Learn how to get Portuguese citizenship

Learn how to get Portuguese citizenship

Flag of Portugal In order to attract descendants of Portuguese who left the country many to escape poverty the grandchildren of these citizens were given the opportunity to apply for their original citizenship directly (Photo: Pixabay)

Lisbon — Plastic artist Lenne Russo, 51, is on her way to fulfilling a dream: gaining Portuguese citizenship. More than having the coveted EU passport that allows free transit through more than 120 countries around the world, she wants to regain the family’s original surname, which was lost in the bureaucracy of Brazilian civil service in the early part of the last century . Between 1907 and 1908 her grandfather Eduardo dos Santos Russo, then three years old, went ashore in the port of Santos with his family in search of better living conditions in Brazilian lands.

Each of the Portuguese arriving in promising Brazil was registered in a row for federal control. But the hectic pace and carelessness of the servers of the time eventually led to gross errors in the notes. Surnames were changed without objection by immigrants, many of whom were illiterate. In the case of Lenne’s grandfather, Russo disappeared from the record. Only Eduardo dos Santos remained. “So much so that my official name is Edilene Aparecida Mora dos Santos,” she says. It was up to him to use the Russian surname when he began his artistic career.

However, a change in the law by the Portuguese government in 2018 brought a glimmer of hope to Lenne. In order to attract descendants of Portuguese who have left the country many to escape poverty the grandchildren of these citizens have been given the opportunity to apply for their original citizenship directly. Until then, foreignborn grandchildren of Portuguese could only apply for derived citizenship. That is, they received the right from their parents, but could not pass on the benefit. With the change in the law, Portuguese nationality became an inheritance right that they can pass on to future generations.

But let’s be clear, warns lawyer Renato Martins, CEO of Lisbonbased law firm Martins Castro: “If the grandchildren of the Portuguese don’t apply for citizenship, their descendants won’t be able to apply for it. It’s like the rope snapped.” So it’s important to apply for citizenship while those who qualify are still alive. That’s Lenne’s case. “I don’t have children, but my sister Elaine Aparecida does three. So you and I apply for Portuguese citizenship so that my nephews and their children can benefit from it,” he emphasizes. “Better: All documents issued by the Portuguese government will have Russo as the surname,” he says happily.

Artificial intelligence

There are no current estimates of how many descendants of Brazilianborn Portuguese are eligible for citizenship of the European country. Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) from the mid2000s shows that 21 million Brazilians were of Portuguese origin. Most of these citizens are spread across Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Pará and Goiás. However, not everyone is able, also out of ignorance, to prove the connection to the ancestors. “Therefore, serious professional monitoring is necessary,” recommends lawyer Joana Nunes from the law firm Garcia, Silva, Nunes e Associados.

The main difficulty, adds Renato Martins, is collecting all the documentation required by the Portuguese government. He recalls that there was no civil status registration in the country until 1911. Births were cataloged in churches. And a lot was lost in the process. Therefore, a thorough search is required. “There are people who have been in this process for more than 10 years without success,” says he, who, with Martins Castro’s partners, has built an artificial intelligence program capable of identifying information in less time.

“Today we have more than 1 million metadata within a genealogical bank that can be read out and searched through,” explains the lawyer. The process involves locating information in churches and conservatories (notary offices) in Portugal, as well as in ports and communities, as many Portuguese in Brazil worked in agriculture and even in residential homes. We use this information to compare the data and come up with what we are looking for,” emphasizes Martins. He emphasizes that not everything is digitized, but that digitization in itself does not guarantee the success of the project of the beneficiaries Portuguese nationality.

According to the lawyer, it is necessary to convert all information name, gender, parents’ names, location and date of birth into searchable data. “We call that metadata. From then on, artificial intelligence does its part because it can read the documents,” he elaborates. He adds that the time it takes to complete the entire citizenship process depends on the quality of the information. If they are more readily available, the required documents can be found within five working days. However, the whole process can take about two and a half years. Important detail: No candidate for Portuguese citizenship may have been sentenced to three years or more in prison.

Sephardic Jews

Foreign trade analyst Maria Lígia de Melo, 35, has been searching for the records of her Portuguese ancestors since 2019. However, your case is more complicated. She claims to have ties to Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Portugal by the Inquisition in the 15th century. A significant portion of these Jews moved to Recife, with their names changed so that they could live in peace. The benefit of citizenship of Sephardic origin was created in 2015, but this year there was an amendment to the Portuguese nationality law to make it more difficult for those intending to obtain citizenship in this way.

In addition to parentage documentation, it is required to demonstrate a genuine and enduring connection to Portugal through regular travel around the country or, in the case of inheritance, possession of fundamental property rights. Maria Lígia has been living in Portuguese territory for three years, where she works and studies. Despite the difficulties, she does not give up. “My family is from inland Pernambuco, which has very poor documents. That’s why I haven’t been able to find the data I need yet. But God willing, I will have my Portuguese citizenship because I am of Sephardic origin,” he says.

Lenne Russo even considered giving up Portuguese citizenship when her parents died in 2014. However, last year a friend convinced her to pursue her dream of applying for citizenship, regaining her last name and living in Europe. And went to fight. After a long search he found in the National Archives records of the arrival of his greatgrandfather Augusto Cesar Russo with his grandfather. “It was all there, his full name and that of his wife,” he says. “Once my citizenship is issued, I want to visit my family’s places of origin in Trásosmontes,” affirms she, who will pay R$11,200 for her and her sister’s naturalization process.

marriage and children

Lawyer Joana Nunes says Brazilians who are married or cohabiting with Portuguese can also apply for citizenship in Portugal. However, the relationship must not be less than three years. All documents must be legalized and apostilled by The Hague, which guarantees international recognition. In this case, children of foreigners born in Portugal are among those who can transfer citizenship to their parents, provided they live in Portuguese countries for more than five years.

“Portuguese citizenship has many advantages,” says the lawyer. “Portugal’s identity document (citizen card) allows freedom of movement and the possibility of residence in all countries of the European Union. It also makes it easier to access bank loans (including for home purchases),” he adds. However, she reiterates that the naturalization process is not easy, mainly because of the bureaucracy and the lack of staff in public institutions such as the Aliens and Border Service (SEF). “The demand for citizenship is growing, but the state infrastructure cannot keep up with this movement.”

Joana warns again: “Before applying for citizenship, it is necessary to seek the help of reputable professionals registered with the Portuguese Bar Association.” The warning makes sense. The Portuguese government is investigating at least 22 Brazilian digital influencers who have sold facilities to gain citizenship but are actually scamming the unsuspecting. “Professionals registered for this type of service can be sued in court if they cause harm to someone and are liable for it. With wrong advisors, the penalty is more severe and the losses are certain,” he says.

It is estimated that at least 1 million Brazilians live in Portugal, including those with dual citizenship. Legal foreigners number nearly 300,000, of whom 47,000 received permits to settle in the country in the first half of this year. In addition to these groups of descendants of Portuguese and Brazilians who have received residence permits, the Portuguese government wants to attract workers and boost the economy. To this end, it has created a 180day temporary visa to allow those interested to seek employment in local companies. The new law is expected to come into force by the end of August.

economy and xenophobia

The facilities created to attract descendants of Portuguese and foreigners are not limited to Portugal, says attorney Renato Martins, CEO of Martins Castro. He notes that Spain, Germany, France and Luxembourg, which recently naturalized 15,000 Brazilians, are on the same path. And this is a consequence of what the authorities call a “demographic winter”, when older people make up the majority of the population and young people in the labor market are no longer sufficient to ensure the support of social security systems. “I prefer to call this reality, like European Union and United Nations (UN) scientists, demographic suicide,” he says.

For him, countries that relax immigration rules have seen in a very concrete way the problems arising from population aging and have taken steps to repopulate them. “No nation can feed itself if its economically active population is shrinking,” he says. In Portugal, despite the arrival of foreigners, the population has been decreasing year by year. It’s a little over 10 million.