On the 5th of January 2024, the Portuguese Parliament approved several changes to the Portuguese Citizenship Law, the most important of which is the relevance of the period of legal residence since the application for the residence permit for the purposes of acquiring Portuguese nationality.

This amendment to the Portuguese Citizenship Law is a victory for those who expect to acquire Portuguese nationality based on residence permits and who had to wait, in some cases for years, for their residence permit to be issued before becoming eligible for Portuguese citizenship.

As we all know, until now, individuals aiming to acquire Portuguese citizenship by means of naturalization required a minimum of 5 years residing in Portugal after the issuance of the residence permit. Thus, the law only deemed residence as legal after the granting of a residence permit.

This recent amendment to the Citizenship Law sets out that, after a five-year period of residence in Portugal since the application for the residence permit was applied for, one can apply for the Portuguese citizenship – thus recognizing the waiting time for the issuance of residence permits – which is often very long – as a legal residence period.

This new rule intends to correct an injustice that has for long been felt by residence permits’ applicants and therefore applies not only to those applications submitted after the entry in force of this amendment but also to pending applications.

Despite this great victory we are of the opinion that this amendment to the Portuguese Citizenship Law should had gone further especially regarding the date on which the residence permit application is deemed as having been submitted. This is particularly relevant for residence permits applications for investment activities (golden visa) as the respective appointments are preceded by the submission of an online application subject to a preliminary analysis. In these cases, the application is often submitted without the applicant having entered Portugal yet and, therefore, it will be very unlikely that AIMA* will consider the date of the online application as the relevant date for the five-year period of legal residence in Portugal.

* AIMA – Agência para a Integração, Migrações e Asilo (previously known as SEF)