Changes to the Portuguese Nationality Law in 2024

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.

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Lamares, Capela & Associados is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy and we will only use your personal information to manage your account and provide the products and services you have requested. Occasionally, we would like to contact you about our products and services and also about other matters that may be of interest to you.

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