How to get Portugal citizenship after a “golden visa”
Getting citizenship in the European Union is made easier by the Portugal golden visa. Investing for five years as a golden visa holder and learning the Portuguese language are all that is required to obtain a second passport.
Portugal citizenship is indeed a straightforward process in theory, but investors are right to wonder if it is in practice that straightforward.
Getting and renewing a golden visa, confirming knowledge of the Portuguese language, how to apply for citizenship, and how long it takes for a passport to arrive — Viktor Esik, the Portuguese office of Immigrant Invest, shares his personal experiences.
What is a golden visa and how to get it in Portugal?
Investing in a country’s economy is required for the issuance of the golden visa, a temporary residence permit. A Golden Residence Permit Program was introduced in 2012 by Portugal for the purpose of issuing residence permits to investors.
- investing in an existing Portuguese business;
- a purchase of shares of an investment fund;
- a purchase of property, new or for restoration;
- a transfer of capital to Portugal;
- sponsoring scientific or cultural projects.
- opening a company and creating new jobs;
Why and how did you get a Portugal residence permit by investment?
During a business trip in 2006, I first visited Portugal. In spite of its mild climate and safe environment, the country and its people were friendly and laid back. Having been to Portugal several times on vacation with the whole family, we contemplated moving.
Earlier this year, I was about to purchase a house in Portugal when the residence permit by investment program was launched. The property we chose was on the Atlantic Ocean’s coast, 50 kilometers from Lisbon. Objects over €500,000 were eligible for the program and met its requirements.
A stamp duty of 0.8% and a transfer tax of 8% were paid when we bought a property in Portugal.
A total of €24,000 was spent on additional costs. I, along with my wife and two children, had to pay fees for applying and obtaining residence permit cards.
There was no local presence during the entire process of obtaining a residence permit. For the production of biometric residence permit cards, we needed only two trips to Portugal: once to view the house before buying, and once to be fingerprinted.
Three months after we submitted the application, we received Portugal residence permit cards by mail.
What conditions did you meet to apply for citizenship?
A notification procedure is required to obtain Portuguese citizenship. A person does not have to take exams on the history of the country or its constitution, as one must in Greece. Neither an oath nor a declaration is required.
Three conditions had to be met in order for my wife and me to apply for citizenship as adults:
- legal residence in Portugal for at least five years;
- no criminal record;
- basic knowledge of Portuguese.
Residing in Portugal. Citizenship in Portugal is only available to those who have lived in the country for at least five years with a residence permit or permanent residence.
Obtaining a residence permit requires living in Portugal for at least 183 days a year, for example, through employment with a Portuguese company.
At least seven days must be spent in Portugal each year for holders of golden visas. A residence permit card is deemed to be a proof of residency for the duration of the period of residence in the country.
A few months after obtaining a residency permit, my wife and children moved to Portugal and lived there permanently. It was only during vacations or holidays that I was able to go to Portugal. I continued to work in Moscow. It is not necessary for me to spend more than seven days in the country each year, but I got more than that.
Since receiving the residence permit about seven years ago, we haven’t decided to get Portuguese passports right away. Two-year renewals of residence permits were required during this period.
The Portuguese Immigration Service – Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF – issued us the residence permit cards without requiring us to show tickets or proof of our presence. It is important that you carry supporting documents, however, for security reasons.
No convictions. People with criminal records who serve a three-year or longer prison sentence in Portugal cannot apply for citizenship.
— Is it difficult to learn Portuguese?
Despite my limited Portuguese skills, I did not have a hard time learning it. After a year of using Portuguese in everyday life, you can feel confident in any communication situation, regardless of whether it is Russian or English.
Language is learned faster by children than by adults. Due to the fact that the children did not know Portuguese at all, we planned to homeschool them for six months after we moved to Portugal. In Portugal, children must attend school, and schools are experienced at teaching foreign children, so there is no language barrier to overcome.
When my kids started school in January, they were able to communicate with their teachers and peers in Portuguese by the end of March.
— How did you prove your knowledge of the Portuguese language?
Applicants for Portuguese citizenship must demonstrate A2 proficiency in Portuguese within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Portuguese language courses are available to the public for free. You can easily find them in any region of Portugal within an hour’s drive by car from all regional and municipal centers.
Classes are held at local schools in the evenings for free in state courses. Intensive training consists of four classes per week lasting three hours from 8 to 11 p.m. Three to four months are required for the course.
During the course, there are no tests or exams. However, students are strictly monitored for attendance: if they miss two classes, they can be expelled.
Students who attend all classes and complete their homework will receive a certificate of Portuguese proficiency at A2 level at the end of the course. Every person must pay €7 for the issuance of a certificate.
Portuguese language proficiency can also be confirmed by presenting:
- a certificate of passing the state test in Portuguese;
- a certificate of proficiency in Portuguese as a foreign language;
- a certificate of education obtained in a public or private educational institution in a Portuguese-speaking country.
Appointments are required to take state exams in Portuguese. Those taking the test in Portugal must pay €15, and those taking it in a Portuguese representation abroad must pay €20. An explanation of the test rules and a sample question are provided.
Those serious about learning Portuguese as a foreign language should enroll in one of the certification centers – Centro de Avaliaço de Português Língua Estrangeira. Education centers of this type are recognized by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.
Level A2 corresponds to the CIPLE exam for the Initial Certificate of Portuguese Language. The participation fee for the exam is €72, and you can take the exam by appointment.
It is accepted as a document of education any university diploma or school certificate issued in Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome or Principe.
It is possible for a foreigner to present a certificate from a Portuguese-speaking school or university if he has not yet graduated.
We provided certificates from the Portuguese school where my children studied instead of Portuguese language exams.
What documents are needed to apply for citizenship?
To apply, you need a minimum of documents. The list includes:
- an identity document;
- a birth certificate;
- a certificates of non-conviction;
- a certificate confirming knowledge of the Portuguese language;
- a completed citizenship application form.
All the information about the applicant is contained on the Portugal residency permit card, which is accepted as an identity document.
The birth certificate of the applicant. A copy must be apostilled at the Portuguese Consulate to apply for Portugal citizenship. It is necessary to provide a notarized translation of the original birth certificate if it is not in Portuguese.
In all countries where the applicant has lived for more than a year from the age of 14, a certificate of no criminal record must be obtained.
The public services portal in Russia allows citizens to order certificates of no criminal record. A notary must apostil the translation and translate it into Portuguese.
Obtaining the necessary information about the resident from the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs is sufficient to confirm the absence of a criminal record in Portugal.
Obtaining a certificate of proficiency in Portuguese. Certified copies must be notarized if they are submitted. We recommend that, when submitting the original, you keep in mind that the migration service does not return the documents.
An application form filled out in Portuguese. An application must include the following information:
- Name, date, and place of birth of the applicant, nationality, marital status, profession, and field of work of the applicant, as well as names of both parents.
- Applicants should provide the name, number, and date of issue of the identity documents – a passport or an ID card – that identify them.
- A description of the applicant’s current residence and registration. As well as listing the applicant’s country of residence before applying, you need to list all the countries where he or she has lived.
In addition to the name and address of the applicant’s parent or guardian, a minor child’s application must include the name and address of a trusted individual.
It is necessary for the user to sign the application in the presence of either a notary or a Portuguese Migration Service officer who will accept it in person.
Portugal does not require documentation of your residence. Upon request from the department accepting the citizenship application, the migration service provides information about the issued residence permits and the terms for maintaining the status of a resident.
An application form for citizenship is to be completed in Portuguese
Where and how to apply for citizenship?
When the documents were ready, we signed up to apply for citizenship at the registry office at the place of residence.
You can also apply in person:
- at the offices of the National Center for the Integration of Immigrants (Centro Nacional de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes) in Lisbon and Porto;
- registration centers of the Institute of State Registration and Notaries (Instituto dos Registos e Notariado, IRN);
- consulates and representations of Portugal in other countries.
If it is not possible to apply in person, documents can be sent by mail to the Central Registry Office — Conservatória dos Registos Centrais.
At the registry office, we paid a fee for applying for citizenship — €250. The fee is paid by a credit card. If applying by mail, the fee is paid in advance and a receipt is attached to the documents.
— How long does it take to obtain citizenship?
The application for citizenship took us about 20 minutes. After 11 months, I received a notification in the mail from the National Archives of Portugal that we were being granted citizenship. A month later, the ID-cards of citizens of Portugal were delivered.
The seven stages of consideration for an application for citizenship are as follows:
1.The department that accepted the application forwards the documents to the Central Registry Office. Up to 48 hours are given for the transfer of documents from the moment the application for citizenship is accepted.
If the applicant sent the documents by mail directly to the Central Registry Office, he, as a rule, does not gain time: sending documents by mail from another country can take longer than two days.
2.Preliminary verification of documents in the Central registry office takes up to 30 days. If the applicant has not provided all the required information or documents, he will receive a notification. The applicant has 20 days to provide the missing data.
The Central Registry Office decides whether to accept the application for consideration on the merits:
- within 30 days if the applicant immediately provided all the necessary documents;
- when the applicant provides the missing documents upon request;
- after 20 days after the request, if the applicant did not respond and did not provide the missing documents.
3.After checking the documents, the Central Registry Office sends a request to the migration service and the police. They must provide information about the applicant within 30 days. In urgent cases, the period may be extended up to 90 days.
The Migration Service confirms that the applicant has legally resided in the country or maintained resident status for five years. The police provide information about no criminal record of the applicant in Portugal.
4.When the Central Registry Office receives information from the migration service and the police, a decision is made on the application. The final consideration of the application is given in 45 days.
If the registry office approves the application, the documents are transferred to the Minister of Justice. If the application for citizenship is rejected, the applicant receives an additional 20 days. During this period, he can provide additional documents confirming his right to get Portugal citizenship.
5.The Minister of Justice makes the final decision on the application for citizenship in any case, even if the registry office considers the applicant’s claims for citizenship to be unfounded. Up to 90 days are allotted for the final consideration of documents.
6.If the Minister of Justice has approved the application, the National Archives of Portugal receives information on the granting of citizenship. The applicant receives a notification of the decision on the provided contact details.
7.The production of an ID-card of a citizen of Portugal takes, on average, from two weeks. As a rule, documents are sent to the applicant by mail to the registration address in Portugal.
Since 2019, new Portuguese citizens are not issued a paper passport, but a plastic ID card. The card includes a fingerprint chip and personal information about the owner, such as a TIN and social security and health insurance number.
An ID-card of a Portuguese citizen, which Victor received in 2020
— Why and how to get a Portuguese international passport?
Portuguese citizens are lucky- they can travel to 187 countries without a visa. However, if they want to travel outside of the Schengen zone, they will need an international passport. For example, if they want to go to the UK, Japan, USA or Australia, they will need a passport.
To get a Portuguese international passport, I went to my local branch of Lojas de Cidadão. The address and opening hours of the nearest branch can be found on the Portuguese portal of public services.
People who need an international passport but are citizens of Portugal only need to provide an ID card. They will be fingerprinted and photographed at a Lojas de Cidadão branch. The fee for the passport is €65, and it costs an additional €10 to have the passport delivered to an address within Portugal. It costs more—€30—to have a passport sent to an address outside of Portugal.
In 2021, I got my passport in the spring. The accelerated procedure for issuing a passport cost €65, and the document was ready in a week.
In 2022, the standard time for issuing a passport in Portugal is five working days. If you pay an extra €20, you can get the passport in two working days using the express passport issuance service. And if you need it even faster, there’s an urgent service for one business day that costs an additional €30.
This is what a modern passport for foreign travel looks like, issued in Portugal since 2018
— Why is it worth getting a passport and moving to live in Portugal?
In the 15 years that I have connected my life with Portugal, I have never regretted my choice. I can name at least six reasons why I like living in Portugal and why I am ready to recommend the country to Immigrant Invest clients.
Some of the reasons include the low prices compared with other European countries, such as neighboring Spain. In Lisbon, a meal in a restaurant for two costs only €20, while in Madrid it would cost at least €40. Additionally, Portugal is rich in culture and history, with beautiful architecture and stunning scenery. The climate is also mild and pleasant, perfect for spending time outdoors year-round.
Prices in Portugal
|Expenses||An average cost|
|️Three-course dinner at a restaurant||€30 for two|
|Gasoline, 1 l||€1.57|
|Utility payments for an apartment of 85 m²||€101.94 per month|
|High speed Internet connection||€33.45|
|Subscription to the fitness club||€32.42 per month|
|Private kindergarten||€342.76 per month|
|Buying an apartment in the city center||€2,648 per square meter|
Quality education for children.
Education in Portuguese schools takes place according to the standards of the International Baccalaureate, IB. Therefore, graduates of Portuguese schools enter not only local, but also any European and American universities.
My family has had experience with this first hand and can say from what we’ve seen that if a child needs special attention for any reason – like if they don’t speak Portuguese – they will absolutely receive the help they need.
The schools in Portugal maintain a very warm and inviting atmosphere. Teachers are always willing to help and are very patient, which makes it easy for children to quickly integrate into the community. Portuguese universities are highly ranked in terms of quality of education and employment prospects, making them a great choice for students looking to further their studies.
Universities in Portugal offer some of the most affordable tuition rates in the European Union. For residents and citizens of Portugal, education at state institutions is free. Foreign students attending universities in Portugal pay between €3,000 and €12,500 per year for undergraduate studies. This is much more affordable when compared to other countries like the United Kingdom where a year of study can cost €17,000 or more.
Friendly attitude towards foreigners.
Portugal is a great country for immigrants. The locals are very friendly and always willing to help. Most immigrants live in large cities like Lisbon, Porto, or Coimbra. In Lisbon, there is an Orthodox Church and the First Slavic School, where education is conducted in Russian. There are no “Russian quarters” in Portugal, like, for example, Brighton Beach in New York. Representatives of different diasporas live throughout the country and are integrated into Portuguese society.
Portugal has long been considered a safe and peaceful country, and this was only further solidified when it was ranked in the top 5 of the Global Peace Index in 2021. One of the reasons that Portugal is so safe is because its crime rate is very low and continues to fall year after year. In 2020, for example, the country saw the lowest number of offenses in the last 30 years. This makes Portugal a great place to live, especially if you have children. You don’t have to worry about them playing outside or coming home late at night.
Portugal has hot summers and mild winters: in August the air temperature rises to +28 °C, in January it stays at around +15 °C. The sun shines up to 300 days a year.
Opportunities for recreation and entertainment.
People usually go to Portugal for a beach vacation: in 2021, the country was recognized as the best destination in Europe by The World Travel Awards.
The waves near the city of Nazare are popular with surfers; they can be up to 30 meters high.
Yachtsmen usually moor in Lisbon and Porto, but the most popular ports for yachts are in the Atlantic Ocean: in Madeira and the Azores, which are part of Portugal as autonomous regions.
Architecture connoisseurs visit the Regaleira palace and park complex near Sintra and the medieval castle of Guimarães, admire the white and blue azulejo tiles on the houses of old Porto.
In the capital, it is worth taking a ride with children on the cable car and on the famous yellow tram, go to the Lisbon Aquarium and climb the viewing platforms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Foreigners who have lived in Portugal for at least five years and meet the other requirements can obtain Portuguese citizenship by naturalization. In addition to completing the application, applicants must confirm their knowledge of the Portuguese language at the A2 level and have no criminal record.
Yes. Therefore, if a foreigner acquires Portuguese citizenship, he will not have to give up his first passport if his homeland also allows its citizens to have several passports as
Portuguese citizens have the same rights as any other EU citizen when it comes to living, working, doing business and studying in any EU country. This also includes having access to health and social services in Portugal as well as being able to travel without a visa. However, just because a person has a Portuguese passport does not mean that their tax residence automatically changes. If someone wants to start paying taxes in Portugal, they need to make sure that they will be spending more than 183 days in the country within one year.