Updated 12/3/19 in light of what I learned in Porto
15/01/2022 – there is a sequel to this post that is worth reading since it has some important updates about payment methods.
Well, it looks like some people voted for a national act of self-harm and those of us whose families straddle more than one country need to think about planning for the future. In our case, we’re doing that by applying for dual citizenship (me, daughter, both currently british) and leave to remain (Mrs L, Portuguese) to ensure we’re all in the same boat and can act together in future if some future government decides to make life properly difficult for EU citizens or punish them financially or it becomes difficult to live and work in the countries we used to be able to move around in freely, all thanks to the actions of a bunch of divs who didn’t do the homework before getting into the voting booth.
I thought I’d write down the steps here in case it’s helpful. I’m going to focus on UK citizens living in the UK. If you’re an expat, you’re pretty well covered by other sites like this and of course if you’re Portuguese in the UK there’s a lot of info here.
The obvious point first of all is that it’s almost certainly going to be easier while we’re still in the EU than it would be after we leave and britain is towed across the ocean to be moored off Mar-a-Lago or whatever these idiots have in store for us. In other words, if you’re reading this, you’d better get your skates on.
Have a think about how you are going to submit your applications because that will determine some of the later choices you make. Options are:
- Go to the consulate in London. If at all possible, avoid this option.
- By mail. This is obviously a bit slower and you’ll have to figure out the logistics of how to get your documents validated unless you are mad enough to post the originals, which I don’t recommend, but if you can suss that out, this might be the least hassle option.
- Visit Portugal itself. Obviously this is the most fun option because you’ll be in Portugal, and the offices shut 3 hours before the bookshops and about 7 hours before the restaurants so you’ll have plenty of time to unwind.
Several towns have offices where you can register. I think the smaller the town, the less time it takes because Lisbon and Porto are already swamped with Brazilians, Venezuelans and Brits. Presumably Faro has a massive backlog of “expats” too. Book a few days away. Maybe one for any preliminaries (say, get a NIF, meet with a Translator if you have any documents being translated) and leave two days for the process itself in case you have any problems with that and need to follow up.
Length of marriage
You need to have been married for 3 years to use the marriage route so if you’re not already hitched, tough (but there are other routes you can use – see below). If you got married in the UK, make sure the marriage is registered at the Portuguese consulate too. You will probably have done this if your other half updated their citizen card with a new surname. It’s slow and awful because it involves the consulate. They require all the same documents as described in this blog post, plus you’ll have to use their bloody awful online appointment booking, both turn up in person, and deal with various indignities.
The cost for an adult is €250. When you go to download the forms (“modelos”), there’s a big warning up front. Translation:
Applications that are not accompanied by the required payment will be rejected outright with all the documents. If payment is made by cheque, it must be a certified cheque or bank cheque issued in Euros from a company with representation in Portugal to the order of “IRN, IP” [this just means the Institute itself] issued on portuguese banks.
This seems a bit repetitive but basically, get thee to a bank that has branches in Portugal (Santander for example), open a bank account if you haven’t already got one, and ask for a banker’s cheque/banker’s draft.
There are two other alternatives. One is to get a “Vale Postal” (postal order) which you can buy at a post office (CTT) in Portugal. Again, make sure it’s made out to IRN, IP and has the correct address. The Vale Postal route is relatively straightforward if you have all the bits you need – the details of the payee (on the form itself) and the recipient, but on the downside, you have to do it in Portugal 3 working days before you submit to give it time to reach them. This is because a Vale Postal doesn’t work in quite the same way as a UK postal order. They mail the slip to the recipient and you need to note the reference number (and keep the receipt) as proof, and then wait for the order to show up at their office.
You’ll also need a “contribuente” (also known as Número de Identificação Fiscal – Or NIF) if you have one. If you don’t have one, you can pop down to the Serviço de Finanças and get one. It takes 20 minutes and costs €10. And if all else fails, just use your UK Unique Taxpayer Reference instead which seems to work.
The final option, if neither of the above is suitable, is the simplest of all, but you can only do it if you go to the office in person: bring cash.
The main hub for the different “modelos” (forms) is on the site of the Instituto dos Registos e Notariado.
Choose the one that best fits your situation. In my case, they were these:
Templates and forms regarding nationality
For children of a portuguese mother or father born abroad that registers their birth in the portuguese civil register or declares that they want to be portuguese.
For a foreigner married for more than 3 years with a portuguese national or who lives in a de facto union for more than 3 years.
You need to print the first two pages double-sided and the third and fourth pages are just guidance. Fill it in in black, in Portuguese (Duh!) and using crosses, not ticks in the boxes. I’m not going to translate the whole thing I’m afraid. You can use GTranslate can’t you? Most of it is pretty straightforward, but there are a few weird ones:
- Quadro 1, Questão 6 includes “Naturalidade”, “País” and “Nationalidade”, which seem to be asking the same thing, but I chose to interpret them as Place of birth (Scotland, in my case), Country (Stretching a point: the UK), Nationality (British)
- Quadro 1, Questao 8 asks for countries you have lived in previously. You will need to provide criminal records checks from all these countries, so don’t even mention any you lived in as a child or if you weren’t there long enough to be registered and leave a paper trail.
- Quadro 2, Questão 3 is a bit enigmatic “Do you have an effective link to the portuguese community”. This is exceptionally sketchily described in the form guidance as it stands and I have heard various theories, “new rules” and suggestions but what it seems to boil down to is this: for expats, resident in Portugal, married for 5+ years, there’s no language requirement if you can show something like a deed to a house, a contract with an employer or some other evidence of being a fully fledged citizen, to show you are integrated into society. If you’re non-resident, about the only proof of integration you can produce is a certificate of proficiency in the language, so effectively for us there is a language requirement. I quite like this: you can demonstrate you are integrated into the language and cultural life of the nation rather than the legal and economic life.
- Quadro 2, Questão 3 again. A bit further down it asks if you’ve performed functions for the state that were not predominantly technical in character. I had to ask my wife about this one as I couldn’t see what it was driving at. I think we decided it meant performing the offices of an MP, say, or a civil servant. The suite of questions seems to be trying to establish if you have any competing duties that might mean you retain an allegiance to the former state, I guess, hence the questions about being in the armed forces, being a terrorist and so on.
- Quadro 4 needs to have the answers copied from your other half’s birth certificate, and even then, if it’s anything like my wife’s it’ll still be baffling. I just handed it to her and asked her to do the necessary.
- Quadro 6 needs to be signed and witnessed by someone. Since I was planning to visit, I left this blank to sign in front of the person I handed it to, but you can also do it in front of a consulate employee or a Portuguese solicitor if you are mailing it in.
Some of this isn’t really spelled out because portuguese bureaucracy can be a bit hatstand sometimes, so it’s best to go the extra mile and do more than it requests rather than less
- As I said above, a certificate of proficiency in Portuguese shouldn’t be needed if you have been married 5 or more years but if you are non-resident it’s likely to be your only proof of an effective link to Portuguese community.
- You need a recent police check certificate in the UK and any other country you have lived in as an adult. The UK police certificate costs, and requires quite a bit of paperwork in its own right.
- All the other documents it asks for – birth certificates, passports and so on – need to be translated, and officially, not just by you. As it turns out, it wasn’t necessary for my process because the chap said if it was written in English it didn’t need a translation. TBH, I’d suggest you’d better do it anyway since that’s what it says in the instructions and it seems to vary from one person to the next, how rigorously the rules are followed, but it’s up to you. You could save a couple of hundred quid if you skip this step and get away with it, but you might prefer to play it safe. I know of at least one other person who couldn’t get through the process because they didn’t have certified translations of all their papers. They’re also sometimes a bit funny about the certificates being recently issued (especially at the Consulate), so even if you have your original certificate, you should write to your registry office and get a reissued copy too and bring it along. If you’re not sure how to get a new certificate, Google the name of the local authority you were born/married/whatever in and “replacement certificate”.
- If you do decide to get then translated, it’s quite a complicated process (but don’t worry, with the right help you can get through it)
- Firstly, the translator can do the translation based on a photocopy, and that’s probably the first place to start since you can do it by email.
- However, to get it certified, you need to give them either your original documents or a copy that has been authenticated by a solicitor or notary.
- When they have that, they can attach the translation to the original or verified copy and take them all to a solicitor at their end who can certify the translation as well
- Now, I didn’t trust the mail with my documents but also feared that if I got them certified in the UK the portuguese authorities might not recognise their authoritah, so what to do? Well, I sent my documents to a couple of translators in Portugal and got the quote I was happiest with (CS Traduções) and sent the documents by email attachment. She then took care of everything basically, and I arranged to pick them up the day before I had planned to submit the application. It was all completely hassle free and she was very patient with all my questions.
- I already mentioned that if you were married in the UK you need to get your marriage registered in Portugal, so the proof of that is probably enough on its own but I took a translation of my UK marriage cert too, just to be on the safe side.
- For children, both parents need to sign and both signatures witnessed.
- For children, birth certificates should be recognised in all EU countries but since the UK might have left before the form gets processed it might be a precaution to get it stamped by the Portuguese consulate in the country of birth. This isn’t written down, just the opinion of one official I spoke to, so take that as you will.
- As stated above, you’ll need your cheque, Vale Postal receipt, or cash if you’re an adult, but it is free for minors.
If you’re visiting the consulate, you’re probably doomed and will have been driven to insanity within a few weeks. I pity you. If you’re visiting Portugal, the addresses of the offices are in the last page of the guidance on the Modelo. Since it says “Balcões da Nacionalidade instalados nas seguintes Conservatórias do Registo Civil” and doesn’t give any addresses for the offices in smaller towns outside Lisbon, I went to the wrong place at first. This seems to be the place in Porto, anyway:
Av. da França 316, 4050-276 Porto, Portugal
+351 22 207 3810
It’s a kind of one-stop citizen shop and there are several different services in the same office, so ask at the desk if you can’t find the right option on the machine that dispenses tickets (the tickets are known as “senhas” not “bilhetes”) . Ask for Conservatória and you should end up with a senha with a number that starts with a Q.
Make sure you arrive between 8AM and 8.30AM or you’ve no chance.
Obviously don’t be rude or anything, but do be prepared to be assertive. My wife gave me some samples of indignant customer dialogue to use in case of intransigence but I was quite glad I didn’t need to use them. Apparently the tone to go for is polite but with a menacing air of superiority.
Minha senhora /meu senhor. é preciso ser razoável e justo.
Ora eu já cá estive na sexta e nada foi resolvido ou esclarecido. Isto não pode ser.
Veja lá por favor o que pode fazer porque sinceramente eu estou a ficar desorientado e preciso clarificação
The process can’t even be started without payment. If anything else is missing, you’ll get a case number and can submit the missing docs by post, but the one thing you can’t forget is the money. Owing to the large number of applicants expect to hear back after a year – or 18 months for children. We’ll have left by then but hopefully they won’t have started stoning remainers to death in the public square yet, so we should be OK, I think.
Well, that’s the sum of all my knowledge. I hope it’s some help to someone. Good luck.
I’d like to thank my friends Barbie (who gave me a lot of advice on her own family’s involvement in this process) and Marcos (who by amazing luck happened to be very close by the SEF on Friday and actually came to help out with communication, which was incredibly generous of him)