As part of our new adventure, we’re obtaining Portuguese citizenship. This is made possible because Sérgio already holds dual citizenship. There are various ways to obtain citizenship depending on your personal situation, and this isn't limited to marriage or heritage.
We initiated the citizenship process a few years ago with the aim of giving our kids a strong connection to their Portuguese roots through dual citizenship. If you're interested in knowing the benefits of dual citizenship, check out this post.
We're sharing our journey, but it's important to note that this is not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you're considering obtaining citizenship, it's recommended to seek professional guidance.
Our journey started with my application for citizenship through marriage. If you are an American married to someone that holds Portuguese citizenship, this process can be completed via a Portuguese consulate in the US and requires several steps.
One of the many things I learned through this process is the concept of an "apostille." An apostille is a certification that verifies a document's authenticity and legality. The US Department of State is responsible for issuing apostilles for federal documents, such as passports and background checks. Meanwhile, each state's Secretary of State overseas the issuance of apostilles for documents originating within that state. For instance, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issues apostilles for documents, such as birth certificates, issued in MA.
The following is an overview of the steps required to apply for Portuguese citizenship through marriage.
Step 1: Register your Marriage
Don't wait like we did! If you're a Portuguese citizen marrying an American citizen, you can register your marriage at your nearest Portuguese Consulate in the USA. Having this step already completed would've made the rest of our process simpler, but it isn't difficult to do either way.
Here's a list of some of the documents required for the application (verify the complete list with your local Consulate or the Embassy of Portugal):
Original or a certified copy (with raised seal) of your US long form marriage certificate (or the country in which the marriage took place). If the issuing authority is from a Hague Convention country, an apostille is required.
- We were married in Massachusetts, so we requested an original copy of our marriage certificate from the town in which we were married (not necessarily the town we lived in; if you were married outside of the US, check with the Consulate for the exact documents you'll need.) I ordered three of these since I knew I'd also need one for the citizenship application, and I wasn't sure if we'd also need one for the kids' application process. I would recommend ordering at least two of each document throughout this process; that way you won't have to go through the whole thing again if you need a second copy for another purpose.
- Once we received the marriage certificates, we then mailed them to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for the apostille certificates.
The original or certified copy (with raised seal) of foreign national spouse's long form birth certificate. An apostille is required if the issuing authority is from a Hague Convention country. (*Some sources suggest that an apostille may not be necessary if the official documents are American, in which case the original or certified copies of the certificates should suffice. I decided to err on the side of caution and submitted an apostilled copy.)
- I ordered a certified copy of my birth certificate online and the steps and fees are listed down below.
- Fee: As of 2022, the application fee is $142.73 USD (registration + postage).
Step 2: Apply for Portuguese Citizenship through Marriage
Declaration for Acquisition of Portuguese Nationality form, this must be signed in a Consulate or in a Public Notary
- My Experience: This was the easy part! I filled it out at home and signed it at the Consulate when I brought in the rest of my documents.
Original Long Form Birth Certificate: A translation of the certificate may be done by the Consulate or a professional translator. If you use a translator, you'll need to also have the document authenticated by a Public Notary. An apostille is required if issued by a country that is part of the Hague Convention.
- My experience: I ordered my birth certificate online, and the cost was $12 for the first copy, $10 for each additional copy, $5 processing fee (for the online order), and a $1.85 identity verification fee. I ordered a total of three copies (I wanted to be prepared!). After I received the birth certificates, I sent them to the Secretary of State (for the state that issued my birth certificate). Unfortunately, there weren't any options for requesting an apostilled copy of the birth certificate to begin with. The cost was $6 per document plus a self-addressed stamped envelope.
- Tip: Avoid Unnecessary Fees for apostille Services! Don't fall for companies offering expensive apostille services when you can easily obtain it yourself. In the US, you can find the necessary authentication request forms by searching for the Secretary of State offices for your state. For example, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this is the authentication request form.
- Passport: You'll need a certified copy of the applicant's valid passport.
Criminal Record Report Certificate (also known as a Background Check, Identity History Summary, Rap sheet, etc): This is actually a few steps and will take some time. There are two different routes you can take for this request – electronic submission or submission via mail. I highly recommend that you submit electronically if possible. It's the simplest and quickest option! For more information, visit the FBI's IdHSC (Identity HIstory Summary Checks) website.
- Note on Fingerprints: As part of your request for an Identity History Summary, you'll need to provide a copy of your fingerprints. There are a few ways you can do this... You can visit one of the 192 participating U.S. Post Office locations to submit your fingerprints electronically; your local, county, or state law enforcement agencies may also take your fingerprints for a fee; or you can find a printing companies that offers this service.
My Experience: I submitted everything electronically, and had my fingerprints electronically taken at a US post office in Boston. Here are the steps for the electronic submission process:
- Register on edo.cjis.gov and complete the required steps including payment.
- Register for USPS Fingerprinting Services Registration at https://ips.usps.com/IdentityCapture/
- Go to an eligible post office during service hours and have your fingerprints taken.
- The FBI will send an email notification when the results are ready. (You can login to your EDO account to view the results.)
- The FBI also mailed the report to me, and I then sent this official copy to the US State Department to be apostilled.
- Fees: The fee paid to the FBI was $18 and the fee for the fingerprint service at the US post office was $50. The fee for the apostille was $8 per document. I accidentally sent a check for $18, and they eventually sent the check and paperwork back to me, without the apostille. Apparently, they can't accept a check that goes over a certain amount of the total, so I had to send everything back with the correct amount. Thankfully we weren't on a time crunch for any of this, since it added about 4 weeks to the process.
Proof of Portuguese Connection: This document must demonstrate ties to the Portuguese community and Portugal through factors such as home, language, culture, social life, family, economics, and career.
- My Experience: I wrote a letter outlining the different links I have to the Portuguese community and to Portugal. It was straightforward and there were no issues.
Birth Certificate of the Portuguese spouse with the annotation of your marriage.
- My Experience: My Portuguese spouse was born in the US to Portuguese parents, allowing us to order his birth certificate from the town of his birth. We then mailed the certificate to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of MA for an apostille certificate (since he was born in MA). It wasn't annotated with our marriage, since we were both born and married in the US, and we registered our marriage simultaneously with my citizenship application. This wasn't an issue, and the local Consulate helped us ensure we had all the required documents.
In summary, the process for Portuguese Citizenship through Marriage is as follows:
- Collect all necessary documents and apostille certificates
Submit the citizenship application and required documents along with a 250.00 EUR bank check (or credit card payment) payable to IRN, IP, to the nearest Portuguese Consulate in the US. The credit card payment option can be accessed through https://crcpagamentos.irn.mj.pt/pagvisamc.aspx?productid=NAC3
- Remember to include the proof of payment with your documentation when submitting it to Portugal.
- The Consulate will review the application and documents and if the marriage is valid and all criteria met, issue a certificate of nationality.
- The American spouse must then present the certificate to Portuguese authorities to obtain a Portuguese ID card and passport.
The process of obtaining Portuguese citizenship through marriage can take several months and may involve additional documentation and/or interviews. You may want to seek legal advice before starting the process, as the process can be complex and the rules can change over time.
*NOTE: This post is based on personal experience and is not professional legal advice. Consult with a professional for information specific to your situation.