Portugal Citizenship Requests Surge by 37% in 2022 as Foreign Population Approaches 800,000

In its Immigration, Borders, and Asylum Report published last week, Portugal’s SEF reveals that the number of foreigners residing in Portugal had reached some 782,000 at the end of last year, increasing the stock of foreign residents by 12% year-on-year from the roughly 700,000 recorded the year before.

Inês Azevedo of Lisbon-based immigration and tax law firm Azevedo Ascenso points out that 71% of Portugal’s foreign residents are between 25 and 49 years old. “This means Portugal is receiving active working migrants and not retirees, as public commentary often assumes,” she remarks. The age distribution of foreigners in Portugal contrasts sharply with Portugal’s top-heavy overall age distribution.

Age distribution of foreigners in Portugal
Age distribution of the Portuguese population overall

Azevedo also emphasizes that among the 143,081 new residence permits Portugal issued to foreigners in 2022, only 1,281 (0.9%) were to investors in the golden visa program. “That observation,” says Azevedo, “bolsters the argument that the pressure on real estate is not due to golden visa approvals but to the general increase of foreigners in the country.”

Where are Portugal’s foreign residents from?

Foreign residents in Portugal by origin

Among foreign citizens living in Portugal, about a third (approximately 240,000) were Brazilian nationals at the end of 2022. At 5.8% of foreign residents (45,218 individuals), British citizens were the second-largest group, followed by Cabo Verdeans (4.7%), Indians (4.5%), Italians (4.4%), and Angolans (4.1%). North Americans in Portugal now number 14,559, up a remarkable 34.4% on the year, a greater relative increase than any other continent.

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After dipping in pandemic year 2021, requests for Portuguese nationality rose to an all-time high of 74,506 in 2022, up 37.2% year-on-year. Authorities processed 64,040 citizenship applications in 2022, approving all but 911 of them.

This sharp increase, explains Azevedo, is likely attributable to the end of the citizenship by Sephardic descent policy.

As of June 2nd, she adds, the SEF has [finally] been disbanded and reconfigured into the new Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum.

SEF competencies and tasks have now been shifted to a range of agencies and institutions, including the Public Security Police, the National Republican Guard, the Judiciary Police, the Institute of Registrars and Notaries, and AIMA.

“Portugal is facing a substantial and consistent increase in the number of foreigners living in the country,” comments Azevedo. “It is hard to understand, considering the Border Police has deep knowledge about ensuring integration and safety of national and European borders, that at a crucial time like this one, the Border Police is dismantled.”

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