complementary way to the descent criterion. The citizens of the former Portuguese overseas territories, for example, were original Portuguese citizens until they became independent states. Some citizens born in these territories retained Portuguese nationality.

More recently the Portuguese legislature also adopted the jus solis criterion when it determined that citizens born in Portugal whose parent is a legal resident for at least one year in Portugal are also considered original Portuguese citizens.

Derived or acquired nationality, in turn, is that obtained by manifestation of will, also known as the naturalisation process. Currently, foreign citizens married or in a civil union for at least 3 (three) years with a Portuguese citizen, minor children of Portuguese citizens who acquired Portuguese nationality (by naturalisation) before birth, citizens who have legally resided in Portugal for at least 5 (five) years, descendants of the Portuguese Sephardic Jewish community, among others, can request Portuguese nationality.

Nationality by origen is the nationality that produces effects from the date of birth. Derived nationality only produces effects from the date of registration of acquisition of nationality.

Citizenship by attribution and by acquisition

By legal determination, attributed citizenship is that which is obtained by Portuguese citizens of origin and acquired citizenship is that which results from a naturalisation process.

Request and registration of Portuguese nationality

In any case, it is necessary to request, through a proper administrative procedure, the attribution or acquisition of Portuguese nationality at the Central Registry Office, submitting the documentation that attests to the fulfilment of the legal requirements, as applicable.

Once a Portuguese Nationality Process is successfully concluded, either by attribution or by acquisition, a favourable decision will be generated and forwarded to the Registry Office. In other words, a Portuguese birth certificate of the applicant will be registered.

After registration, the Portuguese citizen may request the issue of his identification documents, namely the Portuguese citizen card and the Portuguese passport.

If you need assistance in understanding whether you are eligible to apply for Portuguese nationality, please do not hesitate to tell us.

* This article was originally published on my personal LinkedIn profile on January 5, 2023.

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