After, respectively, 5 or 6 years of having Portugal "legal residency" (and not necessarily of actually residing in the country), one may apply for permanent residency or citizenship, subject to proving basic knowledge of the Portuguese language.
Eligibility and application
The application for a permanent residence permit must be submitted to SEF, Portugal's border agency, and under the Foreigners' Law, permanent residency shall be granted to someone who cumulatively:
Under this law, the permanent residence permit is granted for life. Notwithstanding, the card has to be renewed every 5 years or whenever there is a change of particulars, namely the holder's address in Portugal or his/her marital status.
A permanent residence permit is not subject to minimum stay requirements. But a permanent residence permit may be cancelled if the holder, without an acceptable justification, is away from Portugal for a period of 24 consecutive months, or for a period of non-consecutive 30 months over 3 years. The Law explicitly deems acceptable being away for any period of time in one's country of origin in order to carry out a professional, entrepreneurial, cultural or social activity. In practice, SEF will only demand to see proof of the holder having actually lived in the country or of a justification of absence from the country in the event the renewal of the card is requested after its expiry date. As such, provided the renewal of the permanent resident's id card is applied for before the expiry date, Portugal minimum stay requirements should not be a concern.
The acquisition of Portuguese citizenship is regulated by the Nationality Law as amended and regulated. Unlike residency, the application for citizenship is to be submitted to a civil registry office and not to SEF. However, once citizenship is acquired, passport applications are handled by SEF, although the application may be submitted at a Citizen's Shop or at a Portuguese Consulate.
Original Portuguese citizenship is granted to:
Among others, Portuguese citizenship may be acquired by:
- Has been a legal resident of Portugal for at least 6 years,
under any legal entitlement whatsoever
- Has sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language
- Has not been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison
sentence of more than 3 years under Portuguese law
Whether applying for permanent residency or for citizenship, one has to prove basic knowledge of the Portuguese language, regardless of the grounds on which the application is submitted. Click here for information about the required test and the learning of the language.