Changes in Portugal Citizenship Law

Portugal’s parliament has recently ratified modifications to the country’s nationality law, introducing a significant change in how residency duration is calculated for citizenship eligibility. Under the revised law, individuals residing in Portugal can commence their five-year citizenship countdown from the date they submit their residency application, rather than waiting for approval. This alteration potentially truncates the journey to citizenship by several years.

Previously, foreign residents in Portugal became eligible for Portuguese citizenship five years after their residency permit approval. However, bureaucratic inefficiencies within the immigration system often prolonged the gap between application submission and approval, sometimes by two or more years. Consequently, individuals, including golden visa investors, found themselves waiting 7-8 years from the initial application to reach naturalization eligibility due to administrative delays, affecting various residency categories, not just investment-based ones.

To rectify this issue, Article 15 of the amended law introduces a pivotal change. It stipulates that the duration since the request for a temporary residence title shall also be considered for citizenship eligibility, provided the application is approved. This measure acknowledges the harm caused by administrative delays and aims to rectify it through an administrative and automatic adjustment.

However, there’s a nuanced discussion about the starting point for this calculation. Adriano Vieira of AIM Global raises the query regarding whether the count should commence from the biometric collection or the online application submission. Immigration law firm Prime Legal suggests that, particularly for golden visa applicants, the count should begin from the online application submission date and payment of the processing fee.

Prime Legal justifies this interpretation based on several factors, including the completion of legal investment requirements at the time of application and the assignment of a process number. This interpretation implies that applicants can initiate their five-year count from the online submission date, potentially expediting their path to citizenship.

Ana Rita Reis from Edge International Lawyers highlights the practical implications of these changes, emphasizing that individuals won’t lose time due to approval delays, as the submission date now holds significance for citizenship eligibility. She provides examples illustrating how the law affects golden visa investors, ensuring clarity on citizenship timelines despite potential processing delays.

Despite these developments, the amendments are pending final approval. They await endorsement from the President, who holds the authority to approve, veto, or refer them to the Constitutional Court for further evaluation.

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