By Moustafa Daly
In a positive development for golden visa investors, Portugal just amended its citizenship law to shorten the process and time needed to apply for Portuguese nationality, among other measures.
Approved by the Parliament on Jan. 5, the amended citizenship law will enable applicants to start counting the five-year period needed to pursue citizenship from the day of application for residency rather than the day residency is approved, which is the case now.
“This is excellent news for applicants whose processes were caught in the delays caused by the perfect storm of COVID, Ukrainian Refugees, significant increase in the volume of applications and strikes in the services,” explains Sara Sousa Rebolo, partner at Prime Legal, in a press statement.
“This rule ends up recognizing the damage that this delay by public services causes to applicants, aiming, with this amendment, to overcome this failure though an administrative and automatic measure,” Sousa Rebolo adds.
Portugal administrative delays for citizenship applications were an issue
Currently, the period between applying for Portuguese residency and having it approved could extend, in extreme cases, to up to three years, significantly delaying the eligibility date for the citizenship application. Such delays became the norm, so many golden visa counsels advised their clients that eligibility for citizenship is expected after seven years, not five as is stipulated in the law, to preempt expected delays.
The law update is expected to apply for current golden visa holders as well as future ones, meaning that those who got their residency two years after applying will, upon the amendments comes into effect, be eligible for citizenship two years earlier than they had been anticipating.
However, there might be a catch, explains Sousa Rebolo. “We immediately understand that the wording of the rule was not the best since it uses the expression ‘residence title’ and not ‘residence permit.’ which, in fact, are distinct concepts and stages,” she says.
“This would lead, under an extreme interpretation, to consider that the moment to counting the five years to access nationality would begin only with the payment of the fee for issuing the residence title,” the attorney cautions.
In the case of golden visa holders, Rebolo and her legal team expect them to be eligible for citizenship five years after paying an “analysis fee,” which is part of the golden visa application process. “Considering the ‘healing’ purpose of the new amendments, and unless there is a better understanding, we are of the opinion that the relevant moment to start counting the five years occurs with the payment of the analysis fee when submitting the Golden Visa application online,” she anticipates.
Additional amendments include citizenship restrictions against individuals perceived as threats to national security with ties to terrorist or criminal activities. Also, individuals sanctioned by the European Union (EU) or the United Nations (UN) will have their citizenship applications suspended until such sanctions are lifted.
As per any new law in Portugal, the new citizenship law is pending the President’s approval to come into full effect, which can take up to 90 days. Portugal
Powered by Froala Editor