Portuguese Citizenship: The 5-Year Residency Countdown Now Begins from the Residency Application Date

Streamlining Citizenship: A New Approach

In a significant move, Portugal has updated its nationality law, signaling important changes for both residents and investors. This amendment is set to simplify the immigration and naturalization process in the country, marking a new phase in how Portugal manages these matters.

Presidential ratification of the amendment took place on February 24, 2024. Subsequently, it was officially published in the Official Gazette on March 5th. The Law will come into effect and be enforceable starting April 1st.

The change allows individuals to start counting their five-year residency requirement for citizenship from the day they apply for residency, rather than from the date of approval. This improvement could potentially shave years off the path to Portuguese citizenship, a move that has been met with widespread relief and optimism.


Overcoming Bureaucratic Delays

According to article 6º paragraph 1 of Nationality Law, the countdown towards the five-year residency requirement for naturalization commenced only after the approval of the residency application. This process often translated into a waiting period extending to seven or eight years due to administrative backlogs, particularly with the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF). In 2022 SEF managed to grant residency to 143,081 individuals. Anyway as it was revealed in October department still had 327,000 pending applications.

However, the recent transformation of the SEF into the Agency for Integration, Migrations, and Asylum (AIMA) on October 29 marked the beginning of significant reforms. And the most striking of these for now is the amendment to the nationality law. Changes to article 15 (adding now paragraph 4) of the Nationality Law establish that “for the purposes of the counting of the time of legal residency foreseen in this law, the time between the moment when the temporary residency permit was requested will also be considered, provided that it comes to be approved”.


Benefits for Investors and Residents

Under the new legislation, the critical five-year period now starts ticking from the moment an individual submits their application and pays the fee on the AIMA platform, a stark contrast to the previous practice.

Investors, who previously faced over two years of anxious waiting for their residency applications to be processed, now find a reason to breathe a sigh of relief. This change is not just a procedural tweak; it represents a substantial reduction in the time it takes to be eligible for naturalization. For many, it means that their investments in Portugal will yield the added benefit of a quicker path to citizenship.


Portugal’s Growing Appeal to International Investors

Portugal’s change in citizenship law comes at a time when the country is experiencing a big increase in foreign investment. In just one year, a 1,526 visas were issued, and in September 2023 alone, investments reached over €70 million. Since the program started, it has brought in €7.3 billion.

A notable trend is the rise in American investors. In the first nine months of 2023, Americans received a record 244 visas, making up 21% of all visas issued this year. This makes the United States the top investor nationality for two years in a row.



In conclusion, this amendment is not just a change in law; it’s an important step forward for Portugal. It shows the country’s willingness to adapt and make things easier in the often complicated world of immigration. It’s a testament to the country’s dedication to fostering an environment where dreams of citizenship and a new life are within closer reach for those who choose to call Portugal their home.