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Portuguese Nationality For Former Colonies – The Ultimate Guide

Moving overseas can be an exciting new adventure for you and your family. Portugal is now becoming one of the popular destinations for expats, and some of those come from the former Portuguese territories.

No matter what problems you encounter, just call our immigration lawyers at +1 844 290 6312 for help or contact us online.

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    How To Apply For Portuguese Citizenship From Former Colonies?

    Decree-Law no. 308-A/75 of June 24 rules the acquisition and the reacquisition, as well as the loss of Portuguese nationality of the individuals born in former Portuguese colonies that gained independence from Mainland Portugal.

    According to the Decree Law, people born in the former territories or whose parents were born in an overseas territory under Portugal rule kept their Portuguese nationality until these colonies gained independence.

    So, the children and grandchildren of Portuguese citizens can keep their Portuguese nationality – up to the third degree. However, if they declare that they do not want to be Portuguese nationals as they become adults, they can do it within two years of the declaration of independence.

    Moreover, people born in the former colonies could retain Portuguese nationality if they lived in mainland Portugal or the close islands for more than five years in 1974. This rule applies to the spouse and minor children, as well.

    So, if you are coming from these former Portuguese territories, you are eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship:

    • Angola
    • Brazil
    • Cape Verde
    • Portuguese India
    • Guinea Bissau
    • East Timor
    • Macau
    • Mozambique
    • São Tomé and Príncipe
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    Former Colonies With Varied Rules

    The rules are slightly different for those born in the former colonies – not every former territory falls under the same rules, according to the Portuguese government. Let’s check out the rules for Portuguese nationals according to the former colony they come from:


    Several regions in India were under Portugal rule, and citizens born before December 20, 1961, in the then-known India-Portuguese regions were considered to have Portuguese nationality.

    These regions are:

    • Damiao
    • Diu
    • Nagar-Aveli
    • Goa
    • Dadrá

    Also, this decree-law allows citizens born in India-Portuguese until June 3, 1975, to retain Portuguese nationality, as long as they bring proof they aren’t domiciled in any former colony.

    To retain Portuguese nationality, the citizens must transcribe their birth certificate in mainland Portugal – this rule also applies to the descendants up to the third degree. Spouses and minor children can obtain Portuguese nationality this way, too.

    African Territories

    When we are talking about the African territories that were once under Portuguese administration, we are talking about:

    • Angola
    • Mozambique
    • Cape Verde
    • Guinea Bissau
    • Sao Tome and Principe

    Citizens born in these territories could retain Portuguese nationality until the said territory’s independence. After the independence, many of the citizens lost their Portuguese nationality.

    On the other hand, some citizens could retain Portuguese nationality and stay Portuguese. For example, those Portuguese citizens born in mainland Portugal or naturalized in Portugal could retain Portuguese nationality.

    Also, people born in the former India-Portuguese regions, their spouses, divorced spouses, widows, and any children resulting from these unions.

    Moreover, first, second, and third-degree descendants can retain Portuguese nationality. If they wished not to retain Portuguese nationality, they could declare so.

    Also, people domiciled in mainland Portugal or adjacent islands for over five years but born in an overseas territory can retain Portuguese nationality, and their spouses and children can, too.

    Portuguese citizens must transcribe their birth certificates and bring them to Portugal to retain their Portuguese nationality. The same rule applies to spouses, descendants, and children from former Portuguese territories.


    Macao, now a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, was considered a Portuguese territory until April 25, 1976. Macao remained under the Portuguese administration until December 20, 1999, when it was finally incorporated into China.

    Once Macao fell under Chinese rule, the Nationality Law was issued, and those born before this date were Portuguese citizens. Children could also retain Portuguese citizenship if they had a Portuguese parent.

    China does not admit dual citizenship, so many Macao-born people do not apply for Portuguese nationality despite having the right to it. On the other hand, as have their descendants, many people used their right to Portuguese nationality.

    To apply for Portuguese nationality as Portuguese citizens or third-degree descendants, individuals must bring their birth certificate to Portugal or be able to prove that they are descendants. Descendants and spouses, as well as children with a Portuguese parent, can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

    East Timor

    Citizens born in the former Portuguese territory of Timor could retain their Portuguese nationality and citizenship until April 26, 1976. This decree applies to everyone born on the Timor territory, and they are considered Portuguese citizens. Children of Portuguese parents could also retain Portuguese nationality.

    To be eligible for Portuguese citizenship, these citizens must transcribe and integrate their birth certificates in mainland Portugal. Also, the descendants of Portuguese citizens from the Timor territory must be able to prove their ancestry.

    The same rule applies to spouses and children from a marriage with a Portuguese citizen – they can obtain their Portuguese nationality, too.

    Tourist destination in Macao

    How To Apply For Portuguese Citizenship Through Birth Or Descent

    Luckily, all individuals born to Portuguese parents get Portuguese citizenship automatically. People with Portuguese grandparents can also apply to be Portuguese citizens, even if their grandparents were born in former Portuguese colonies.

    To apply for Portuguese citizenship, you must fill in at least one criteria of the following:

    • One of your parents must be a Portuguese citizen with Portuguese nationality at the time of your birth, no matter where you were born;
    • One of your grandparents has Portuguese citizenship and has retained their Portuguese nationality – you also must have been living in Portugal for at least three years, have proof of being integrated into the Portuguese community, and you can speak the Portuguese language;
    • You were born in Portugal to a foreign national, with at least one parent living in Portugal for five years since the year of 1981 or just one year since 2020 when you were born.
    • Your birthplace is Portugal, but you were born to foreign parents, and you are now an adult – you are an adult and have lived in Portugal for five or more years.
    • You are under 18 with a disability, have at least one parent who became a Portuguese national after birth, and have lived in Portugal for more than five years.

    So, if you fill in some criteria, you can become a Portuguese citizen under Portuguese administration law and acquire a nationality.

    If you were born in Portugal to both or at least one parent with Portuguese nationality, you don’t have to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as you will earn one automatically.

    For more clarification and help, reach out to our team of legal experts today by calling: +1 844 290 6312

    If you fill in some of the other criteria, you can apply as a Portuguese citizen. You can apply at several places, as allowed by the Portuguese nationality law:

    • IRN Office
    • Citizen Shop in Portugal
    • National Support Centre for the Integration of Migrants – with two offices, one in Lisbon and one in Porto
    • Portuguese embassy or Portuguese consulate in your native country

    The documents required depend on the route you plan to take on your path to Portuguese citizenship, but you will likely need the following:

    • Your birth certificate
    • Birth certificate of your Portuguese parent or Portuguese grandparent
    • If you cannot provide a birth certificate, you must bring proof of relationship to parents or grandparents
    • Proof of parent’s or grandparent’s nationality
    • Tax records
    • Proof of integration into Portuguese society, such as a language certificate
    • Declaration of Portuguese nationality

    The application is free under Portuguese law if you want to obtain Portuguese nationality through descent as a US citizen. If you are applying through birth – meaning you were born in Portugal, the cost of the application is €250.

    Suppose you are applying as a US descendant of Portuguese citizens born in the former colonies.

    If that is the case, you are required to pay a fee of €250 and prove that you have Portuguese descent or are part of a community with Portuguese values and/or traditions.

    If you are a disabled individual under 18 and applying for citizenship because one of your parents is a Portuguese citizen, you will have to pay a fee of €200.

    Our expert immigration lawyers can assist you with your Portuguese Nationality application. Contact Us

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      Exceptions & Special Permissions


      In some cases, the Portuguese nationality law allows certain individuals to obtain Portuguese citizenship. These groups can apply for a fast application and get their Portuguese citizenship in no time. Those are:

      Each of these groups can be persons born abroad, and they don’t need any form of previous residency in Portugal before applying to acquire citizenship.

      Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews

      Under Portuguese law, descendants of Sephardic Jews from Portugal can apply for Portuguese citizenship. You will need to prove Sephardi ancestry with a family tree.

      During Inquisition, thousands of Sephardi Jews fled from Portugal, and now Portugal is offering citizenships to Sephardic Jew ascendants. Spain had the same scheme but has since stopped it, and Portugal may stop it too.

      You will need to go back enough to prove your ancestry, probably just a few generations. Proof can include Sephardic surnames, proof of ladino language used by your ancestors, records in the cemetery, or more. The most important document is the certificate issued by the Portuguese Jewish Community in Portugal.

      The process can take anywhere between 6 and 24 months, and it will cost you a fee of €200.

      Individuals who Provided Services for the Portuguese State

      This part of the nationality law allows individuals born abroad, even in non-EU countries, to get Portuguese citizenship. You are also eligible to become a Portuguese citizen if you have provided important services for the Portuguese State, such as military service.

      You can apply for a Portuguese passport if you have proof of providing these services. You will also need the following documents:

      • Your birth certificate
      • You are over 18 or emancipated

      You cannot apply for a Portuguese passport through this route if you have been convicted of a crime in Portugal that is punishable by three or more years in prison or if you were involved in terrorism-related activities.

      The fee for applying for Portuguese citizenship this way costs €250.

      Landmark in Lisbon
      Aerial view of buildings in Lisbon.

      Other Ways To Become Portuguese Citizens

      While we have established which former colonies can apply for Portuguese citizenship, we also specified that other groups could apply for Portuguese citizenship without being direct Portuguese ascendants.

      However, we will cover the situations where former Portuguese citizens can reacquire Portuguese citizenship. Those situations are:

      • When a person lost their Portuguese nationality through the action of a parent or legal representative when they were underage or with a disability
      • When a person lost their Portuguese citizenship but never got citizenship of another country
      • When a woman lost their Portuguese nationality as they married a foreigner before the Portuguese Nationality Act in 1981
      • When someone lost citizenship by taking another before 1981 but now wishes to obtain it again

      All these applications are free without paying any fees, except for those seeking citizenship, having lost it through the action of a parent or legal representative, having to pay a fee of €175. Those who lost their Portuguese citizenship but never got another citizenship will also have to pay a fee of €250.

      Find out how we can assist with your Portuguese Nationality application. Contact Us

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        How Can IAS Help?

        It is now time to utilize the useful information we provided. The process of obtaining Portuguese nationality if you are from a former Portuguese colony and as a US citizen is simple and can also provide access to other countries.

        Suppose you wish to get permanent residence from your residence permit. In that case, whether you come from former Portuguese territories or used the Golden Visa program, we can help you with any questions regarding nationality law.

        Our experienced lawyers can help you get a Portuguese passport – you must contact the Immigration Advice Service. Whatever you need help with – dual citizenship issues, Portuguese administration, or the decree law- we can assist you and your family join the Portuguese community.

        Call our immigration lawyers on +1 844 290 6312 for immediate help and assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone or online.

        Call us for further assistance with your Portuguese Nationality immigration matter. Contact Us

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