Posted in English, Portuguese

Um Conto de Dois Embaixadores

Ferrero Rocher for the Ambassadors

Launching an occasional series tentatively entitled Ambassador Update. This week: there is a new Portuguese ambassador in London, and the British ambassador in Lisbon fell of his bike and tweeted (in Portuguese, natch) about how well he was treated by everyone involved. Thanks to Dani Morgenstern for the help. I wrote this a while ago and delayed till I had the corrections for it, so maybe by the time you read this the world will have moved on but I’m betting you are not the sort of person who needs their ambassador news to be bang up to the minute so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Aqui em Londres, há um novo embaixador português. Sua excelência Manuel Lobo Antunes aposentou-se e voltou para Portugal. No seu lugar, Nuno Brito apresentou as suas credenciais a Sua majestade na quinta feira da semana passada.

Entretanto no parque de Monsanto, nos arredores de Lisboa, no sábado da mesma semana, o seu homólogo, Chris Sainty, o embaixador do Reino Unido, caiu da sua bicicleta e partiu um ombro. Escreveu um tweet no qual elogiou a gentileza dos transeuntes que vieram em* sua ajuda, e o profissionalismo dos médicos e enfermeiros que cuidaram dele no Hospital São Francisco Xavier.

* vieram em sua ajuda: they came in his aid, not to his aid. Another of those confusing preposition switches.

Posted in Portuguese

We Was Robbed!

I went on a misson to Hyde Park this morning to collect my exam certificate from the portuguese embassy. They won’t mail it, you have to go in person. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been disappointed to only receive a “suficiente” and not a “bom”. The cut-off is at 70% and I felt like I’d done really well, so when I got the result I assumed I’d hit the high sixties and just missed it. Disappointing but not the end of the world.

So, fast forward back to today. The teacher handed me the paper and I could see the marks I got for wach of the four of the components. For three, I was in the 70-80 range, which would have been fine, but the written component – usually one of the easiest bits – was well below that level at a pitiful 20%.


I said to the guy that it was a bit difícil a acreditar, undermining my case somewhat by tripping over my tongue and making a ton of mistakes through sheer nervousness. My written work definitely isn’t bad enough to hit 20 per cent though. I probably made some errors, but I finished both pieces and they were decent enough. One of the things about the exam, though, is that each paper has a candidate number on it, not a name, and I suspect mine might have got switched with someone else’s. Either that or they meant to give me 200% but ran out of ink before the second 0. Either way, I’m definitely appealing the mark.

Posted in Portuguese


Acabo de ver uma apresentação dum novo livro escrito por uma autora portuguesa, chamado “A Inglesa e o Marialva”. É baseado em factos verídicos, sobre uma inglesa que chegou em Portugal nos anos sessenta. Tem um bom aspecto.

Alguém fez uma pergunta que muitos devem ter-se se perguntado: o que é que é um “marialva”. Foi explicado que esta palavra tem dois significados: pode ser um bom cavaleiro ou um homem que se traja como o Marques de Marialva, e tem o comportamento daquele fidalgo; forte, bem vestido, tipo Dom João. Mais recentemente, o nome tornou-se mais negativo, portanto muitas vezes significa um bêbado, ou um homem que corre atrás de mulheres.

Posted in English

Applying for Dual Portuguese Citizenship

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.

Basic Approaches

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:

  1. Go to the consulate in London. If at all possible, avoid this option.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Modelos

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

Model 1C
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.

Model 3
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.

The Visit

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:

SEF Porto

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)

Posted in English

More About Consulates

I thought I’d add a quick blog post in english to follow up the text I’ve just written in portuguese, for the benefit of anyone who might be going to the portuguese consulate to conduct any sort of business, but especially for anyone who needs to register their marriage and change the name on their ID Card, maybe in preparation for applying for citizenship or applying for a passport. I guess in the age of Brexit there will be a lot of people having to brave the bureaucracy. Sigh.


First of all, you can only make bookings online on the consulate website and they come available at stupid o’clock at night, so you’ll need to plan this well in advance.

Second, the list of necessary documents the consulate supplies isn’t entirely complete, as I’ve mentioned in my test. For a start, if you’re like us, wanting to register a marriage, you’ll need your other half. In other words, a portuguese woman can’t go along, prove she is married and get her name change processed, she has to bring her estrangeiro husband along and have him sign some stuff at the same time. On top of that, the husband’s birth certificate and the marriage certificate both have to have been issued within the last 6 months. If you have the originals, sorry, but those won’t do, you have to have them reissued. You can do this online without too much effort and at a reasonable cost, and it only takes a few days to arrive, although if, like me, you need to ask for three extra copies because the appointment keeps being rescheduled, you might come under suspicion of identity fraud!

And third, prepare for a slightly tedious day. Although both parents need to be there, it’s best not to bring a child if you can avoid it. In our case, the funcionario got a bit arsey when our thirteen-year-old came, and there aren’t many children with the patience to stick it out for three or four hours in a mouldy building with an all-pervading air of bureaucratic intransigence. What I said in the text is not an exaggeration: we were talking to the manager of the office and staff did keep ambling in without knocking and asking her basically the same question. Their system was down and nobody quite knew what to do about it. They wanted to cancel our appointment and make us come back again but m’wife wasn’t going to put up with that nonsense. There really was a 2014 calendar on the wall and she actually discussed the cases & personal situations of 4 other cases just as chit-chat while we were sitting right in front of her. There were boxes everywhere and the general atmosphere was of complete chaos. It’s no wonder the consulate in London has such a terrible reputation among portuguese emigrants.

I’m not one of nature’s managers, but I could definitely imagine a few changes someone could make to make the whole thing easier for everyone. For a start, just fixing the website to show the correct details of what to bring would save hours a week dealing with wasted appointments of people who don’t have the right things with them. That would make life easier both for the staff and for the vistors. A few signposts, a bit of training in procedures, some customer focus, a few hours spent putting the boxes away in a cupboard… it honestly wouldn’t take much to turn things around and make it work better for everyone.

Posted in English

Well, Shit.

So something a bit depressing happened today: I got the result of my second B2 exam. As I might have mentioned, it didn’t go as well as I hoped but I was expecting to creep up a bit from the miserly “suficiente” I got twelve months earlier to a “bom”. Today, it finally came through and it said…. “insuficiente”… meaning I have actually got worse after a full year of study.

Except of course, I haven’t, I’ve got quite a bit better. My conversation is still a bit stilted but I can write reasonably well, understand most of the podcasts I listen to, and I read 17 Portuguese books last year, some of them pretty heavy. So, what went wrong? Well, ultimately, I suppose, I am still pretty weak on a lot of important points of language. Add to that a lack of exam prep and just general having-a-bad day, and you get a pile of poo. It was a bit of a blow to my confidence. I’m not going to bloody stop though. Exams are a useful way of motivating myself (well – heh – sometimes) but I’m in it for the books and the mind-expansion, so. I’m not going to lie down in a ditch and give up because I got one shit result.

Posted in English

A bit disappointed

Well, I’ve done the exam. It went OK. I mean, I’ve no doubt I passed and with a better mark than last time, but I have a nagging feeling of disappointment that I didn’t smash it. I’ve had a whole year since I took the test for the first time and barely passed. Now I think I’ve bumped my mark up from “barely scraping by” to “not bad I suppose”. That’s not much to show for the effort I’ve put in (and I really have you know!)

Anyway, for now, I’m not going to be disheartened. I’ll crack on with what I was doing and maybe try to be more active in writing and talking. That seems to be the key, I think: producing language, not just passively absorbing it by listening or reading (although I will still be doing those things too)

Posted in English

Round 2

Whoop Whoop!

I finally managed to make my subscription for the Portuguese B2 exam, the intermediate Diploma. It feels like I have a long, long way to go but this should motivate me to work hard between now and November!


Posted in English

Este é o Verdadeiro Teste

I’m writing this on the way home from the DEPLE (Portuguese B1) exam at the embassy in Knightsbridge, feeling slightly frazzled. I thought I’d jot down what I can remember while I can still remember it because – let’s face it – knowing what I’m like, that won’t be long. Maybe it will be helpful to future students. There isn’t much material out there telling you what it’s like to take the test, after all.


The embassy is an impressive building, as you would expect, with grandfather clocks and all kinds of fancy stuff in the hall and big stacks of Super Bock tucked away in side rooms. The staff are all Portuguese of course, but speak very good English to guests. I had been prepared to speak to the receptionist in Portuguese but he detected my Anglo Saxon demeanour and went straight into English mode.

I wasn’t expecting there to be many fellow students, but I was a bit startled to find I was the only one! I sat in a room, opposite a very friendly and helpful embassy official who handed me the papers and occasional glasses of water. There were textbooks and teaching materials all over the place. I believe they do lessons for expat children, so I guess that’s what those were for.

All the usual exam rules apply: read the question carefully before you start and try not to spill a glass of water on the answer sheet. I stuck to these rules… Mostly.

The first part of the exam was as expected: a series of multiple choice questions based on written texts. Easy enough. I didn’t make great use of my time, unfortunately, and had to rush a bit at the end, but that’s OK. This is by far my best subject.

Next up is a written exercise: write an email and a note based on a scenario they give you. The best technique here is to reuse as much of the question text as possible, just changing the verb endings. They’ve already constructed the sentences for you so why would you want to rewrite it from scratch. Thanks Mr Bennett, secondary school French teacher, for that advice; it got me about 20% of the word limit and then I had to start thinking, and it went reasonably well, I think. One thing to remember is that you don’t really have enough space for the 120-140 words they ask for, so keep your writing small and neat or you’ll end up like me, having to cram the last ten words into a centimetre of remaining space. I’m exaggerating… Actually, no, I’m not. There’s plenty of time though, so don’t forget to use it to go back and check your concordância.

On to part 3. This was the biggest shock for me. Up to now, I had done pretty well in all the “modelos” by allowing myself time to read the questions. Now, in the exam, the first three recordings each allowed one minute for the student to read the questions, but that’s not really enough, and the remaining 5 recordings didn’t allow any time at all. I was trying to read and listen at the same time, got hopelessly muddled and the result was a bit of a mess, I think. If you’re about to take the test, you should consider doing some speed tests, trying to cope with information rushing at you in a flood and strategies for coping with lack of time. Another tip I can give you is to do with the sound quality. The office isn’t noisy but it’s an old building and the acoustics aren’t great. Add to that the traffic noise the general quality of the recordings themselves, and a couple of people wandering in and out and you’ve got a recipe for distraction. When I do the next one, I’m going to ask if I can use headphones to shut out external sounds and see if that helps. I would suggest you consider doing the same if you are planning to take the exam. As for me, in the interval between the third and fourth sections, I went to the casa de banho and cursed the fact that embassies have bars on all the windows so I wasn’t able to escape. When I got back to the room my hands were shaking.

The final section is a ten minute conversation with the examiners. The modelos I’ve done have all had three components to the “expressão oral” but, to my intense relief, in the real thing, they had dispensed with the other two! Yippee!

I had spent the last couple of weeks working on conversation generally, and the last two days cramming intensely for the 1:1 questions, and it paid off in bucket loads. I’m sure I made mistakes but I flew through it, spoke fairly fluently, managed a couple of jokelets and a couple of expressões idiomáticas (examiners bloody love those, whatever the language might be). Best of all, I resisted my natural inclination to improvise and get myself into convoluted subclauses with no way out. I stuck to the sentences I had practised, kept it simple and it went very well indeed.

I must say, the invigilator was really helpful in the conversation. Obviously she didn’t actually help, but she made me feel very at ease and gave lots of positive feedback to let me know that, yes, I was still making sense and not burbling. That sort of thing makes a big difference, because if you lose confidence in that situation it’s quite difficult to get back on track.

All in all, I think I did pretty well,in spite of the setbacks in the third section. I don’t know how picky they are, or what the marking criteria are but I have a good feeling about it. Unfortunately, I won’t find out for sure until September.



When it was all over, I thanked the invigilator and went to a fancy-schmancy café for a fancy-schmancy sandwich and some well-earned beer*.




*=Peroni, not Super Bock. Yes, I was tempted but their security was too tight.