PORTUGUESE NATIONALITY LAW
by Paulo Colaco Dias (
London) Email:PauloD@iname.com

Historical Background
Around 1757, the Prime Minister Marquês de Pombal and  the King of Portugal, D.

José I, signed a Royal decree  granting all Portuguese Indians (Goa, Damão and Diu) Portuguese citizenship and equal status and rights under the law with the Metropolitan Portuguese.  Neither the British, nor French, nor Dutch, had ever granted such a status to their Asian subjects. In that respect, Portugal was indeed unique. Perhaps this is the reason why so many Goans consider themselves different from the rest of the Indians and can integrate easily in the western societies. In the British and Portuguese African colonies, the distinction was quite visible. However, the reality today is different and the majority of Goans born in Goa after 1961 naturally identify themselves with India.

In 1926,
Portugal ended more than a century of liberalism and 48 years of authoritarianism began with a military dictatorship under President General Oscar Carmona. Prof. Dr. Oliveira Salazar became a dictator in 1930 and in that very year passed the racist Colonial Act differentiating Indians in the colonies from the Metropolitan Portuguese. This discriminatory Act was repealed only in 1950,  thanks to the efforts of Prof. Dr. Froilano de Mello, a brilliant Goan doctor representing Goa in the Portuguese Parliament.  He openly and successfully fought for the rights of
Portuguese Indians. From 1950, Goans recouped their status and were treated again just like any other Portuguese citizens from the metropolis.

On
18th December 1961, the Indian Army invaded Portuguese India and the Portuguese forces surrendered without a fight. Many Goans left Goa at that time and
were welcomed in
Portugal. Portugal however did not recognise the takeover. It was only in 1975 that Dr. Mario Soares, representing a new Democratic Portugal,
recognised the annexation of
Goa, Damão and Diu and re-opened diplomatic relations with the Republic of India. In Portugal, Goans are fully integrated in all fields of the Portuguese Society and refuse to identify themselves as a minority group and indeed
they are not officially recognised as such. The total number of people of Indian origin living in
Portugal today exceeds 100,000 (Catholics, Hindus and Muslims). They form the second largest Indian Community in Europe (after the UK). The majority of these 100,000 people are of Goan origin making them the largest Goan community in the world living outside Goa. Yet curiously, one hardly hears about the Goans resident  in Portugal.

Antigo Estado da India
It is important to note that after 1975, the Antigo Estado da India (the legal term for
Goa, Damão, Diu e Dadrá e Nagar Avelí before 19 December 1961) was assigned a special status under the Portuguese Nationality Law. Decreto-Lei n. 308-A/1975, 24th June
- "Lei da Nacionalidade Portuguesa" - Article 1º. clause (e), clearly says that all those  born in the Antigo Estado da India who declare their intention to retain their Portuguese Nationality are entitled to do so. Other ex-Portuguese colonial citizens were given a
period of time to decide if they wanted to remain as Portuguese citizens or to adopt the nationality of the new independent countries like Angola or Mozambique.
Only the citizens from Antigo Estado da India were not given a time limit to decide if they wanted to continue being Portuguese citizens. They are still entitled to declare today their wish to continue as Portuguese citizens.

In the euphoria that followed
Goa's takeover by India in 1961, many Goans burnt their Portuguese passports in public demonstrations organised by freedom fighters. (Freedom fighters were held in high regard and earned all sorts of privileges.) Others launched
diatribes against Portuguese rule in the local media. Former Portuguese passport holders seemed content with their new Indian status until 1986. In that year, 
Portugal joined the European Community and the old and "poor" country was becoming transformed: modernized and much more European. As a result, many of the very individuals who had reviled Portugal suddenly detected a doorway to enter Europe, an opportunity too good to
forego. Thus began the clamour for a return of their Portuguese citizenship.

Bogus Applicants
The number of applications increased exponentially after 1986 and
Portugal was pressured by the European Community to tighten up Portuguese Nationality law.
However, everything remains unchanged so far.  Unfortunately, a large number of bogus applications came to light. Indians outside the former Portuguese territories were also claiming Portuguese citizenship. Sorting out the mass of applications became difficult
with each passing day, and today there is a very strict and lengthy process to check the veracity of all submitted documents. It is no longer unusual today for people of Indian origin to hold a Portuguese passport. In fact, many of these people (other than Goans) have acquired one because they had lived and worked in the former African colonies. The Hindu community in
Lisbon is large and most of them came from Angola and  Mozambique.

Lately, many other Indians have succeeded in acquiring false Portuguese passports.  There are people ready to pay large sums of money for one. I have personally met
Gujeratis in
Paris who have bought such bogus documents. I found them happily selling French souvenirs by the roadsides of Paris and apparently doing good business. Some of them had entered Europe through Poland and Germany using false Portuguese
passports.

Recently the Portuguese press reported that Masood Azhar, the well known Islamic Kashmir leader (whose release was demanded by Indian Airlines hijackers in December 1999), was in possession of a false Portuguese passport when he was arrested in 1994 in
India.

The Portuguese Nationality Law also grants citizenship to descendants of Portuguese citizens. Therefore, a person  born only yesterday but who had a grandfather born in Portuguese India before 1961, can apply for Portuguese nationality. Applications for Portuguese citizenship have to be submitted to the nearest Portuguese Consulate. The list of requirements may be found at the web site:  http://www.geocities.com/paulocd/PortNatLaw.htm  Supporting documents include birth and marriage certificates (if applicable), legal identification documents and certificate of residency during the period 1970 - 1980.  All documents issued in
Goa are required to be certified by a Public Notary, the Collector and Under Secretary (Home).  Consult your
nearest Portuguese Consulate for details.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1. Under what law can the descendants of former Portuguese Citizens claim Portuguese citizenship? The 1975 legislation refers to a person born in the Antigo Estado da India. Does it cover the children or grandchildren who may have been born elsewhere?

A1: If you were born after 1961 (anywhere in the world) or born before 1961 but outside the Antigo Estado da India, it is necessary for you to prove that your parents/grandparents were born in the Antigo Estado da India. Once you have proved that, you need to register your parents/grandparents as Portuguese Citizens in Lisbon (even if they are already dead) and only then you can apply for Portuguese citizenship based on the fact that you are the descendent of a Portuguese citizen fully registered in Lisbon, Portugal .

Q2: Is the birth of a person in Antigo Estado da India sufficient requirement?

A2: No. In addition, you need to prove that you were not residing in the Ex-Portuguese African colonies during 1974-1976. This is because those that were residing in the ex-Portuguese African colonies were given a short period of time to decide if they wanted
to remain Portuguese citizens. So, if you were residing during the 1970's in the Ex-Portuguese African colonies given independence in 1975 (Angola,
Mozambique, Guiné-Bissau, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Principe), the chances are that your application will not be accepted.

Q3: Did the parents/grandparents (born in Antigo Estado da India) have to hold a Portuguese passport at all? What evidence has to be submitted by the child or grandchild?

A3: No. A Portuguese passport was never a requirement for citizenship. A birth certificate of your parent/grandparent is necessary along with a detailed list of other requirements that can be found at the following site:  http://www.geocities.com/paulocd/PortNatLaw.htm

Q4: What if the person switched passport to Indian or British, Canadian, American, etc?

A4:  Not at all.
Portugal allows dual Nationality and according to the Portuguese law, you can keep your second and other nationalities. The only restriction is that you will not be able to claim Portuguese protection if you require help in the country of your other nationality.

Some countries do not allow dual nationality (example:
India). According to the Indian Law, it is a serious offence to keep your Indian Nationality/passport if you have acquired another nationality.

Q5: Do I have to travel to
Lisbon to apply?

A5: No. You should contact your nearest Portuguese Consulate and refer to the Portuguese Nationality Law. If they fail to give you information or if they do not
know enough about it (which is the case sometimes), then you should contact a Portuguese lawyer (there are several experts in Portuguese Nationality Law) and
request help.