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'Becoming a Portuguese Citizen' - update

portugalFollowing her article 'Become a Portuguese citizen AND keep your British passport,'  so far accessed by over 28,000 algarvedailynews.com readers, contributor Sue Fletcher has written more about the actual process of becoming a Portuguese citizen, one of the Brexit options available to British expatriates and one that she has been through, so writes with personal experience.
 
Most Brits who contemplate taking on Portuguese citizenship don’t want to give up their British nationality so the good news is that Portugal permits dual nationality and you can keep your British passport. Some other countries, e.g. Spain, do not permit a person to have dual nationality.
 
Several reasons for taking on Portuguese nationality:
 
⦁ Lifelong access to state healthcare. Amongst retired UK Expats across Europe, access to state healthcare is the most cited reason to move back to the UK.
 
⦁ Should you become mentally or physically incapacitated you will not have the worry of reapplying for a UK passport or Portuguese permanent residency, both of which only last for 10 years.
 
⦁ Certainty regarding your status in an EU country after Brexit. Currently, the agreement between the UK and the EU, permits those with legal residency to continue the process to permanent residency and then, after 6 years of temporary/permanent residency, the offer to take up Portuguese nationality. As I write this (20/03/18), nothing is ring-fenced, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and there are still many unanswered questions.
 
⦁ The ability to live elsewhere in Europe unhindered after Brexit and enjoy all the benefits of being an EU citizen.
 
⦁ Being able to vote in national and European elections.
 
⦁ The ability for either yourself, or your dependents if they are subsequently eligible for Portuguese citizenship, to study anywhere in Europe.
 
⦁ Pick and choose which passport to use when travelling abroad. For example, a single entry 30-day tourist visa to China costs from ⦁ €60 for a Portuguese citizen, but from ⦁ £151 for a UK citizen.

Any UK citizen aged 18 or over may apply for naturalisation as a citizen of Portugal once they have resided legally for six or more years in the country. 
 
Currently, as an EU citizen, this will require first having the 5 year EU temporary residency from your local Câmara and then applying for permanent residency from your local SEF (O Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) office.
 
NOTE: EU citizens are not required to sit the language test for permanent residency but non-EU citizens are. This means that once the UK departs from the EU we Brits will become non-EU citizens and will be treated as such. If you are considering taking out Portuguese permanent residency, and have 5 years of legal temporary residency, to be safe, do it ASAP and before Brexit in case a language test is imposed. A language test is required for all nationality applications both from EU citizens and non-EU citizens.
 
Citizenship is handled by the IRN (Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado) and advice can be sought from the local Conservatória. However, depending on where you live, you may find that you are the first person to ask and you may not get very far. I found this at my local Conservatória in Ourique, and whilst they were very friendly all they could do was to point me at the IRN website (HERE).
 
Before going any further I would strongly advise using a lawyer for this process as it is not straightforward and in my opinion the cost is well worth it. We are using a lawyer that specialises in this work, who is based in Lisbon. Her name is Eva Garcia and she is very efficient. eva.garcia@evagarcia.pt
 
She also is part of http://www.lawrei.com/pt-PT/ and has a useful blog in English https://www.evagarcia.pt/en/blog/
 
 
DOCUMENTATION
There are a variety of individual situations and therefore there are different forms from which to choose on the IRN website. All are in Portuguese only and different documentation may be required for different situations so read the requirements carefully.
 
 
Language test
Unless you are married to a Portuguese citizen or been in a ‘de facto’ relationship with a Portuguese (see below) you will need to prove you have sufficient command of the language use the link HERE for the detailed information on the language test as this is likely to be the hardest and most time consuming part of the whole process.
 
Send a certificated copy of the certificate. The cheapest place I have found for certifying photocopies is my local Junta de Freguesia. Each copy costs €10.
 
See below for further details.
 
Criminal Record
You must provide a certificate of your criminal record both from the UK and in Portugal. For the UK record you can apply online via:
https://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspxhttps://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspx
 
Choose the ‘Police Certificates’ tab. Cost £45. It should take around 2 weeks and is sent by first class post.
 
This document does not need to be legalised.
 
For Portugal you need to go to your local Tribunal with either your passport or residencia. The cost is 5 euros and it takes around a week.
 
NOTE: Police record checks are only valid if issued within the 6-months prior to your application. The Portuguese check is only valid for 3-months. Therefore the advice is not to apply for either before you have had the results of your language test, just in case you fail.
 
 
Birth Certificate
If you have a UK birth certificate you will need to:
 
1. have it legalised in the UK (see below for this process),
2. translated into Portuguese, and
3. certified by a translator/Portuguese notary
 
If you require a copy of your UK birth certificate it is cheaper (and quicker) to contact the registry office where you were born, rather than through the centralised UK registry office (https://www.gov.uk/order-copy-birth-death-marriage-certificate).
 
The UK has not signed up to the EU agreement whereby personal documents from one EU state are accepted by another EU state, hence the requirement for legalisation.
 
This is not made clear on any of the forms and so my application was held up as a result. You can get certain official UK documents ‘legalised’ by asking the Legalisation Office to confirm that the signature, stamp or seal is from a UK public official.
 
The Legalisation Office will check the document, including whether the signature, stamp or seal is genuine. They’ll legalise the document by attaching a stamped official certificate (an ‘apostille’) to it. The process is simple and can be accessed through the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised
 
Currently, the cost for this is £30 per certificate in addition to the courier cost for its return.
 
Whilst documents such as birth and marriage certificates can be easily legalised through this service, other documents, for example those from HMRC, require a wet ink stamp or signature in order to be authenticated. It will save time if these are requested at the time of issuance.
 
You can’t get documents issued outside the UK legalised using this service - get them legalised in the country they were issued.
 
This document and the Apostille Certificate will also require translating into Portuguese and certifying by a translator and/or local notary.
 
Marriage Certificate
If you have changed your name since your birth certificate was issued, as is the case with many married women, you will need to prove you are entitled to use your acquired name. This can be done by having your marriage certificate legalised in the same way as your birth certificate. Your passport or driving licence is not sufficient.
 
However, this only proves that you are the same applicant making the application for nationality. When you are granted nationality you will be sent a birth certificate in the name on your British birth certificate, so you can only get your identity card in your birth name. For most of us that’s very awkward as your passport, driving licence, and all other official documents accumulated in Portugal, will have your acquired name on them. To overcome this you need to have your marriage legalised in Portugal through a civil court.
 
It was at this point in my application that I decided to seek professional help and to be honest I wish I had done this to start with as it would have saved time and some fees. The price quoted for the name change process is €400 +IVA. We have also asked for a quote for my husband to get his citizenship through me and his cost will be approximately €1,000 + IVA plus the €250 payable to the IRN. See below for ‘Naturalisation through Marriage’.
 
 
 
Naturalisation by Marriage 
The primary benefit to Brits is that if one partner passes the language test and acquires citizenship, the other partner can apply without the need to do the language test. I leave you to fight over that choice!
 
If you are married to a Portuguese citizen, or a foreigner who has acquired Portuguese citizenship, you may obtain Portuguese citizenship providing you have been married for more than three years. This rule stops marriages of convenience. If you divorce or the marriage is annulled at a later date your Portuguese citizenship will not be rescinded. You will need to provide a legal marriage certificate and if you have a UK certificate it will need legalising with a Hague Apostille (see details above). Also the birth certificates of each partner, legalised where necessary.  Any non-Portuguese certificates will have to be translated and the marriage must be processed through a civil court.
 
If you are in a relationship with a Portuguese citizen but not married, you may still obtain citizenship on the basis that you are in a ‘de facto union’ as long as the union has been officially recognised by a civil court.
 
In addition to the above you also have to prove an effective linkage to the Portuguese community. This can be made up from the following:
 
1. You are a national of a Portuguese speaking country.
 
2. You have Portuguese children.
 
3. You know enough of the Portuguese language by passing the A2 CIPLE qualification or by proving you were educated in Portugal.
 
4. If you do not have the knowledge of the Portuguese language, you can prove your connection through regular residence in Portuguese territory in the five years immediately preceding the request using your residence card. In addition, you must prove that you are registered with the Finanças and national health service (SNS). Be prepared to provide other documents such as proof of where you live, available for €3 through your local Junta de Freguesia. It is called an Atestada de Moradia. Take with you your house deeds or proof of house purchase or your rental agreement. Also you may be asked for other proof such as employment documents; a social security number; car registration number; a copy of IMI payments etc.
Marriage certificates issued in Portugal can only be used for official purposes for 6 months from the date of issue.
 
A new paper certificate can be quickly and easily requested from the local Loja de Cidadao. The fee is €20. Alternatively an online account can be setup if you have a Portuguese ID card, through which a distributable access code is issued. However, it is unclear whether this code can be used as part of your application. The cost for the online code, valid for 6 months, is €10.
 
See: 
http://www.civilonline.mj.pt/CivilOnline/Certidao/avisoCertificadoOnline.jsp
 
 
TRANSLATION
All documents in English need to be translated into Portuguese by an accredited translator and certified against the originals at the Notario. Expect costs to be in the region of 70 euros per certificate. Unfortunately the Junta de Freguesia does not have the jurisdiction to certify the translations of birth and marriage certificates.
 
If you do not have a certified translator in your area I can recommend Alexandra Martinho. Email: alexandra.martinho@hotmail.com.
 
You will need to send the certified original documents to the IRN.
 
PAYMENT
A payment of €250  must be made by cheque in Euros and must be verified by your Portuguese bank. Ask for this at the counter of your local branch. It is known as a 'cheque visado'
 
FINALLY
Once you have all the paperwork assembled and checked (I used a Portuguese solicitor), you should:
 
Deliver or post by registered mail to:
Conservatória dos Registos Centrais
Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 200
1099-003 Lisboa
 
Or:
 
Visit the following Conservatórias do Registo Civil:
Almada, Amadora, Aveiro, Barreiro, Braga, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guimarães, Lisboa, Mangualde, Ovar, Pombal, Ponta Delgada, Portalegre, Arquivo Central do Porto, Santarém, Silves, Tondela, Torres Vedras.
 
Over the past year there have been approximately 48,000 applications and there are only 5 people dealing with them.
 
On average they assess between 6-8 per day (just looking to see if they should be processed or not) not withstanding holidays, sick days etc. 
 
Each application is graded and dealt with according to grades once they have been loaded onto the system.  Priority is given to certain grades.
 
It will take a year or more for any application.
 
Good luck!
Sue Fletcher, March 2018