UPDATE: New Changes to Portuguese Citizenship Law

The elimination of the age limit on access to nationality through filiation and the naturalization regime for descendants of Sephardic Jews are some of the issues that have been changed.
Articles 22/02/2024

Following our article on the changes to Portugal’s Nationality Law, the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, promulgated the law on February 24 after the Portuguese Constitutional Court ruled it was constitutional. The new legislation is expected to be published in the Diário da República.

Original article

Last Friday, the Portuguese Parliament voted on the tenth change to Law no. 37/81, from the 3rd of October, approving a package of legislative changes with effects reflected on Portuguese citizenship law:

  • Elimination of the age limitation regarding the acquisition of citizenship through family links: we should highlight, first and foremost, the repeal of article 14º of the law, which made it necessary for family links to be established during minority for one to have access to Portuguese citizenship using a family link. An affiliation established during adulthood also yields a path to citizenship, provided that it (the establishment of the family link) occurs judicially or is recognized. In this case, citizenship must be requested within three years after a final judgment has been issued by the competent court (res judicata).
  • Is it truly the end of the Sephardic ancestry citizenship “scheme”? Among the most relevant changes to the law, there’s a spotlight aimed at those affecting the regime, which provided a naturalization path to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. Despite the long-announced program termination (April last year), it won’t end.

According to the new changes, citizenship to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews may continue to be granted, with the exemption of the requisites foreseen in lines b) and c) of article 6th, no. 1 of the law, as long as they cumulatively:

  1. Be able to demonstrate their belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on objective elements of connection such as surnames, language, direct or collateral descendants and;
  2. Have legally resided in Portugal for at least three years or interpolated.

While the latter requirement does not raise any questions as far as proof is concerned, the same is not true of the demonstration of the connection to Portugal, which is subject to certification and approval by a special committee appointed by the government, made up of “representatives of the services competent in the matter, researchers or professors at higher education institutions in Sephardic studies and representatives of the Jewish communities” in Portugal.

As of now, before these changes come into effect, proving a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin can be done by demonstrating ownership of property received through inheritance or shares in companies or proof of regular trips to Portugal that attest to an effective and lasting connection to Portugal; or holding a residence permit for more than a year.

  • Possibility of suspending procedures for acquiring nationality: the possibility of suspending the process for acquiring Portuguese nationality was also contemplated in cases when the respective applicant is the target of “restrictive measures approved by the United Nations Organisation or the European Union”, i.e. nationals of third countries to which European sanctions have been applied.
  • Change to the length of residence required for applying for nationality: To count the size of the legal place in Portugal, as provided for in Article 6(1) of the law in question, it was the case until now that one could apply for Portuguese nationality after proving that they had resided in Portugal for at least five years from the date of issuance of the first residence permit.

However, the amendment now approved by Parliament, embodied in article 15 of the Nationality Law, aims to account to count “the time that has elapsed since the temporary residence permit was applied for, provided that it is granted”.

In this way, considering the time spent waiting to apply for residency in the five years required to apply for Portuguese nationality will make it possible to mitigate the constraints resulting from the authorities’ delays in processing residency applications.
Although the changes are embryonic, the first doubts are inevitable: when is the residence permit considered to have been applied for? At the time of submission? When the analysis fees are paid for?

Nevertheless, the law, approved in a final vote, is awaiting presidential ratification and will come into force one month after its publication in the official state gazette. Until then, the current law applies.


The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.

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Practice Areas

  • Immigration Law

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