Tammy in Lisbon in 2000

Portuguese citizenship and spouses

A common question we are asked is – What is the status of a spouse after the client receives Portuguese citizenship? The purpose of this post is to clarify this issue, and to indicate where there are still question marks.

The rights of a spouse due to Portugal’s membership in the European Union

Portugal is a member of the European Union. Today, there are 28 countries that are members of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (on the way out). EU countries allow residents of other EU countries to work and live without restrictions. Usually, there is an easier access to universities in EU countries. Sometimes the tuition fee is reduced or free. These rights are also granted to the spouse of a Portuguese citizen, even if they do not hold EU citizenship. You can see details of the legal situation in the matter here tinyurl.com/ycse2xoj

Does the fact that one of the spouses has citizenship according to the Sephardi law automatically grants citizenship to the other spouse?


Does the fact that one of the spouses has citizenship according to the Sephardi law makes it possible to receive citizenship for the other spouse?

A person who has been married to a citizen of Portugal for over three years may apply for Portuguese citizenship. The success of the application is not guaranteed. It is required that the applicant has a connection to Portugal. Knowledge of language can help. For more on this, see www.embassyportugal-us.org/through-marriage/

Case Study – My wife Tammy

  1. I received my Portuguese citizenship according to the Sephardi Law, on 16 September 2016. Following this, I requested my wife Tammy to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as a test case. My wife was born in Israel, lived all her life in Israel, and is Ashkenaz on all sides. Tammy visited Portugal twice: in 2000 and in 2017.
  2. In February 2017 Tammy’s citizenship application was submitted. To establish her connection to Portugal, we attached to her application pictures of her visits to Portugal. Additionaly, she purchased associate membership at the Jewish community in Porto. The fee for this is 215 EUR at the day of writing this. Membership is possible for the spouse of a recipient of the community’s certificate of origin.
  3. In December 2017, the Ministry of Justice decided not to recommend granting citizenship to Tammy. The case was then referred for final decision to the Prosecutor General.
  4. In April 2018, the Prosecutor General decided to ignore the position of the Ministry and to grant Portuguese citizenship to Tammy. Her Portuguese birth certificate was issued on April 3, 2018.
  5. On her next visit to Lisbon (at the beginning of 2019), Tammy will get her identity card and a passport.

What can be learned from the test case?

It is clear from the test case that obtaining citizenship for the spouse is possible. Also, at least today, the process of obtaining citizenship for the spouse takes less time than the Sephardi process. A possible reason is that the number of spouses applying for citizenship, at least for now, is less than the number of Sephardi Jews.

What cannot be learned from the test case?

There is not yet a clear process or a recipe for citizenship for spouses. There I great importance to which attorney at the office of the Prosecutor General the case is allocated. In Tammy’s case, the case was dealt by a liberal attorney. There are conservative attorneys.

The Bottom Line

Portuguese citizenship for spouses is possible, but not certain. There is a significant risk component that the applicant must accept.

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