EuropePolicy Updates

Green Light From Constitutional Court: Portugal Naturalization Clock to Start From Date of Residency Application

Last month, IMI reported that the Portuguese Parliament approved changes to the country’s nationality law. Among those changes is a provision that would count residency application waiting times toward the naturalization requirement.

This update means that Golden Visa holders will meet the physical residence criterion in five years, regardless of when authorities actually approved their residency applications. This change would prove a notable improvement upon the lengthy process under the previous legislation: Due to backlogs and drawn-out processing times, applicants could expect to wait two or three years longer than the legally mandated five years before actually reaching the naturalization stage.

After gaining Parliamentary approval, the amendments went to the President’s Office. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa then submitted the amendments to the Constitutional Court for preventive review, fearing that one specific article regarding naturalization through Sephardic descent may prove unconstitutional. 

The Constitutional Court’s judges conducted their examination only to conclude that “the law, in essence, does not harm the legitimate expectations of citizenship applicants and neither does it directly jeopardize the lives or the dignity of the human person, nor does it materialize any restriction of rights, freedoms, and guarantees.”

The amendments will now return to the President’s Office, where experts foresee the President approving the bill shortly.

Immigration attorney Ana Rita Reis of Edge International Lawyers comments that she expects the President to sign off on the law “within the next 20 days,” after which the government will publish it in the official Gazette, which will see the new law take effect.

Questions left unanswered

While Golden Visa practitioners hailed the amendments as a positive development, some have highlighted that unknown details may have a significant impact. 

Pedro Catão Pinheiro of Next Lawyers questions the process, specifically for Golden Visa investors.

“We still need details on at what point exactly waiting times will be counted toward citizenship,” Pinheiro told IMI.

He explained that “many lawyers are saying it starts from the date of submitting the online application, but the Golden Visa has an essential requirement of legal entry into Portugal, similar to the landing requirement in Canada.”

Based on this, he adds, “I would assume the waiting time counted toward citizenship start on the day of submitting the entire application and biometrics.”

Pinheiro said that unclear communication regarding this issue could lead to considerable confusion and loss of time because “many investors submit online, then have their lawyers open a bank account and make the investment through a POA. That could be an issue if these investors are under the impression that the clock for naturalization has started ticking.”

Nedim Ruso of Smart Citizenship highlighted a different potential pitfall: Will the amendments apply retroactively to investors currently waiting for the Golden Visas?

Ruso told IMI that he and his team have “heard contradictory rumors regarding the retrospective application of the changes, and this could have a considerable impact on investors who are waiting for issuance or renewal that already face challenges accessing the Schengen Area.”

Ruso explains that for prospective investors, at least, the amendments “are likely to contribute to alleviating concerns about extended processing times.” But he remains cautious due to past experiences, even if the changes are positive, claiming that the amendments “are a good start to remedy Portugal’s fall from grace” but that “there is still much work to be done.”

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Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

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