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Portuguese Nationality for Former Colonies

You may be entitled to Portuguese citizenship if you are a descent of Portuguese nationals from former Portuguese colonies or a member of a community practising Portuguese cultural values.

For further information on Portuguese nationality law, citizenship routes, and other immigration matters, visit our website or call us at (+44) 333 4149244 for immediate help and assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.

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    Benefits of Choosing IAS Portugal Immigration Lawyers

    When it comes to obtaining a Portugal visa or permit, IAS Portugal immigration lawyers are well-equipped to help you.

    With IAS’ track record of successfully helping clients visit or immigrate to Ireland successfully, we can help you achieve your goal.

    Our dedicated immigration lawyers provide our services through a comprehensive and personalised approach. With IAS, you enjoy:

    Compassionate support from an experienced immigration lawyer dedicated to your success

    Support in gathering supporting documents and completing a high-quality application.

    Confidence that your case is being handled by an experienced team.

    In-house document checks done by lawyers who are well-versed in Portugal immigration matters.

    Regardless of what your Portugal immigration query might be, IAS is here to help and support you. Call us or enquire online to learn more about how we can help you.

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    Portuguese Nationality Law

    Through its Decree-Law 308/75 of 24 June 1975, Portugal provided grounds upon which certain persons born abroad in the former Portuguese territories could retain or lose their Portuguese nationality. The Decree-Law provides that:

    Persons born in Portugal but a resident in one of the former Portuguese colonies can retain Portuguese citizenship.

    Persons born in the former Portuguese colonial territories but have been residing in Portugal for a long time can retain citizenship.

    Persons who do not meet the above criteria do not have the privilege of retaining Portuguese citizenship. As a former Portuguese territory citizen, you can apply for Portugal citizenship based on the conditions attached to your country.

    What Are the Former Portuguese Territories?


    The following is the list of the former Portuguese territories:

    • Angola.
    • Cape Verde.
    • Guinea Bissau.
    • India.
    • Macao.
    • Mozambique.
    • Sao Tome and Principe.
    • Timor.

    The African Territories

    Some African territories were formerly under the colonial rule of Portugal before they gained their independence. These countries are Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe. Upon independence from Portugal, many Africans lost their Portuguese nationality.

    However, some Africans were able to preserve their citizenship. These people were:

    • Born in Portugal.
    • Nationalised.
    • Born abroad to parents who were native-born in Portugal, adjacent islands, or naturalised.
    • Born in the former State of India and professed interest in retaining Portuguese nationality.
    • Married, divorcee, or widows and minor children of Portuguese citizens that meet the above criteria.
    • Third-degree descendants of the Portuguese who were able to retain Portuguese nationality. Exceptions were made for those who were not interested in Portuguese citizenship.
    • Citizens born in the former Portuguese colony and lived in mainland Portugal or the adjacent islands for more than five years until April 25, 1974.

    Spouses and children of the Portuguese citizens mentioned above can acquire Portuguese citizenship as long as the citizens have their records in Portugal Civil Registry.


    Macao was under Portuguese administration until December 20, 1999, when it became the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. People born in Macau from 21 November 1981 to 19 December 1999 were Portuguese citizens.

    Since China does not allow dual citizenship, acquiring Portuguese citizenship was restricted when it took over on December 20, 1999. Only citizens with valid Portuguese passports after December 20 could retain Portuguese citizenship.

    The following are entitled to Portuguese citizenship:

    • People whose Portuguese parents were born in Macao territory and its provinces on or before 21 November 1981.
    • People born between 21 November 1981 and 20 December 1999 to Portuguese parents.
    • Non-citizen women married to Portuguese citizens born before November 21, 1981.

    Mecanese who wish to obtain Portuguese citizenship must meet the requirements above. They must have their birth records in the Portuguese civil registry.


    Citizens born in Goa, Damiao, Diu, Dadrá, and Nagar-Haveli of India prior to or on December 20, 1961, are recognized as Portuguese under the Portuguese nationality law. These territories are called India-Portuguese.

    Also, citizens born in these territories before 3 June 1975 were Portuguese due to not residing in any former colony.

    Persons in these criteria or their children must have their birth records in Portugal Civil Registry. Only then can their spouses and children obtain Portuguese nationality.

    East Timor

    Before its independence from Portugal, people born in Timor were entitled to Portuguese nationality. After its independence, only children of Portuguese parents born in Timor-Leste were eligible to acquire Portuguese nationality.

    Persons in these criteria or their children must have their birth records in Portugal Civil Registry. Only then can their spouses and children obtain Portuguese nationality.

    Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on Portuguese Nationality for Former Colonies.

    What Are the Conditions for Acquiring Portuguese Citizenship?

    The conditions for acquiring Portuguese citizenship depends on the requirements attached to each former colony. The following are the general conditions for applying for Portuguese citizenship:

    • You must be above 18 years or emancipated per Portuguese Law.
    • You have Portuguese parents or grandparents that meet the criteria above.
    • Your spouse is a Portuguese citizen from any of the former Portuguese territories (if applicable).
    • You are a citizen of any of the former Portuguese territories.
    • You come from a recognized oversea community that demonstrates Portuguese cultural values and traditions.
    • You have rendered relevant services to the Portuguese State or community
    • You must not have criminal convictions that are punishable by a 3-year jail term or more in Portugal.
    • You have never engaged in any terrorist act.

    What Are the Required Documents

    The following are the general documents for citizenship application:

    Copy of Birth Certificate

    Your copy of your birth certificate can be in full copy. If your certificate is not registered in Portugal, you must legalise it with an Apostille or Portuguese visa. Birth certificates in foreign languages must be translated into Portuguese.

    Criminal Record Certificate

    You can get a criminal record certificate from any of the following:

    • Country of residence.
    • Country of birth.
    • Country of nationality.

    The criminal record must be in Portuguese.

    Birth Certificates of Portuguese Parents

    The birth certificate of your Portuguese parents or grandparents will prove lineage to the former Portuguese territories. If the Portuguese civil registry offices have your parent’s records, you may not need to provide one.

    Evidence of Strong Ties with Overseas Territory

    You must provide documents that prove your affiliation or strong ties with Portuguese descent.

    Evidence of Relevant Service

    You must prove that you have offered relevant services to the Portuguese State or community.

    Letter of Request for Portuguese Nationality

    You must have a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice to request Portuguese nationality. The letter must contain the following details:

    • Full name.
    • Date of birth.
    • Marital status.
    • Nationality.
    • Parents’ full names.
    • Profession.
    • Current residence.
    • Residence history.
    • Legal representative’s name, civil identification number, and address (if applicable).

    The request letter must be in Portuguese. You must sign the letter in the presence of a Registry staff at the time of submission. If you submit it by post, you must sign it before a person with authority to verify the signature.

    Here is a format for the request letter.

    Other documents are:

    • Valid passport.
    • Marriage certificate.
    • Proof of proficiency in Portuguese language (at least A2 level).
    • Proof of legal residence in Portugal for a minimum of five years.
    • Proof of fee payment.

    Allow our legal experts to make this process easier for you. Contact us today by calling: +44 (0)333 305 9375

    For assistance about Portuguese Nationality for Former Colonies, our team is happy to assist.

    How to Apply for Portuguese Citizenship

    Based on nationality law, you are entitled to acquire citizenship in Portugal as a descendant of Portuguese nationals. You are also eligible due to your membership in a community that practises the values and traditions of Portugal.

    You can apply for citizenship through the standard routes of citizenship application. You can use citizenship by descent or naturalisation depending on your situation.

    Portuguese Citizenship through Descent or Birth

    You can access citizenship through your Portuguese grandparents or parents. You must have at least one parent who was a citizen of Portugal at the time of your birth. The country you were born in does not matter.

    Your entitlement to Portuguese citizenship stems from your Portuguese grandparent retaining their citizenship.

    Before applying, you must have been residing in Portugal for not less than three years and have a strong relationship with the Portuguese community.

    You must provide proof of having foreign parents. At the period of your birth, your parents (or one of them) must have been residing in Portugal for one of the minimum numbers of years:

    • One year from 2020.
    • Two years from 2018.
    • Five years from 1981

    You can apply for citizenship by birth if your foreign parents were born in Portugal. You must be 18 and have resided in Portugal for more than five years.

    You can also apply if you are under 18 years old or disabled and one of your parents became a Portuguese national after your birth. You must meet the five years residency requirement.

    How to Apply

    If your parents or grandparents are Portuguese citizens from former Portuguese colonies, you can acquire citizenship through descent or birth in Portugal through one of the following channels:

    • Citizen Shop.
    • IRN office.
    • National Centres of Migrants’ Integration Support (CNAIM).
    • Portuguese embassy or consulate.

    You will need to provide your parent’s or grandparent’s birth certificate during your application. You must prove your relationship with your parents and their nationality.

    You must be able to prove that you are eligible for permanent residence. You must demonstrate assimilation into the Portuguese community; language proficiency is good evidence.

    You will also need a citizenship request letter to the Ministry of Justice or a declaration of Portuguese nationality.

    What is the Fee?

    Citizenship application through descent is free.

    If you are applying through birth in Portugal, you must pay a fee of €250.

    If you are not up to 18 or have a disability and your parents acquired Portuguese citizenship after your birth, your application fee is €200.

    Portuguese Citizenship through Naturalisation

    Citizenship through naturalisation is another route you can take to obtain Portuguese citizenship. Naturalization requires that you reside in Portugal for less than five years. It was formerly six years until the Portuguese government changed it to five years in 2018.

    You must be able to demonstrate integration into the values and traditions of the Portuguese community. A good way to demonstrate such is through proficiency in the Portuguese language.

    How to Apply

    The following are the institutions to apply for Portuguese citizenship:

    • Citizen Shop.
    • IRN office.
    • National Centres of Migrants’ Integration Support (CNAIM).
    • Portuguese embassy or consulate.

    During your application, Your birth certificate is necessary to prove your parent’s identity and entitlement to acquiring Citizenship. You must provide a valid passport or any other travel ID.

    You must be able to speak Portuguese fluently. Your proficiency level must not be less than A2 in the CERF score level.

    You must have a criminal record certificate and a letter of request for Portuguese citizenship to the Ministry of Justice.

    What is the Fee?

    The application fee for citizenship through naturalisation costs €250.

    Citizenship through Marriage or De-facto Union

    You are eligible for Portuguese citizenship application if your spouse is Portuguese and meets the requirements for acquiring citizenship as a descent of former Portuguese colonies. You do not need to meet the five years residence requirement.

    Your relationship with your spouse must be based on marriage or de-facto union. You will need to provide a marriage certificate to prove your relationship. You must prove your affiliation with a Portuguese community.

    If you have any questions about Portuguese Nationality for Former Colonies, our team is happy to assist.

    The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

    Portugal uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as a standard assessment for language proficiency.

    CEFR measures your language ability according to its six-point scale – A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. The beginner level starts at the A1 point and moves higher to C2, the level of language mastery.

    You must develop proficiency in all areas of communication in Portuguese. Language proficiency is crucial for foreign nationals who want to study, work, and acquire Portuguese nationality.

    Applying for a Portuguese Passport

    Having Portuguese citizenship makes you eligible to apply for a Portuguese passport. The Portuguese passport is recognized in over 150 countries for minimal or visa-free travel.

    The following institutions are certified for Portuguese passport application. You can apply through one of them.

    • Autonomous Regional Governments (Madeira and Azores).
    • Institutes of Registries and Notary (IRN) offices.
    • Passport Shops  (Lisbon and Porto Airports).
    • Portuguese embassy or consulate (either in Portugal or anyone in your local area).

    How can IAS Help

    Portuguese nationality law is a complex subject due to its conditions and requirements. When it comes to obtaining citizenship through descent from former Portuguese colonies, it can be very challenging to apply on your own.

    Immigration Advice Service has immigration lawyers who are highly trained and experienced in a broad spectrum of immigration issues especially acquiring citizenship. Our in-depth knowledge of Portuguese nationality law is the bedrock of our successful citizenship application for previous clients.

    We offer nonsuch support services that provide in-depth information on Portugal’s nationality law and the suitable route to claim Portuguese citizenship as a descent. You can hire a IAS attorney as your representative to help you with the whole process of getting Portuguese citizenship.

    If you wish to apply yourself, you can rely on our application service to meet the eligibility requirement and submit the appropriate documents before the given deadline.

    Suppose you do not qualify for citizenship under the former colonies route. We can help you establish eligibility through other citizenship routes, such as Sephardi ancestry and the golden visa program.

    Visit our website or call us at (+44) 333 4149244 for immediate help and assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    You can apply for Portuguese citizenship by Sephardic Jews ancestry. You must provide evidence of Sephardic Jewish ancestry in your family tree.

    You must meet one of the following requirements to get Portuguese citizenship by descent:

    1. You were born in Portugal.
    2. Your parents or grandparents are Portuguese.
    3. Your spouse is a Portuguese citizen.
    4. You have been a legal resident in Portugal for five years.

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