Knowledge

Often in nationality for the children or grandchildren of Portuguese citizens, applicants are surprised with requests for supplementary evidence or even refusal of their nationality application, based on the lack of “establishment of filiation”.

It happens that the attribution of nationality depends on other previous issues, among them, the verification of the establishment of filiation, that is, the legal determination of the relationship between parents and child, which usually occurs with the birth registration but can occur later with the recognition of paternity or maternity, the marriage of the parents with recognition, etc.

It is a concept that almost everyone finds strange because they assume that if they are considered children of A or B in their country of origin, this will also be valid in other countries.

 

Which law prevails?

The majority view has argued that since nationality is the “legal bond that links an individual to a state”, the rules of the state granting nationality should apply, instead of the regulations of the country of residence or origin of the applicant.

Ferrer Correia also pointed out, “If this were not the case, the principle that it is the State that defines the prerequisites for the attribution and loss of its citizenship would cease to be true (or would be postponed).”

The previous legislation, Law No. 2098, in its Base VI, determined that “Only filiation established by Portuguese law has effects regarding the attribution of nationality”, and the current Nationality Law, although not expressly mentioned, continued the same principle. Portuguese law must certainly respect the directives of the European Union and International Law, and it results from these directives that in matters of personal status, the law of nationality to be acquired should be applied and not the law of residence.

 

When is the registration considered?

Regarding the moment of connection, generally, the date of birth is taken into account to assess the applicable law, so it is important to assess whether maternal or paternal filiation, regarding the Portuguese parent, was established by the law in force in Portugal at the time of birth.

Finally, there was a provision in the Seabra Code, which continued in the current Nationality Law of 1981, which determined that only the filiation established during the minority of the applicant would be accepted – Article 14 of the Nationality Law, which has since been amended.

 

The problem of filiation during minority

Although nowadays it is not so common, there are still many applicants today who try to obtain nationality but are only registered as adults and therefore are denied.

There are also those who, being registered as minors, were only recognized by the Portuguese parent when they were of legal age.

Some citizens were not registered by the Portuguese parent but were by the other parent or third party, even if notary or doctors, and the parents were not married.

What do these three cases have in common? In all these cases, despite maternity and paternity being unequivocal in the country of origin, for the Portuguese State, filiation is not established for nationality purposes.

 

But are there so many cases?

A lot! It seems like a distant reality but it is very common. Especially in countries like the United States, where it was usually the doctor or notary who registered, many descendants of Portuguese were prevented from obtaining nationality if their parents were not married.

On the other hand, in countries like Brazil or Canada, with large rural areas and far from major cities, many were not registered as minors and were excluded from this possibility.

In reality, simply because the parents were not married or because they did not know how to write at the time and the child was not registered by the Portuguese parent, it has determined the exclusion of the right to nationality.

We can understand the feeling of revolt and injustice that so many Luso-descendants feel, who see the country where they were born recognize their maternity and paternity but then Portugal tells them that no, that they are not considered children of a Portuguese.

 

What changed in 2024?

During the discussion of the last amendments to the Nationality Law, even in the previous legislature, the possibility of revocation of Article 14 of the Nationality Law was debated.

The total revocation of the article was not approved, but the regime was expanded so that the filiation established in adulthood can also produce effects regarding original nationality when one of the following situations occurs:

  • the establishment of filiation occurs following a judicial process or
  • the establishment of filiation is subject to recognition in a judicial action.

When filiation is established through a judicial action, original nationality can be requested within three years following the final decision.

 

Exceptional and temporary more beneficial regime

The greatest openness that this new regime has is the temporary exceptional regime of three years that will allow the regularization, in theory, of almost all situations.

In fact, for all cases in which filiation was established before the entry into force of the new law, there are three years to regularize the establishment of filiation, for example by obtaining judicial recognition.

In practice, all those who obtain judicial recognition in the country of origin of the established filiation, even if in adulthood, can then review the sentence to be valid in Portugal and request the attribution of Portuguese nationality within the next three years.

The amendment still requires regulation, and we await some clarifications of a practical and procedural nature, but it is advisable to start preparing the processes now since the three-year deadline is not so long, and coordinating bureaucratic and administrative processes and judicial processes in two countries can take time.

If you are in one of these situations, do not hesitate to report your situation so that we can advise you. Contact us here.

Do you have any of these surnames? They are some of the most common surnames in Portugal. But there are others, of course.

1 Silva 21 Teixeira 41 Matos 61 Morais
2 Santos 22 Moreira 42 Fonseca 62 Nogueira
3 Ferreira 23 Correia 43 Machado 63 Esteves
4 Pereira 24 Mendes 44 Araújo 64 Anjos
5 Oliveira 25 Nunes 45 Barbosa 65 Baptista
6 Costa 26 Soares 46 Tavares 66 Campos
7 Rodrigues 27 Vieira 47 Lourenço 67 Mota
8 Martins 28 Monteiro 48 Castro 68 Andrade
9 Jesus 29 Cardoso 49 Figueiredo 69 Brito
10 Sousa 30 Rocha 50 Azevedo 70
11 Fernandes 31 Raposo 51 Freitas 71 Nascimento
12 Gonçalves 32 Neves 52 Magalhães 72 Leite
13 Gomes 33 Coelho 53 Henriques 73 Abreu
14 Lopes 34 Cruz 54 Lima 74 Borges
15 Marques 35 Cunha 55 Guerreiro 75 Melo
16 Alves 36 Pires 56 Batista 76 Vaz
17 Almeida 37 Ramos 57 Pinheiro 77 Pinho
18 Ribeiro 38 Reis 58 Faria 78 Vicente
19 Pinto 39 Simões 59 Miranda 79 Gaspar
20 Carvalho 40 Antunes 60 Barros 80 Assunção

 

The Origin of Portuguese Surnames

It’s a challenge to accurately determine the origin of Portuguese surnames and their direct connection to a specific region or group. For example, some say that surnames related to trees, like Pereira or Oliveira, have their origin in Judaism, although this isn’t true in all cases of Portuguese people with these surnames.

 

The Spread of Surnames Around the World

Portugal has over 800 years of history, which makes it impossible to determine with certainty the belonging to a particular family or place just by the name due to the dissemination and mixing of names. Furthermore, the Portuguese diaspora has a history of seven centuries and has spread across the globe. Today, there are millions of descendants of Portuguese spread across the world, especially in the former Portuguese colonies in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea, and São Tomé and Príncipe), as well as in Goa, Macau, Timor-Leste, but particularly in Brazil, the United States, and Canada.

 

Am I Eligible for Citizenship?

Having a Portuguese surname doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual is entitled to Portuguese nationality, but it can be an indicator! Nowadays, only close descendants, such as children and grandchildren, and those married or in a de facto union with a Portuguese citizen, have the right to nationality. However, after obtaining it, it can also pass on to their descendants, so the number of generations still entitled to Portuguese nationality today is high.

 

Therefore, if you have a Portuguese surname, try to find out who your nearest Portuguese ancestor is! You don’t have to do it all alone; we can help. Once you’ve discovered who the Portuguese ancestor is, we can move on to locating their birth or baptismal record in Portugal, as this is an essential document for the nationality process of descendants.

 

How to Find Birth Records in Portugal?

It’s worth noting that in order to locate records in Portugal, it’s often necessary to have the complete details of the Portuguese individual – including their name, the names of their parents, the approximate date of birth, and the exact place of birth – which aren’t always easy to find. Therefore, in addition to knowing how to search and obtain the document of the Portuguese individual, it’s also necessary to know how to search for information and documents abroad and how to interpret them.

 

Why Does Portuguese Citizenship Spark Interest?

For many, the discovery of Portuguese ancestry goes beyond historical interest; it represents a tangible opportunity to connect with the culture and privileges that Portuguese citizenship offers. Surnames like Oliveira, Pereira, and Santos are more than just words; they are gateways to a world of opportunities, including facilitated access to the European Union and free movement within the Schengen area.

 

If you’re interested in applying for Portuguese citizenship based on your family name or Portuguese origin, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We have experienced lawyers dealing with requests of this nature and will be happy to assist with your process.

 

*In 2013, the Portuguese Society for Economic Information conducted a study on the most common surnames in Portugal and released the list we’ve copied here.

The legal change represents a positive step

Diogo Capela and Ana Sofia Lamares, Partners at the Law Firm Lamares, Capela & Associados (LACA), highlighted, in an interview, the recent changes in obtaining Portuguese nationality and in the tax regime for residents in Portugal, including the Golden Visa program. These changes promise to simplify the process for applicants and may boost foreign investment in the country.

Can you tell us a little about yourselves and the firm you founded: Lamares, Capela & Associados?

Diogo Capela (DC)

My name is Diogo Capela and I am a partner and founder of the law firm Lamares, Capela & Associados (LACA). My partner – Ana Sofia Lamares – and I have been working together since 2014 and decided to create the firm in 2019.

Previously, both my partner and I had worked in other law firms and in different areas. However, our office focuses primarily on supporting clients who are abroad and wish to live or invest in Portugal.

Our main areas of practice are Nationality, Immigration, Real Estate, Companies, Labor, Tax, Successions, and Family. We are a team of 16 people, each with diverse skills and areas of expertise.

 

You mentioned Nationality and Immigration Law. I would like to focus our conversation on these topics, as there have been significant changes recently in these areas, correct?

Ana Sofia Lamares (ASL) That’s true.

 

Can you then explain to me the main changes to the Nationality Law that came into effect on April 1st?

ASL

We can highlight three major changes regarding the following topics: 1) the regime for granting nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews; 2) establishing parentage for the purpose of obtaining original nationality; 3) counting the time of residence for granting nationality.

 

People who wish to obtain Portuguese nationality through residency in Portugal received the change in the law as great news, isn’t it?

ASL Yes, it is.

 

Can you explain to us better what this change was?

ASL Of course. The Law states that it is possible to obtain Portuguese nationality when, among other factors, the individual has legally resided in Portugal for at least five years.

Article 15 of the Nationality Law established that, for nationality purposes, “individuals who reside legally in Portuguese territory are those who are here, with their situation regularized before the Portuguese authorities, under any title, visa, or authorization provided for in the regimes of entry, stay, departure, and removal of foreigners and in the asylum law.”

In other words, the period of residence for the purpose of obtaining Portuguese nationality (5 years) only starts counting from the moment the residence permit is issued.

Now, in many cases, there is a very long period between the residence permit application and its approval, during which the citizen effectively resides in Portugal, but this period cannot be considered as legal residence.

 

How did the new law change this rule?

ASL The amendment to the law allows for “the time elapsed since the application for the temporary residence permit was requested, provided that it is granted.”

That is, the five years are counted from the beginning of the residence process and not from the moment the residence permit is issued.

 

Can this change also apply to Golden Visa applicants?

DC Yes, it can. In fact, this change will apply to all immigration/residence processes for Portugal.

 

In your opinion, do you think this change is positive for them?

DC I argue that it is. This change allows to mitigate the long-standing injustice felt by those who waited, sometimes for years, for the approval of their requests.

Now that the waiting time for the approval of the residence permit application will also be taken into account for obtaining nationality, an unjust situation that affected thousands of people, harmed by mere administrative delays to which they were completely unrelated, is corrected.

The legal change represents a positive step and aims to provide greater predictability and equity to the nationality acquisition processes for Golden Visa applicants in Portugal, giving a very positive signal and restoring credibility to the country.

 

Considering that LACA specifically works on these immigration-related topics, what impact do you think such a change can have on attracting foreign direct investment to Portugal?

DC This is a very interesting point. In fact, immediately after the news about the change in the Nationality Law, articles also began to appear in the international press that placed the Portuguese Golden Visa Program at the forefront of Residence Programs through Investment internationally.

In fact, the legal change brings greater stability, predictability, and speed to the entire process.

That is, an investor currently knows that if they make an investment of, for example, €500,000.00 (five hundred thousand euros) in an Investment Fund and then submit the application for the Golden Visa, they know that after five years they can start the process of obtaining Portuguese nationality, and then obtain the Portuguese passport approximately one year later.

Additionally, the Portuguese passport remains one of the strongest passports in the world. For people who value the possibility of moving without restrictions and who come from countries where this is not the usual reality, this can be a very important step for their lives and for the lives of their families.

 

Changing the subject now. The State Budget Law for 2024 introduced a new tax regime applicable to individuals who come to reside in Portugal. Can you tell us a little about this topic?

DC The tax regime for non-habitual residents (NHR) has been repealed, being replaced by the so-called Fiscal Incentive for Scientific Research and Innovation, which is now provided for in the Statute of Tax Benefits (EBF), which we now call NHR 2.0.

Care was taken to create a transitional provision in the Law, to safeguard individuals who were already in the process of transitioning their residence to Portugal and planned to obtain the NHR, but the regime effectively ended, and a regime of lesser scope was created.

 

Generally, what are the requirements that must be met to access the benefit? And what are its benefits?

DC It applies to individuals who have not been residents in Portugal for the last five years and who are now changing their tax residence to the country.

The benefit occurs in IRS, applying a special rate of 20% on the net income of categories A and B – earned in the context of teaching in higher education and scientific research, highly qualified professionals framed in certain types of companies or inserted in specific sectors of activity – for a period of ten consecutive years from the year of their registration as residents in Portugal.

 

Did the State Budget Law also change the regime that applied to Portuguese emigrants who intend to return (Return Program)?

DC It is a fact. The tax regime for Former Residents, also known as the Return Program, can now be called the Entry Program, that’s how we like to refer to it at the moment, as its application is no longer dependent on previous residence in Portugal.

This regime, besides having been extended until 31/12/2026, provides for the exclusion of taxation of 50% applicable for five years to category B income for individuals who become tax residents in the years 2024 to 2026.

The 50% exclusion, however, now has a limit of €250,000 (two hundred and fifty thousand euros) for individuals who become tax residents from 2024 onwards.

It is known that Brazilian citizens set records when it comes to requests for Portuguese nationality, which, given the proximity to the sister country, is not surprising.

Many are entitled to Portuguese nationality because they are still descendants to some degree of Portuguese citizens, but a large number of requests stem from legal residence in Portugal.

It is worth remembering that, as can be read in the newspaper Público, “almost 800 thousand foreigners live in Portugal and 30% are Brazilians. (…) The SEF, Brazilians remain the main foreign community residing in the country, representing last year 30.7% of the total, and it was also the community from Brazil that grew the most in 2022 (17.1%) compared to 2021, totaling 239,744.”

And this is why the most recent amendment to the Nationality Law, particularly to its article 15, benefits Brazilian citizens especially, as they are the largest community residing in Portugal.

But what is this amendment?

The naturalization of foreign residents in Portugal is possible as long as the citizen has legally resided for five years in Portuguese territory.

Article 15 of the Nationality Law provides that “individuals who are in Portuguese territory, with their situation regularized before the Portuguese authorities, under any of the titles, visas or authorizations provided for in the regime of entry, stay, exit and removal of foreigners and in the regime of the right of asylum” are considered to legally reside in Portuguese territory.

It happens that, in many cases, citizens reside in Portugal for years until their “situation is regularized” and often not through any fault of their own.

In fact, if we think about the expressions of interest (that is, the request that the citizen makes to regularize his situation when he already resides in Portugal) and the obtaining of the residence card, after its approval, it takes 2 or 3 years. During this time, the citizen is in “limbo”, actually residing in Portugal, but because the situation was not regularized, the 5 years to acquire nationality easily turned into 7 or 8.

And why is it so important?

The amendment to the Law allows for the consideration of “the time elapsed since the moment when the temporary residence permit was requested, provided that it is subsequently approved.”

This change adjusts the rights of those who, only due to delays in services, do not have their situation regularized earlier; it is the change of the date from which the period of legal residence is counted.

Learn about the other changes made to the law in our news or contact our team of lawyers to learn more about this topic or request support in your Portuguese nationality application process.

 Why has there been an increasing interest in Portuguese nationality?

Portuguese citizenship is highly valued due to the strength of the Portuguese passport, which is considered one of the most powerful globally. Additionally, Portugal’s legal framework allows individuals to retain their original nationality upon acquiring Portuguese citizenship.

Many people opt to relocate to Portugal and bring their families together here, attracted by the country’s reputation as one of the safest and most peaceful in the world. Portugal boasts a healthcare system ranked 12th by the WHO and an internationally respected education system.

Furthermore, Portuguese citizens hold European citizenship, granting them the right to freely reside and work in any EU member state. They also benefit from Portugal’s privileged relationships with PALOP countries worldwide.

Portugal ranks:

  • #3 most valuable passport, providing access to 169 countries (source: Passport Index 2022)
  • #6 most peaceful out of 163 countries (source: Global Peace Index 2022)
  • #4 best expat destination for quality of life (source: Expat Insider 2022)
  • Portugal was voted the cheapest country to live in (source: Forbes magazine 2023)
  • #4 highest for integration of minorities and #8 highest for integration of immigrants out of 133 countries (source: INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022)

Embarking on the Journey to Portuguese Nationality: Challenges and Appeal

Embarking on the journey to obtain Portuguese nationality from afar comes with its fair share of challenges. Yet, the appeal of this citizenship remains undeniably strong.

However, despite the allure, the remote obtainment of Portuguese nationality poses significant hurdles.

1) Genealogical Obstacles

Genealogy stands out as the initial obstacle, often requiring individuals to locate the birth certificate of their Portuguese ancestor—a task made daunting by decentralized records and limited digitalization. Here, the expertise of a lawyer in Portugal proves invaluable, guiding individuals through administrative divisions, archival systems, and conducting thorough research to uncover birth records.

2) Documentation Complexities

Complicating matters further are the complexities surrounding documentation. Understanding the necessary paperwork, issuance processes, and legalization procedures can be perplexing, especially given the scattered and outdated information usually found on the Internet. Lawyers specializing in Portuguese Nationality Law offer much-needed clarity, drawing on their extensive knowledge to ensure a smooth process and prevent costly errors.

 

3) Communication Barriers

Communication barriers present yet another challenge, with language differences and time zone disparities hindering effective interaction with Portuguese authorities. Equipped with access to specific channels and adept at overcoming language barriers, lawyers facilitate clear and accurate communication, expediting the process.

 

4) Navigating Administrative Procedures

Navigating the intricacies of the nationality process itself can be daunting, requiring a nuanced understanding of legal requirements and administrative procedures. Here, the expertise of a lawyer shines, providing clear guidance, navigating legislative changes, and adjusting procedures as needed to ensure efficiency.

 

5) Addressing Prolonged Processing Times

Finally, the prolonged processing times inherent to nationality processes exacerbate the challenges. Independently submitted processes often encounter delays, especially if they contain errors or if the documents are not correct from the outset. Additionally, those handled by lawyers benefit from electronic submission, expediting the process. Furthermore, lawyers’ proactive approach enables them to closely monitor progress and address any issues promptly, including the possibility of initiating legal actions to expedite the process if necessary.

 

Seeking Legal Assistance

In conclusion, while obtaining Portuguese nationality remotely is possible, it presents significant challenges. Seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable lawyer in Portugal offers a strategic advantage. From navigating genealogical complexities to streamlining bureaucratic procedures, lawyers play a crucial role in overcoming obstacles and paving a smooth path to citizenship.

On January 5th, significant amendments to the Portuguese Nationality Law were approved by the Parliament. These changes still need to be published in the Official Journal (Diário da República) and will only come into effect on the first day of the month following that publication.

Some of the amendments confirm in the Law what had already been outlined in the Nationality Regulation, such as the Opposition period to nationality, which is now “1 year from the date of registration of nationality acquisition” instead of the date of the “fact on which nationality acquisition depends.”

The main innovations mainly concern the regime for granting nationality to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, the rules for establishing parentage for the purpose of obtaining original nationality, and the counting of residence time for nationality acquisition based on residency.

Without prejudice to a subsequent separate and more detailed analysis of each of the changes, we summarize below the three main alterations to the Nationality Law of 2024.

 

  1. Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews

Following the introduction of very ambiguous requirements in the Nationality Regulation (which will still apply until the approved changes come into effect) and considering the possibility of a complete repeal of the regime, the Parliament has now approved amendments to the Nationality Law regarding the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews.

Additionally, a special regime has been approved for the descendants of Sephardic Jews who apply for nationality before the new law comes into effect.

 

Regime applicable to proceedings submitted after the entry into force of the new law

As of the entry into force of the new law, descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews may apply for nationality by fulfilling the following cumulative requirements:

  • Demonstration of a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal; and
  • Legal residence in Portuguese territory for a period of at least 3 years, whether consecutive or interpolated.

 

The proof of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin will undergo a restrictive change compared to the current practice. While, until now, it has been verified by the presentation of a certificate from one of the two Sephardic communities in Portugal, with the new amendments coming into effect, that certificate will now be subject to final approval by an evaluation committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice. This committee is expected to include “representatives of competent services in the field, researchers or professors in higher education institutions in Sephardic studies, and representatives of Jewish communities with the status of a religious collective person, established in Portugal.”

 

Regime applicable to proceedings submitted before the entry into force of the new law

For those applying for the grant of nationality as descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews before the entry into force of the new law, an intermediate regime will exist. In this regime, it will be sufficient to meet the following requirements:

  1. Demonstration of the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal;

Along with only one of the following alternative requirements:

  1. Ownership, inherited by succession, of real rights over properties located in Portugal, other personal enjoyment rights, or equity interests in commercial companies or cooperatives based in Portugal;
  2. Regular travels throughout the life of the applicant to Portugal, attesting to an effective and lasting connection to Portugal;
  3. Holding a residence permit for more than 1 year.

 

The first two points were already part of the Nationality Regulation and had been in effect since September 1, 2022. However, the third point is a new addition and will only be in force until the entry into force of the new Nationality Law.

 

So, why add these two points to the nationality law for a short period?

We believe that, with the additional provisions, instead of simply introducing the new regime, the intention was to mitigate the proliferation of more legal actions regarding processes initiated between September 2022 and the entry into force of the new law. This was done in anticipation of avoiding decisions similar to the recent one reported, where the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Porto ruled that the two subparagraphs of paragraph 3 of Article 24-A, added in March 2022 during the regulation of the Law, would “introduce into the legal system a requirement authored by the Government in the exercise of regulatory power, disregarding the limits of the legal reserve” and would therefore be unconstitutional.

 

  1. Establishment of Filiation

During the discussion of the latest amendments to the Nationality Law, even in the previous legislative term, there was a debate about the possibility of repealing Article 14 of the said Law. This article stipulates that only filiation established during minority is relevant for the purpose of obtaining original nationality.

The complete repeal of the article was not approved, but the regime was eventually expanded to allow filiation established during adulthood to also have effects on original nationality under the following circumstances:

  • The establishment of filiation occurs as a result of a judicial process, or
  • The establishment of filiation is the subject of recognition in a judicial action.

When filiation is established through a judicial action, the application for original nationality can be made within the 3 years following the final and non-appealable decision.

 

Exceptional 3-Year Deadline Calculation Regime

An exception to this rule is already provided for cases in which filiation is established before the entry into force of the new law. In these cases, the 3-year period will be calculated not from the final and non-appealable decision, but from the effective date of the newly approved law. In other words, individuals who had parentage established during adulthood before the entry into force of the law can, within the next 3 years, apply for original nationality.

One of the most applauded amendments, addressing the rights of those whose regularization is delayed due to administrative processes, involves the change in the commencement date for calculating the legal residence period.

 

  1. Naturalization Based on Residency Time

Article 15 of the Nationality Law previously stated that for nationality purposes, “individuals are considered to reside legally in Portuguese territory if they are present here with their status regularized before Portuguese authorities, under any of the titles, visas, or authorizations provided for in the regime of entry, stay, departure, and removal of foreigners and in the asylum law regime.”

However, in many cases, there is a significant lapse of time between the residency application and its approval, during which the individual resides effectively in Portugal but without this time being accounted for as legal residence.

The amendment to the law allows for the consideration of “the time elapsed since the moment the temporary residence permit was requested, provided that it is subsequently approved.

Portugal, a country of emigrants 

There have been many migratory waves of the Portuguese from the 15th century up to today. 

Recently, the UN and other entities estimated that there are over two million emigrants, meaning that more than 25% of Portuguese born in Portugal live outside the country. 

In addition, there’s a vast community of Portuguese from the diaspora, including spouses, children, and grandchildren of those who migrated over the centuries, whose numbers are practically impossible to ascertain, but estimated to be over six million. 

 

Immigrants in Portugal 

The interest in Portugal and in obtaining Portuguese nationality has also grown among citizens with less immediate connections. 

Portuguese nationality is sought after because the Portuguese passport ranks as one of the “strongest” and Portuguese law allows the citizen who acquires it to maintain their original nationality. 

Many choose to live in Portugal and reunite their families here, as the country is recognized as one of the safest and most peaceful in the world, with a healthcare system ranked 12th by the WHO and an internationally recognized educational system. 

Moreover, Portuguese citizens are simultaneously European citizens, enjoying free movement to live and work in any EU country, and benefiting from the privileged relations Portugal maintains with PALOP countries worldwide. 

 

Why the delay in Nationality processes? 

The main factor cited for the delay is the exponential increase in applications. From 2010 to 2016, the average was 100,000 cases per year. From 2017 to 2020, it was about 160,000 per year. In 2021, processes exceeded 195,000. In 2022, there are no official data, but an estimated 250,000 cases. 

Additionally, the average age of employees is 59 years old, meaning many retire monthly without replacement (there hasn’t been a hiring process in 20 years!), and the technical means are inadequate: computers are over 15 years old and use very outdated operating systems. 

The combination of these factors results in the widely known delay, accumulating year after year, causing frustration among citizens and professionals – the Union of Registry and Notary Workers estimates there are about 300,000 pending processes. 

 

Online Nationality 

In February 2023, a new online platform (only for two types of processes – residency, and marriage) was tested and expanded in June to all process types. 

Starting from December 1st, 2023, lawyers must submit nationality requests online, which concerns us because the current platform is very deficient and causes some constraints for professionals (both lawyers and service providers). 

As communicated by the government, a “new platform will be fully launched later this month,” thus maintaining hope for its replacement or improvement. 

Since February 2023, around 14,700 online requests have been submitted, resulting, according to the IRN, in about ten thousand fewer in-person appointments per month at the conservatories. 

The Ministry of Justice emphasized efficiency gains, in time and environmentally. 

 

How to get it faster? 

According to what has been conveyed by the government and the Conservatory members, electronically submitted processes will be much faster than those submitted by individuals. 

This is because the lengthier steps, such as digitization and process classification, are eliminated, saving about 70% of the service’s action time. 

Note that only through a lawyer can a process be submitted online. Therefore, citizens wishing to submit alone must use other means (in person or by mail), and in this scenario, it is evident that processing nationality requests through lawyers means, from the start, achieving Portuguese nationality more quickly. 

This prerogative aligns with the established preferential treatment of lawyers who have access to specific channels in the competent bodies and maintain frequent contact with them, ensuring that the process stays within the established deadlines. 

Furthermore, processing through a lawyer has always been the safest method. Lawyers can avoid errors, anticipate possible reasons for refusal before affecting the process, provide guidance to ensure that the documentation is complete from the beginning, and by staying updated regarding legislative changes, they can adapt procedures to minimize delays as much as possible. 

So, if you want to start the process of applying for Portuguese nationality, don’t hesitate to contact our team of lawyers so that we can ensure that your process runs quickly and safely. 

Recently, the Brazilian Constitution underwent an important change that aims to protect those who wish to have multiple nationalities voluntarily, either through the naturalization process – after living for a certain period in a given country – or through other derivative forms, such as marriage. This makes it easier for Brazilian citizens to obtain Portuguese nationality. Let’s see how.

According to the news covering this change in the law, “the loss of Brazilian nationality is now restricted to two situations: when the citizen expressly requests renunciation – as long as this does not make him / her stateless, i.e. without citizenship recognized by any other country – or in cases of a court decision related to fraud in the naturalization process or an attack on the Constitutional order and the Democratic State.”

Although it rarely happened, many Brazilian citizens were afraid to start the process of acquiring Portuguese nationality through marriage, for fear of losing their nationality of origin.

This increased especially after the case of Cláudia Hoerig, one of those rare exceptions, accused of murder in the United States, who fled to Brazil. This case raised concerns because she was denied her Brazilian nationality to be extradited to the United States.

 

Portuguese nationality for Brazilian citizens

Although Brazilian citizens are one of the groups that most often obtain Portuguese nationality – either because they are of Portuguese descent or because of naturalization due to their length of residence in Portugal, few have applied for Portuguese nationality by marriage in recent years.

This statement is based on a proportional perspective. In fact, according to SEF’s 2022 report, Brazilian nationality leads applications for nationality by marriage in Portugal, however, we believe that these numbers could have been higher in previous years given the number of conjuges who have obtained Portuguese nationality.

We believe that the numbers will certainly increase in the future. This is due to the recent guarantee that the loss of Brazilian nationality will only occur in specific circumstances, eliminating the generic risk previously perceived.

Due to the fear of losing their nationality of origin, which previously influenced many spouses to opt only for the application for residence by family reunification, the truth is that they are of different statuses. Portuguese citizenship makes the life of the citizen, especially the one who wishes to live or invest in Portugal, much more favorable and simplified than a Residence Permit.

If you would like further clarification on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to help you every step of the way.

In an interview with CNN Portugal on Monday evening, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa said the Government planned to put an end to the country’s non-habitual resident (NHR) tax regime next year, as it has served its purpose and is now prejudicing the housing market.

It is unclear whether this will be fully or partially canceled or when the change will come into effect, but there is a chance that the measure will be approved within the State Budget 2024, soon to be brought for debate in Parliament.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa also stated that people who already have NHR status will keep it.

NHR offers tax benefits for 10 years for people relocating to Portugal, with income earned in Portugal for high-added-value activities being taxed at a flat rate of 20% and income sourced abroad being generally exempt, except for pensions, which are taxed at a flat rate of 10%.

So applicants who wish to still take advantage of this tax benefit should, if possible, register as tax residents in Portugal until December 31st and then apply for NHR status.

Naturally, tax residence is easily registered in Portugal once a foreign holds a residence card or certificate (in the case of EU/EEA nationals). However, in cases where a residence card has not yet been issued, and the person is already a resident in Portugal (depending on the specifics of the situation) there may be other ways to accomplish this, considering the law and what our practice has confirmed.

Want to apply to NHR status or know more about this topic? Our team at Lamares, Capela & Associados is ready to assist you. Contact us here.

Hongkongers are still attracted to a new life in Portugal, even with tighter Golden Visa rules. And yes, Portuguese citizenship for Macau residents is still possible.

 

We wrote about this back in 2019 and it is still true that Hongkongers remain interested in Portugal even though there are tighter Golden Visa rules today.

Being a gateway to post-Brexit Europe, Portugal is seen by many countries as the best alternative to Westernization – mainly for those that share a past with the Portuguese being ex-colonies.

This is also true concerning Macau, a territory that was Portuguese until 1976 – or 1999 when considering the period in which it was still under the Portuguese administration.

As we also explained here, those who were born in Macau until 1981 are Portuguese, regardless of their affiliation. And those born after November 1981 are only Portuguese when proving to have a Portuguese parent. Once granted, Portuguese citizenship is passed on to the children, grandchildren, and so on.

As such, it is now possible to find Portuguese citizens not only in Macau but a bit all over Hong Kong. But, with the transition, many who went from Macau to Hong Kong lost their Portuguese citizenship, some illegally, and, worse than that, many became stateless.

Until now, Macau and Hong Kong citizens were able to enter Europe through Golden Visa and its real estate investment program which is now ending in Portugal. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no more opportunities for these citizens in Portugal. On the contrary, we continue to welcome Macau citizens who, through their descendants, may want to apply for Portuguese nationality and, with that, access Europe more easily.

 

Portuguese citizenship for Macau residents

Portugal may not be that interesting for those considering benefits from programs such as the Golden Visa, but it is still one of the best entrance doors in Europe, especially for those of Portuguese descent, such as Macau citizens. And many are aware of it.

Research shows that the number of applications has increased in recent years due to various factors, such as the political situation in Hong Kong, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the benefits of holding a European passport.

One source estimates that about 10,000 Macau residents applied for Portuguese citizenship in 2020, compared to about 3,000 in 2019. Another source reports that the Portuguese consulate in Macau received more than 7,000 applications in the first half of 2020, which was more than the total number of applications in 2019.

To apply for Portuguese citizenship, foreign citizens need to meet certain requirements, for example, being born in Macau before or during the Portuguese administration (until 1981) or having a parent or grandparent who was born in Macau or Portugal.

Portuguese citizenship grants these citizens the right to live, work, study, and travel freely in the European Union and other countries that have visa-free agreements with Portugal.

It also allows them to participate in the political and social life of Portugal and the EU. However, they may also face some challenges, such as renouncing their Chinese nationality (as China does not recognize dual citizenship).

If you want to know more about obtaining Portuguese citizenship or any other Immigration matter, don’t hesitate to contact our team of experienced lawyers.

Get in touch with us for further information.

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