Overview of Citizenship in Portugal for South African Citizens
The main routes for foreign nationals, including South African citizens, to obtain citizenship in Portugal are through descent or birth, citizenship other than descent such as marriage, adoption, residence on Portuguese overseas territory, Sephardic Jewish descent and naturalisation of foreign residents.
Each citizenship route has its own specific requirements, and some may seem more challenging to obtain than others. All the same, whichever path you qualify for, you must satisfy the duration of the residency requirement, which can be up to five years, particularly during the naturalisation process.
- Overview of Citizenship in Portugal for South African Citizens
- What is Citizenship in Portugal for South African citizens?
- Citizenship by Descent or Birth
- Portuguese Citizenship Routes Other than Descent
- Portuguese Citizenship by Naturalisation
- Portugal Citizenship Application for South African Citizens
- Processing times for Portuguese citizenship applications for South Africans
- Obtaining a Portuguese Passport as a South African Citizen
- How Can Total Law Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Citizenship in Portugal for South African citizens?
Citizenship in Portugal for South Africans is an alternative way of obtaining permanent residency in Portugal.
There are similarities between Portuguese citizenship and permanent residence, the former comes with additional benefits like the ability to participate in all elections as well as the entitlement to acquire a Portuguese passport and citizen card.
It is important to note that obtaining citizenship in Portugal is highly dependent on your personal circumstances and background. Therefore, seeking the help of an immigration expert to guide you on the necessary steps to take is desirable.
Citizenship by Descent or Birth
Portuguese citizenship is automatically conferred if you have Portuguese parents or grandparents or, in specific instances, you were born in Portugal. However, ensuring your Portuguese citizenship is officially recorded in the Portuguese Civil Registry Offices or Birth Citizens Registry Desk is crucial.
This registration allows citizenship to be passed down to future generations, regardless of their place of birth. To qualify, you must meet at least one of the following conditions:
- Have at least one parent who was a Portuguese national at the time of your birth, regardless of your place of birth.
- Have a Portuguese grandparent who has maintained their nationality, and you have resided in Portugal for a minimum of three years while being connected to the Portuguese community, including proficiency in the Portuguese language.
- Been in Portugal to foreign parents, and at least one of your parents has resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years (since 1981), two years (since 2018), or one year (since 2020) at the time of your birth.
- Born in Portugal to foreign parents, are 18 years of age or older, and have resided in Portugal for five years.
- Under the age of 18 or have a significant disability, and at least one of your parents acquired Portuguese nationality after your birth. In such instances, you may be eligible as long as you have resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years.
If you did not meet the citizenship by descent requirements, you can qualify for Portuguese citizenship by double descent. Portuguese citizenship by double descent refers to pathways to citizenship that do not stem from having a Portuguese citizen as your direct parent.
Since 2015, individuals born outside Portugal with at least one Portuguese grandparent have been automatically granted Portuguese citizenship by double descent.
Usually, legal advice is required for Portuguese citizenship by double descent to ensure your citizenship claim:
- You have a grandparent born in Portugal who has retained their citizenship without having renounced it or lost it through marriage to a foreign spouse.
- You can obtain Portuguese citizenship without needing to fulfil residency or language requirements.
If you have ties to Portugal, you can obtain citizenship and a passport, as the Portuguese Nationality Laws were amended in 2018. In this case, you should be able to prove any one of the following:
- Married to a Portuguese citizen for over 3 years, your marriage is registered in Portugal, and you have connections to the country such as regular travel, language proficiency, or property ownership.
- You were adopted and would be considered Portuguese if either of your adoptive parents were Portuguese, regardless of your age.
- Born on Portuguese territory to foreign parents who declared their intention to become Portuguese citizens, and one parent has lived in Portugal for at least two years at the time of your birth.
- Your parent, mother, or father is a Portuguese citizen born abroad but currently serving the Portuguese state.
- You were born on a Portuguese territory without any other nationality and would otherwise be stateless.
Citizenship by Marriage
You can seek Portuguese citizenship without meeting the five-year residency condition if you are married to or in a de facto union with a Portuguese national. However, you should have been married or in a union for a minimum of three years.
This citizenship route doesn’t necessitate any residency period in Portugal. For instance, you could marry a Portuguese citizen outside Portugal and reside in another country together for three years.
Nevertheless, you will still be required to show some connection to the Portuguese community, such as proficiency in the Portuguese language.
Citizenship by Adoption
A South African under 18 who has been legally adopted by a Portuguese citizen can apply for citizenship without delay. You will be required to establish a connection to the Portuguese community, which may include factors such as proficiency in the Portuguese language or enrollment in education in Portugal, for instance.
Citizenship as a Resident of a Portuguese Overseas Territory
In specific instances, you can assert Portuguese citizenship if you are part of a Portuguese community residing in one of the following former Portuguese colonies:
- Cabo Verde
- Portuguese India
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- East Timor
You will have to provide evidence of either your lineage from Portuguese nationals or your affiliation with a community that upholds Portuguese values and traditions to achieve this.
Citizenship of Sephardic Jewish descent
Proving that you belong to a Sephardic Jewish community and are of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish origin can allow you to obtain Portuguese citizenship. You should reach out to an immigration expert for advice if you are considering this route.
Temporary and Permanent Residence Permits
South African citizens living in Portugal typically begin with a Temporary Residence Permit, which is initially valid for one year and can be renewed at two-year intervals. After five years of possessing a Temporary Residence Permit, you can apply for a Residence Permit.
You should note that both of these residence permits contribute to fulfilling the five-year residency requirement for naturalisation.
Golden Visa Program
The Portugal Golden Visa Program provides South African nationals with a chance to invest in Portugal and, in exchange, obtain an expedited residence permit. This permit enables holders and their families to reside, work, and study in Portugal, as well as travel freely within the Schengen Area.
After five years of residency, Golden Visa holders can apply for permanent residency or citizenship. In the initial year of the residency visa, a minimum of seven days must be spent in Portugal, followed by at least 14 days in each subsequent two-year period. After completing a five-year term, you are eligible to apply for citizenship.
Several investment pathways are available, such as residential property investments, commercial property investments, investing in businesses and creating employment, capital transfer, supporting scientific research, and making donations.
The D3 Visa is designed for highly skilled professionals seeking employment in Portugal. This category includes individuals with a job offer or a contractual commitment from a Portuguese employer. After residing in Portugal on a D3 Visa for five years, you are eligible to apply for citizenship.
The D7 Visa, also known as the Passive Income Visa, is for individuals who can prove a steady income from financial investments, pensions, rental earnings, or other sources. This visa offers a route to permanent residency and, after five years, the possibility of acquiring citizenship.
The D8 Visa is for entrepreneurs planning to invest in or establish a business in Portugal. After maintaining legal residence for five years, D8 Visa holders are eligible to apply for Portuguese nationality.
Whichever naturalisation pathway you qualify for, you still need to demonstrate ties to the Portuguese community, show proof of proficiency in the Portuguese language at a minimum of A2 level, and maintain a clean criminal record.
If you are unsure about how to meet any of the Portuguese citizenship requirements, you should contact one of our professional advisers today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or chat with us online. We can assist you with the process, ensure you meet the requirements, and submit the required applications on your behalf to achieve a successful outcome.
Citizenship through Descent or Birth
If you are born in Portugal to a Portuguese parent, you won’t need to go through a citizenship application process, as you will automatically acquire Portuguese citizenship.
Alternatively, you have the option to apply for Portuguese citizenship through birth or descent in Portugal by applying via a Portuguese embassy or consulate in South Africa
To apply through this route, the documentation required varies based on the application route, but it may encompass:
- Birth certificate
- Birth certificates of your parents or grandparents. In cases where you cannot provide their birth certificates, you will need to show proof of your relationship
- Proof of nationality of parents or grandparents
- Proof of meeting residency prerequisites, such as tax records, if applicable
- Proof of integration within the Portuguese community, like a language certification
- A signed statement affirming Portuguese nationality or a letter directed to the Ministry of Justice
If you’re applying based on descent, that is, if you have Portuguese parents or grandparents, you will not be required to pay any fees. However, you will be required to pay €250 if you are applying through birth, that is, if you were born in Portugal.
For those under the age of 18 or disabled and applying because a parent became a Portuguese national after they were born, they will pay €200.
Citizenship Other than Descent
Citizenship by Marriage
The application procedure is the same as that of the naturalisation application, with the exception that you must provide a marriage certificate or evidence of a de facto union. The application fee for this process is €250.
Citizenship by Adoption
The application process follows a similar route for submission as other types. However, you must submit:
- Your identification
- Adoption documents, and
- Proof of your connection to Portugal
If the adoption occurred after October 8, 1981, the application is free. However, if the adoption took place before this date, there is a fee requirement of €250.
Citizenship as a Resident of a Portuguese Overseas Territory
Applications follow the conventional route and have a cost of €250.
Citizenship by Investment
You can adhere to the regular application process, incurring a fee of €250. You are required to provide evidence of being a Portuguese resident through the Golden Visa program for a minimum of five years.
Citizenship through Sephardic Jewish Descent
This Portuguese citizenship route requires no residency period but has an application fee of €250.
Citizenship by Naturalisation
When applying for Portuguese Citizenship by Naturalisation you will need to provide the following paperwork:
- Recent passport or travel identification
- Birth certificate
- Evidence of meeting the required residence duration in Portugal, such as a valid residence permit
- Demonstrating proficiency in the Portuguese language, equivalent to at least level A2 on the CEFR scale
- Criminal record certificate
- A letter directed to the Ministry of Justice formally requesting Portuguese citizenship
The fee for naturalisation-based citizenship applications is €250.
Processing times for Portuguese citizenship applications for South Africans
As a South African citizen residing in South Africa, your Portuguese citizenship application can take between a few months and two years, depending on current demand and if there are any problems with your application.
Obtaining a Portuguese Passport as a South African Citizen
Upon acquiring Portuguese citizenship, you become eligible for a Portuguese passport, which grants you access to approximately 167 countries with either no visa requirements or minimal visa restrictions.
The regular fee for applying within Portugal is €65 for an adult passport, although it may be higher when applying from South Africa or utilising an expedited service.
How Can Total Law Help?
Applying for citizenship in Portugal as a South African citizen requires careful consideration; you need to choose the correct Portuguese citizenship route based on your circumstances to circumvent application refusal.
Our team of experts can assist you in submitting a comprehensive application, encompassing all the necessary documents to ensure a successful submission.
The immigration law office of Total Law represents clients who are seeking citizenship in Portugal, professional advice, and updates on countries’ immigration laws.
We are focused on making immigration application processes smooth and seamless for individuals and corporations while ensuring a high degree of clarity for our advisory services.
To know how we can help you and learn more about the services we offer, schedule a consultation with us today at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or chat with us online, and we will respond to your inquiries quickly.
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There are no formal appeals in case your application for Portuguese citizenship is declined. However, you may reach out to the Portuguese embassy or consulate in South Africa or the IRN (Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado) to request a re-evaluation of their decision.
If you wish to pursue the matter further, you will have to engage in legal proceedings through the Portuguese courts. This can be a financially and temporally extensive process, so it is crucial to secure competent legal representation.
There isn’t a citizenship test per se. However, numerous citizenship applicants are required to undergo and successfully pass a language assessment to demonstrate their comprehension of Portuguese at the A2 level.
The language test can be taken at an approved examination centre for about €70, after which a certificate, known as “Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira” (CIPLE), is issued.
CIPLE examinations span two hours and comprise reading and writing (45%), oral comprehension (30%), and oral expression (25%). In order to pass the examination, an overall score of 55% or above is required.
Portugal permits dual citizenship, as does South Africa, so you cannot lose your Portuguese citizenship. However, you risk losing your Portuguese citizenship if you engage in a serious criminal offence or become implicated in an act of terrorism.
Nevertheless, instances of individuals losing Portuguese nationality are uncommon, and this cannot occur if it would render you stateless.
Specific categories of former Portuguese citizens can regain their Portuguese nationality. These encompass South Africans who:
- Lost their citizenship due to the decision of a legal guardian when they were minors or faced severe disabilities.
- Have forfeited their citizenship but have never obtained another nationality.
- Renounced their citizenship by acquiring another nationality before 1981 but now wish to re-acquire Portuguese citizenship.
In addition, females who gave up their citizenship due to marriage to a foreign national prior to the Portuguese Nationality Act of 1981 can also regain their Portuguese nationality.
These applications are exempt from fees, except for disabled applicants seeking to regain citizenship due to the decision of a legal representative (€175) and those who lost citizenship but never acquired another nationality (€250).
You can apply to fast-track your Portuguese citizenship if you fall under special circumstances. For instance, you have provided services to the Portuguese state or community, such as military service for Portugal.
Also, descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews fall under the special circumstances category. Applications in these categories are fast, require no residency period, and cost €250.