Second Citizenship
December 17, 2021
Reading Time: 12 min

How to get Portugal citizenship after a “Golden Visa”

The Portugal Golden Visa is one of the fastest paths to citizenship in the European Union. To obtain a second passport, it is enough for an investor to remain a Golden Visa holder for five years and learn the basics of the Portuguese language.

But investors are rightly concerned about whether the process of obtaining Portugal citizenship is really that simple in practice.

How to get and renew a Golden Visa, what documents are needed to apply for citizenship, how to confirm knowledge of the Portuguese language and how long to wait for a ready passport — Viktor Esik, the head of the Portuguese office of Immigrant Invest, shares his personal experience.

Alina Mishurenko
Alina Mishurenko

Explains how to get a Portuguese passport

How to get Portuguese citizenship after a golden visa

How to get Portugal citizenship after a “Golden Visa”

— What is a Golden Visa and how to get it in Portugal?

The golden visa is a temporary residence permit that is issued for investment in the country’s economy. Portugal began issuing residence permits by investment in 2012 by launching the Golden Residence Permit Program.

The Portugal residence permit by investment can be obtained by:

  • a purchase of property, new or for restoration;

  • a purchase of shares of an investment fund;

  • a transfer of capital to Portugal;

  • investing in an existing Portuguese business;

  • opening a company and creating new jobs;

  • sponsoring scientific or cultural projects.

— Why and how did you get a Portugal residence permit by investment? 

I first visited Portugal on a business trip in 2006. Even then I really liked the country due to its mild warm climate, safe environment and laid back, friendly people. Then we went to Portugal several times with the whole family on vacation and thought about moving.

When the residence permit by investment program launched in Portugal, I was just about to buy a house in the country. My wife and I chose property 50 kilometers from Lisbon, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The object cost more than €500,000 and met the conditions of the program.

When buying a property, we paid taxes in Portugal: 0,8% of the value of the property in the form of stamp duty and 8% for the transfer of ownership.

Additional costs amounted to about €24,000. They included fees for applying for and issuing residence permit cards, as well as medical insurance for four people — for me, my wife and two children.

Individual cost calculation of the residence permit in Portugal

Individual cost calculation of the residence permit in Portugal

The entire procedure for obtaining a residence permit was remote. It took only two trips to Portugal: the first time to see the house before buying, the second time to be fingerprinted for the production of biometric residence permit cards.

We received Portugal residence permit cards by mail three months after the application was submitted.

— What conditions did you meet to apply for citizenship?

Obtaining citizenship in Portugal is a notification procedure. For example, one does not have to take exams on the history or constitution of the country, as in Greece. You don’t have to take an oath either.

As adult applicants, my wife and I could apply for citizenship if three conditions were met:

  • legal residence in Portugal for at least five years;

  • no criminal record;

  • basic knowledge of Portuguese.

Residing in Portugal. Only applicants who have lived in the country on the basis of a residence permit or permanent residence for at least five years can apply for citizenship in Portugal.

5 years

You need to live in Portugal in order to apply for citizenship

If a residence permit is obtained, for example, by employment in a Portuguese company, you need to live in Portugal for at least 183 days a year.

Golden visa holders need to spend at least seven days a year in Portugal. For the period of residence in the country, the period of possession of the residence permit card is counted.

My wife and children moved to Portugal immediately after obtaining a residence permit and lived in the country permanently. I continued to work in Moscow and I was able to go to Portugal only for vacations or holidays. In terms of time spent in the country, I got more than seven days a year, although this excess is not necessary.

We did not decide to get Portuguese passports right away: about seven years have passed since we received the residence permit. During this time, we renewed residence permit cards every two years.

To extend residence permit cards, we applied to the Portuguese Migration Service — Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF. We were not required to show tickets or any other evidence of our stay in the country. But for safety reasons, I recommend that you carry supporting documents with you.

No convictions. Citizenship will not be granted to persons with a criminal record for offenses that in Portugal carry a prison sentence of three years or more.

Residence permit in Portugal by investment in real estate

In Portugal, Victor and his family live near the town of Nazare, which is popular among surfers

— Is it difficult to learn Portuguese?

The Portuguese language was not very difficult for me. It fits well with Russian or English and if you constantly use Portuguese in everyday life, after a year, you can feel confident communicating in any scenario.

Children learn language faster than adults. When we moved to Portugal, we planned to leave the children homeschooled for six months as they did not know Portuguese at all. But in Portugal, children are required to attend school, and the language barrier is not a problem, as schools tend to have experience in teaching foreign children.

My children started school in January and by the end of March they were able to communicate with their teachers and peers in Portuguese.

— How did you prove your knowledge of the Portuguese language?

The applicant for Portugal citizenship certifies that they have an A2 level of Portuguese in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​(CEFR).


Level of Portuguese is required for citizenship

I have attended free public Portuguese language courses. They are available in all regional and municipal centers; you can be sure that the courses can be found within an hour’s drive by car in any region of Portugal.

State courses are free, classes are held in the evening at local schools. Intensive training is four lessons per week for three hours, from 8 to 11 p.m. The course lasts three to four months.

There is no testing or exam at the end of the course. But attendance is strictly monitored: if a student misses two classes, he can be expelled.

If a person attends all classes and completes their homework, at the end of the course they will receive a certificate of Portuguese proficiency at A2 level. The issuance of a certificate is paid €7 per person.

You can also confirm the level of Portuguese language proficiency 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.

State testing in Portuguese is carried out by appointment. The test is paid: €15 if carried out in Portugal, €20 if in a Portuguese representation abroad. Full test rules and sample questions.

An assessment of the knowledge of Portuguese as a foreign language must be obtained from one of the certification centers — Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira. Such centers are recognized by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.

Level A2 corresponds to the Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira, CIPLE exam. You can take the exam by appointment, the participation fee is €72.

A university diploma or school certificate issued in Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome or Principe is accepted as a document of education.

If a foreigner has not yet graduated from a school or university where teaching takes place in Portuguese, he can present a certificate from the educational institution.

My children didn’t have to take the Portuguese language exams: instead of a certificate, we provided certificates from the Portuguese school where they studied.

— 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.

As an identity document a Portugal residence permit card is accepted: it contains all the necessary information about the applicant.

An applicant’s birth certificate. To apply for Portugal citizenship, you will need a copy apostilled at the Portuguese Consulate. If the original birth certificate is not in Portuguese, a notarized translation of the document must be provided separately.

Certificates of no criminal record must be obtained in all countries where the applicant has lived for more than a year from the age of 14.

In Russia, certificates of no criminal record can be ordered through the public services portal. Then they need to be translated into Portuguese and the translation apostilled by a notary.

It is not necessary to confirm the absence of a criminal record in Portugal: the migration service itself requests the necessary information about the resident from the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

A certificate of proficiency in Portuguese. If a copy is submitted, then it must be certified by a notary. When submitting the original, please note that the migration service does not return the submitted documents.

An application form filled out in Portuguese. The application shall contain:

  1. Information about the applicant: name, date and place of birth, nationality, marital status, profession and field of activity, names of parents.

  2. Name, number and issue date of the applicant’s identity document — a passport or ID-card.

  3. Current place of residence and registration of the applicant. You also need to list all the countries in which the applicant lived before applying.

A minor child’s application must include the name and address of a trusted person or legal representative, such as a parent or guardian.

The application form must be signed in the presence of a notary or a responsible officer of the Portuguese Migration Service, who will accept the application in person.

You do not need to document your residence in Portugal. The data on the issued residence permit cards and the terms for maintaining the status of a resident are provided by the migration service itself upon request from the department accepting the application for citizenship.

How to apply for Portuguese citizenship: sample application form

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:

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.

Consideration of an application for citizenship usually takes about seven months and takes place in seven stages:

48 hours 

The department that accepted the application sends the documents to the Central Registry Office

Up to 30 days

The Central Registry Office preliminarily reviews the application

Up to 30 days 

The Central Registry Office requests information about the applicant from the SEF and the police

Up to 45 days 

The Central Registry Office decides whether the request for citizenship is justified

Up to 90 days 

The Minister of Justice makes a final decision on the application

Several days 

The National Archives of Portugal notifies the applicant of decision of the registry office and the Minister of Justice

From 2 weeks

The applicant receives an ID-card of a citizen of Portugal

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.

Portuguese Citizenship by Investment: Portuguese Citizenship ID Card

An ID-card of a Portuguese citizen, which Victor received in 2020

— Why and how to get a Portuguese international passport?

Portuguese citizens have the right to visa-free entry to 188 countries. But if an ID-card of a citizen of Portugal is enough to travel within the Schengen zone, then a paper passport is needed to travel to countries outside the region. For example, you will need a passport to enter the UK, USA and Australia

188 countries

Open to Portuguese passport holders

To get a Portuguese international passport, I signed up at the 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.

Documents do not need to be collected: to obtain an international passport, it is enough to provide an ID-card of a Portuguese citizen.

You need to be photographed for a passport on the spot, at the Lojas de Cidadão branch. Fingerprints will also be taken there and a signature sample will be taken for the production of a passport.

The fee for the issuance of a passport is €65. Another €10 must be paid for the delivery of the finished passport to an address within Portugal. Sending a passport abroad is more expensive — from €30.

I received my passport in the spring of 2021. The accelerated procedure for issuing a passport cost €65, the document was ready in a week.

In 2022, five working days is the standard time for issuing a passport in Portugal.

If you pay an extra €20, the passport will be ready in two working days using the express passport issuance service. Urgent service for one business day is available for an additional fee of €30.

Portuguese passport for traveling around the world

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.

Low prices compared with other European countries, such as neighboring Spain. In Lisbon, a meal in a restaurant for two costs €20, while in Madrid it costs at least €40.

Prices in Portugal

  • Three-course dinner at a restaurant — €30 for two

  • Gasoline, 1l — €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.

From the experience of my family, I can say that if for some reason a child needs special attention, for example, he does not speak Portuguese, he will receive this attention.

The schools maintain a very warm atmosphere. Teachers are tactful and calm, and conflicts in the classroom are extremely rare. This helps children to quickly integrate into the community and quickly start speaking Portuguese.

Portuguese universities are in the top 500 universities in terms of quality of education and in the top 300 in terms of employment prospects. The assessment is made within the QS World University Ranking.

The cost of studying at universities in Portugal is the most affordable in the European Union. For residents and citizens of the country, education in state institutions is free. Foreign students pay between €3,000 and €12,500 per year of undergraduate studies. For comparison: a year of study at a British university costs from €17,000.

Portuguese Citizenship for Studying in the EU: University of Coimbra

The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in Europe. In the 21st century, university students study at nine faculties. The main areas are applied sciences, medicine and jurisprudence

Friendly attitude towards foreigners. Approximately 6% of the population of Portugal are immigrants. The locals are sympathetic and friendly people who are always ready to help.

Most of those who moved to the country live in large cities like Lisbon, Porto, or Coimbra. In Lisbon, for example, there is an Orthodox Church and the First Slavic School, where education is conducted in Russian.

But 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.

Safety. In 2021, Portugal was ranked among the top 5 safest and most peaceful countries in the Global Peace Index.

Portugal has a low crime rate that continues to fall: in 2020, the country recorded the lowest number of offenses in the last 30 years.

Living in Portugal, it is not scary to let the children go out alone and return home late at night.

Portuguese citizenship after a residence permit by investment: Santa Cruz beach

Victor and his family often go to the beach of Santa Cruz, 50 km north of Lisbon. The beach is marked with a "blue flag" as an environmentally friendly and safe place for swimming

Warm climate. 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. Most often, people go to Portugal for a beach holiday: in 2021, the country is recognized as the best destination in Europe according to The World Travel Awards.

Portuguese beaches are popular with surfers. For example, near the city of Nazare, they conquer waves up to 30 meters high and fall into the Guinness Book of Records.

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.

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Will you obtain a residence permit in Portugal?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a residence permit in Portugal?

Frequently asked questions

  • Who can apply to get citizenship in Portugal?

    Foreigners who have lived in Portugal for at least five years can obtain citizenship by naturalization. Applicants also confirm knowledge of the Portuguese language at A2 level and no criminal record.

  • Is it allowed to have multiple citizenships in Portugal?

    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

  • What rights and obligations arise after obtaining a Portuguese passport?

    Portuguese citizens have the right to live, work, do business and study in any EU country. They also benefit from health and social services in Portugal and travel the world without visas. Obtaining a Portuguese passport does not mean an automatic change of tax residence. You can start paying taxes in Portugal at any time if you spend more than 183 days in the country in a year.

  • Is Portugal citizenship inherited?

    Yes. Aside from buying Portuguese citizenship, a child acquires citizenship automatically if he was born in Portugal and if one of the parents has Portuguese citizenship. If the child was born outside of Portugal, but one of the parents is a Portuguese citizen, citizenship must be obtained from the Portuguese Consulate in the country of birth.