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Portugal Citizenship by Descent

Portugal Citizenship by Descent

Individuals who have Portuguese parents or grandparents can request Portuguese citizenship by descent based on their proven ancestry. An important condition is that the individual who is in the succession line of Portuguese citizenship has not lost his or her citizenship.

Foreign nationals can request Portuguese nationality in other cases, not solely based on their ancestry. For more information about these options, our Portugal immigration specialists can assist those interested.

In this article, you will find information only about citizenship by descent in Portugal. You can read below to find the answers to some of the most common questions and reach out to us if you need additional details or assistance with your particular family situation.

Where do you apply for Portugal citizenship by descent?

Having a Portuguese parent or grandparent allows a foreign national to apply for Portuguese nationality at the Institute of Registries and Notaries at the National Center for Support to the Integration of Migrants (CNAIM). This can be done either in Lisbon or in Porto.

 Quick Facts 
Who can obtain citizenship by descent in Portugal  Foreign nationals who have at least one ancestor to the second degree who is or was a Portuguese citizen.

Citizenship by descent for adopted children 

Yes, however, can be subject to additional/special requirements. 

Citizenship by descent in case of unmarried parents 


 Citizenship by descent through grandparents Yes, as grandparents are included in the succession line
Conditions for the ancestors 

These individuals must have not lost their Portuguese citizenship  

 General required documents for citizenship by descent

Filled-in application form, the applicant’s birth certificate, proof of Portuguese citizenship for the ancestor(s) 

Requirements for language knowledge 

 Mandatory sufficient Portuguese language knowledge is required.

 Means of proving language knowledge

Proof of examination in an approved Portuguese institution or evaluation centre, proof of having completed courses in a Portuguese public or private school.

Conditions for applicants from Portuguese-speaking countries 

When the applicant studies in another Portuguese-speaking country, diplomas issued by the respective institution can also be considered. 

 Other requirements Criminal clearance issued by the country/countries in which the applicant has been a citizen starting with 16 years of age.
 Translation requirements

 All documents that are not issued in Portuguese need to be translated.


The documents need to have an apostille authentication. 

 Power of attorney

Mandatory when the application is submitted by a lawyer or another party. 

 Situations in which citizenship applications are prohibited

 For individuals convicted or certain crimes, those involved in terrorist activities, etc. 

 Dual citizenship  Yes

One can also apply for this status with the Portuguese Consulate in their area of residence or at the Civil Registry.

Obtaining assistance when communicating with any of these Portuguese authorities is possible with the help of our team. We can not only help you apply but will guide you each step of the way and will provide you with information about the processing stage in which your application is at a given time.

Who qualifies for Portuguese citizenship by descent?

Applying for Portuguese nationality by descent is available to individuals whose parents, Portuguese nationals or residents, were either living in the country or abroad when the applicant was born. Several situations are possible and our team lists some of these below:

  1. the applicant was born in the country while the parents were lawfully residing in Portugal, and he has been living in the country for at least 5 years; our team can give you more details about citizenship by birth in Portugal;
  2. the individual was born abroad with one of the parents being Portuguese or one of the grandparents being Portuguese;
  3. born abroad and adopted by a Portuguese citizen before the age of 18 and before October 8th, 1981; this is your case, we will give you details about this situation when you apply for Portuguese citizenship by birth.

When the grandparents are or were Portuguese nationals, the foreigner can apply in the following conditions, described below by our Portugal immigration agents:

  • he or she is able to show that a grandmother or grandfather are Portuguese natives, who have not lost their nationality;
  • he or she declares that they wish to obtain Portuguese nationality; for this purpose, one submits the declaration for acquiring Portuguese nationality;
  • they have a connection to the Portuguese community;
  • such as connection is demonstrated through knowledge of the Portuguese language.

A person who wishes to apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent, as well as for Portuguese nationality in general, cannot be involved in terrorism-related activities, nor can he/she have been convicted of imprisonment for 3 years or more, for a crime that is also punishable in Portugal.

How to obtain Portuguese citizenship by birth

As seen above, there are options to apply for citizenship both based solely on ancestry (if a parent or grandparent was a Portuguese citizen) or if the parents were legal residents in the country, even before they had to spend the minimum number of years in Portugal before they could apply themselves for citizenship.

If you do not have Portuguese parents or grandparents, but were born in the country to foreign parents, we can give you more details about citizenship by birth in Portugal. In this situation, the applicant can either be under the age of 18 or be over this age and have habitually lived in the country for at least 5 years.

For applicants who are over 18 years of age who have been living in the country, the following conditions apply:

  • their parents are or were foreign nationals who were residing in the country at the time of the applicant’s birth (in this case, the residence may have been legal or not);
  • the applicant can prove his stay in the country during the last 5 years;
  • he or she has sufficient Portuguese language knowledge; this will be needed in all cases in which you move to Portugal and wish to apply for citizenship after a number of years;
  • as was previously mentioned above, an applicant cannot have been convicted of certain crimes, nor can he/she be involved in terrorist activities if applying for this status.

Our immigration lawyer in Portugal lists the documents required in this case:

  • birth certificate;
  • an application requesting citizenship by birth in Portugal under the applicable personal situation;
  • documents proving the habitual stay in the country over the last 5 years (such as an address, proof of attending a recognized educational establishment, or proof of social security and financial contributions);
  • proof of sufficient Portuguese language knowledge (such as a certificate of qualification obtained in Portugal, an approval certificate for passing a Portuguese language test, or others as they may be considered);
  • the criminal record issued by the foreign countries in which the applicant has lived since the age of 16 (accompanied by its certified translation in Portuguese).

For those who meet these conditions, the application for Portuguese nationality is not subject to a fee. If this does not apply to your case, and your parents were not foreigners but Portuguese nationals at the time of your birth, our team will help you apply for Portugal citizenship by descent.

While citizenship by descent or by birth is not available to all foreign nationals, an individual can request citizenship in Portugal by naturalization if he or she has been legally residing in the country for at least 5 years. The applicant will also need to meet other requirements along with the minimum residency, such as having sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language, sufficient income, and being integrated into the community.

What are the needed documents?

Those who apply for Portugal citizenship by descent need to, first and foremost, to be able to provide the authorities with sufficient and satisfactory proof of their family ties to the second degree of succession to a Portuguese citizen who has not lost citizenship.

In general, the documents that are presented are the following:

  • official application form, duly filled in by the individual which includes all of the relevant identification information;
  • copy of the applicant’s birth certificate issued in his or her country of residence; the certificate will include the names of the parents;
  • copy of the birth certificate of the Portuguese parent(s) or grandparent(s);
  • certified copy of the grandparent’s marriage certificate;
  • copy of the applicant’s valid passport;
  • proof of residence at the time of the application;
  • proof of sufficient knowledge of Portuguese or, if not applicable, proof of connection to Portugal (regular visits, property ownership, etc.).

The authorities impose a number of fees when applying for Portugal citizenship by descentOur team can give you more information on the current fees, as well as assist you when preparing the needed documents.

What are the limitations?

The following foreign nationals cannot apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent, or for Portuguese nationality through any other available routes:

  • those convicted of a crime that is punishable in Portugal through a prison sentence of 3 years or more;
  • persons involved in terrorist activities;
  • those married to a Portuguese citizen if the applicant served a non-mandatory military service in another country.

Other limitations may apply. We advise those looking to apply for citizenship to reach out to an immigration lawyer in Portugal from our team for more details.

Not all foreign nationals are able to apply for citizenship by descent. Understandably so, most migrants in Portugal will follow the naturalization option based on having lawfully lived in the country for a minimum number of years. If you have just relocated here, our team will answer any questions about residency in Portugal so that, in time, you may apply for citizenship.

According to the National Statistical Institute, the country’s population increased as a result of positive migration. The data for 2022 made public by the Institute are presented below by our team specializing in immigration to Portugal:

  • the country’s resident population in 2022 was estimated at 10,467,366 individuals;
  • this is an increase of 46,249 people, compared to 2021;
  • an estimated number of 117,843 permanent immigrants settled in the country in 2022, more than in 2021; the migration balance remains positive;
  • in 2022, a total of 46,229 foreigners acquired Portuguese citizenship.

The team can also help you if you are interested in applying for other types of visas, for example, the nomad visa for Portugal. This is suitable for those who can provide a professional activity remotely outside the national territory. Working professionals like these need to comply with the minimum monthly income requirement. Our team can give you more details upon request.

Contact us if your family lineage allows you to apply for Portuguese citizenship by descent.