A common question our clients have is can minors obtain Portuguese citizenship? There are two situations: Minors born after the parent received the Portuguese citizenship – Here the situation is clear. These minors are Portuguese citizens. The more complex question is the status of minors born to a parent before the parent obtained Portuguese citizenship. In this post I shall try to clarify the legal situation in this matter. There are aspects where the legal situation is clear. There are other aspects where the legal situation is not entirely clear. What is said here reflects the state of affairs at the time of writing these words. From our experience, things change.
- Minors are not allowed to apply for citizenship according to the law for Sephardi Jews, which allows to receive Portuguese citizenship in a relatively simple procedure. Such applications can be made by adults only! In other words, an application for citizenship as a Sephardi Jew can only be submitted if the applicant is 18 years or older.
- Applying for Portuguese citizenship for minors can only be made after the parent has received Portuguese citizenship – the process of filing a Portuguese citizenship application for a minor can be made only after the parent has received the citizenship. If the parent did not receive Portuguese citizenship, it is not possible for the minor to apply.
- The submission of a request for Portuguese citizenship requires (apparently) proof of the minor’s connection to Portugal. Here, the legal situation is not entirely clear, due to a small number of minor Sephardi applicants for citizenship. From our consultations with government officials and other attorneys, it seems there is a difference between applications of minors in different ages: The younger the child is, the lower the level of the connection to Portugal required. There is a difference between a baby and a 16-year-old. As a rule of thumb, it appears that children over the age of 14 are demanded to show a stronger connection to Portugal than younger children. The most effective way to show such a connection is to speak Portuguese. If the minor does not speak Portuguese, we believe that Sephardi minors over the age of 14 should wait and apply for citizenship when they are 18.
Application for citizenship for minors under the age of 14 – A test case
- I received my Portuguese citizenship, as a Sephardi Jew, on September 19, 2016. Following my citizenship, I decided to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as a test case, for one of my children, Naomi. Naomi was born in Israel, is educated in the Israeli educational system, and has never lived outside of Israel.
- On February 13, 2017, we applied for citizenship for Naomi. Naomi was 9 years old at the time. To establish a connection between Naomi and Portugal we have taken several actions: A. We obtained associate membership for Naomi at the Jewish community in Porto. The application process is like that of receiving a certificate of Sephardi origin and costs € 215 on the day the post is written. B. Naomi signed up for a Portuguese course for children. C. We included pictures of Naomi’s visit to Lisbon. The documents proving these actions were attached to the application file.
- On January 19, 2018 Naomi received her Portuguese citizenship.
- On March 22, 2018, on a visit to Lisbon, Naomi received her identity card and her Portuguese passport. Following Naomi’s citizenship, I am about to make a similar request for her twin brother.
What can be learned from the test case?
It is clear from the test case that obtaining citizenship for minors is possible. Also, at least today, the process of obtaining citizenship for minors takes less time than the procedure for adults. A possible reason is that the number of minors applying for citizenship, at least for now, is much lower than the number of adults.
What cannot be learned from the test case?
This is a single case. There is not yet a clear procedure or a recipe for citizenship for minors. Of the few similar cases submitted to the government, it seems that the younger the minor is, the less paperwork is needed to prove a connection to Portugal. In addition, it appears that sometimes the government requests, formally or informally, that the applicant provide additional paperwork to strengthen the connection and sets the time limit for doing so. It requires a prompt response of the applicant and some creativity.
The Bottom Line
Receiving Portuguese citizenship for minors is possible, but not certain. There is a certain risk component that the applicant must acknowledge. In addition, the applicant may be required, after submission, to add paperwork to strengthen the minor’s connection to Portugal. Satisfying this requirement usually involves expenses. Generally, the younger the child, the lower the requirement to prove his Portuguese connection, if at all.