Portuguese Citizenship by Residence – Knowledge of Portuguese language

By Wednesday April 15th, 2020 April 26th, 2020 Direito Internacional, Nacionalidade Portuguesa

Are you residing in Portugal and want to acquire Portuguese nationality? Know-how (Part II)

We will now continue to analyse the requirements for acquiring nationality by residence.
You may recall what has already been said about the amendments to the Citizenship Law introduced by Organic Law No. 2/2018 of July 5, 2018, here and here.

The current paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Citizenship Law states as amended by the referred Organic Law, :
1 – The Government grants Portuguese citizenship, by naturalization, to foreign citizens who cumulatively meet the following requirements:
a) Are of age or emancipated, under the Portuguese law;
b) Reside legally in Portuguese territory for at least five years;
c) Have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language;
d) Have not been convicted of a final judgment, with term of imprisonment of 3 years or more;
e) Do not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defence for their involvement in activities related to the practice of terrorism, per the respective law.

The mentioned Organic Law introduced significant changes to the requirements of subparagraphs b) – previously the minimum legal residence time was six years, and d) – what is now relevant is the effective conviction with a term of imprisonment, and no longer the criminal frame of the crime for which they were convicted.

In this article, we will focus specifically at the requirement of applicants to “have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language”.

This is a requirement that represents a special difficulty for foreign citizens who are not from PALOP.
We know that learning Portuguese is a challenge, and the fact that so many of us speak French and English fluently helps many of the foreign citizens who live in Portugal not to feel the need to learn the language.
That said, I believe that this requirement effectively represents the biggest challenge for foreign citizens whose mother tongue is not Portuguese, in obtaining Portuguese nationality (which does not mean that it does not pose an equal challenge to those for whom it is, but for other reasons which we will explore later).

Article 25 of the Rules of Nationality Act provides for how this knowledge has to be demonstrated.

Article 25 of the above-mentioned Regulation states:
“2 – Knowledge of the Portuguese language can be proved by one of the following:

  1. a) Qualification certificate issued by a public, private or cooperative educational establishment legally recognized, provided that the holder has successfully attended the course/discipline of Portuguese, at least in two academic years;
  2. b) Certificate of approval in a Portuguese language test held in public schools, when carried out in national territory, or in places accredited by Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, I.P, when conducted abroad, and the regulation of this test, as well as the respective control, shall be included in the Ordinance of the Government members responsible for foreign affairs, internal administration, justice and education;
  3. c) Certificate in Portuguese as a foreign language, issued by conducting a test in an assessment centre of Portuguese as a foreign language, recognized by the Ministry of Education and Science, by a protocol;
  4. d) Certificate of qualifications attesting completion of level A2 or higher, issued by a public education institution, employment and training centres and protocol centres of IEFP – Instituto do Emprego e da Formação Profissional, I.P. (IEFP, I.P.), pursuant to Ordinance No. 1262/2009 of October, 15th, as amended by Ordinance No. 216-B / 2012 of July, 18th. “



If the applicant has studied Portuguese during his or her school career, for two consecutive years, in a public or private establishment in Portugal or in a foreign school recognized by the competent authorities in Portugal – by means of recognition of the diploma or even by cooperation agreements – the Qualifications Certificate with the approval of the Portuguese chair in these two academic years is sufficient to prove this knowledge.
In the case of an educational establishment located in PALOP, duly recognized according to the laws of the respective country, the applicant may present the certificate of qualification issued by the respective entity.

Either way, a certificate that mentions the approval of the chair in 2 school years will always have to be requested.

If the applicant is approved in a Portuguese language test held in a Portuguese public school or in a foreign establishment accredited by Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, I.P, he/she will present the corresponding certificate of approval.
Meaning that, if having already sufficient command of the Portuguese language, you may apply directly for the completion of a knowledge test.

If you do not yet master the language, you have several options at your disposal to prepare for it.
Camões Institute’s own centres around the world offer both on-site and distance learning courses.
You can also choose any private institution that prepares for the test, personally or remotely.

Search here and here where you can register and take the test.

The exam consists of a written part and an oral part. More information about the exam itself here.

There are schools that will assist you not only in exam preparation but also in registration.

I have recommended a school in Lisbon, Portuguese Connection, that has shown a very high success rate.

So far, my clients who have been prepared there (remotely or personally) have all passed the exam, including students whose native language is Persian / Farsi.

Fees are due for the completion of this test, and only those over 18 years old can register.

Please note that if applicants have a health or disability condition that may condition the Portuguese exam (visual or hearing disability, difficulties or motor disability, etc.), or if they are over 60 years old and can not read or write, the exam must be adjusted to their ability.
CIPLE takes this into consideration and it is necessary to provide a certificate attesting the degree of disability. There are schools that also assist applicants in this procedure when registering.


The applicant may also obtain a Certificate in Portuguese language as a foreign language at the A2 level of the Community competence framework by taking a Portuguese Language as a foreign language course.

There are local schools (primary or secondary schools) in Portugal, in the different districts, or even public universities that teach Portuguese courses during the year and / or intensive courses during the summer.

Also IEFP, under the Program Portuguese For All  promoted by the Portuguese State, teaches Portuguese courses for foreigners, aiming to ease the integration of immigrants in Portugal. The certificate obtained in one of these courses is sufficient to prove your knowledge of the Portuguese language.

Many of these courses culminate in taking a test as part of the course itself.

We could (and I dare say, we should) assume that when the applicant is a native of PALOP (African Country of Portuguese Language), he would not need to provide any proof of knowledge of the language which is, after all, his own mother tongue.

However, it is not so.

Until 2018, proof of knowledge was always required.

Fortunately, as amended, paragraph 9 of the aforementioned article 25 now states that “Knowledge of the Portuguese language is presumed to exist for those who are nationals of a country that has Portuguese as its official language for at least 10 years and have resided in Portugal, regardless of title, for at least 5 years.”

This means that anyone who is a native of an African country recognized as having been Portuguese-speaking for at least 10 years, and residing in Portugal for at least 5 years, is exempt from proving knowledge of the language.

In this case, and because in this article we speak of the acquisition of nationality by residence, which primary requirement is precisely the legal residence in Portugal for more than 5 years, natural PALOP applicants will not have to make any further proof of knowledge of the Portuguese language.

The difficulty arises only in the acquisition of nationality by marriage, where not having been residing in Portugal for more than 5 years, proof of knowledge of the language is still required (only as a way of verifying the legal presumption of effective connection to the Portuguese community, and not as a requirement of nationality acquisition itself. You can learn more about nationality acquisition by marriage here.


Thank you for being on that side,



Eva Garcia