A Question of Nationality

Paulo Colaço Dias



Any individual can apply for Portuguese Nationality by virtue of any one of the parents being Portuguese citizens. Not necessarily both parents. The only condition is that parents'  marriage needs to be registered in Portugal.

Nowadays, it is much much more difficult to get Portuguese Nationality through marriage than by virtue of being a descendent of a Portuguese National.

On the other hand, if one analyses the Portuguese Nationality law as I did, one will understand that any citizen of the Antigo Estado da India born before 1961 retained their Portuguese citizenship unless he or she officially renounced it. It is very important to understand this.

If  an individual never renounced  Portuguese Citizenship, the individual is today a Portuguese Citizen and the Portuguese Nationality Law recognizes him/her as Portuguese because he/she was born Portuguese in the Antigo Estado da India and never actually renounced  Portuguese Nationality. 

That individual was born Portuguese in the Antigo Estado da India just like the Madeirenses were born Portuguese in Madeira and the Acoreanos were born Portuguese in Azores and the Minhotos were born Portuguese in Minho and the Lisboetas were born Portuguese in Lisbon. 

The Antigo Estado da India was since 1953 officially a province of Portugal and NOT a colony.

The only problem is that when the Portuguese left Goa after 1961, the birth records were not taken with them and therefore, Portugal lost the contact and the records of all citizens of the Antigo Estado da India. Hence the necessity to register in Portugal as a Portuguese Citizen.

When a Goan born in Goa (or anywhere in the Antigo Estado da India) before 1961 starts his/her process for Portuguese Nationality, he/she is not applying for nationality but he/she is merely registering himself/herself in Goa. The law still considers he/she as a Portuguese citizen. If their children also want Portuguese citizenship, then they will be applying for citizenship by virtue of their parents being Portuguese.

There were cases of East Timoreses who managed to escape persecution in Indonesia some years ago. They were caught in Australia and they claimed Portuguese Citizenship in a Australian court of law when Australia was trying to get them extradited back to Indonesia. They were caught in possession of an Indonesian passport. After consultations with the Portuguese Consulate in Australia, the conclusion was that these East Timoreses were indeed Portuguese citizens according to the Portuguese Nationality Law because they were born Portuguese and never actually renounced their Portuguese citizenship.

The only difference is for the people born in the Portuguese African colonies (which were given independence) and also Macau (which was given back to China).

People that were born or lived in Portuguese Africa were given a limit of time to decide if they wanted to retain their Portuguese Nationality. After that, they lost their right to claim Portuguese Nationality. People from Macau can claim as long as they were born before the Chinese-Portuguese agreement of the Macau hand over.

The Antigo Estado da India and East Timor are indeed different cases since there was an invasion (by India and by Indonesia) and therefore, the Portuguese nationality Law still considers people born in these places as Portuguese citizens if they did not renounce their nationality. It is like the Portuguese law is in their favour because they were invaded and they did not have their say in the matter ...

So, to finish all this, the problem is with India really who does not allow second nationality. It is indeed a complex matter. I guess if a Goan born before 1961 does not register in Portugal, nobody can really say he/she is a Portuguese National because Portugal does not have any records about he/she. Although theoretically, according to the Portuguese Nationality Law, they retained their Portuguese Nationality.

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Paulo Colaço Dias
July 15, 2000


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