By Stephen Thompson
I was wrong, you can get Brazilian citizenship without giving up your existing nationality. This was pointed out to me by David, a Canadian who lives in Salvador. So now I don’t have to be envious of Brazilians, including my own wife and daughter, who have dual nationality, and who got it without giving up their other passport. The Brazilian Constitution was changed in 1988 and again in 1994, to allow Brazilian economic migrants to maintain their Brazilian nationality.

According to the Brazilian Embassy, citizenship can be granted in after just one year of residency in Brazil, if the applicant has a Brazilian wife or child. For more details, see

So why did it take a badtempered article on the Internet for me to get the right information? I had been told so many times that I would have to renounce my British nationality, in order to get the Brazilian one, that I assumed it must be true. It seems that most people are unaware of the relatively recent changes in the Brazilian Constitution. During the era of mass immigration and nationbuilding, European and Japanese immigrants were required to renounce their existing nationality, in order to encourage allegiance to their new homeland. And folk memories of this are still strong.

In the last 30 years, the flow of migrants has been in the opposite direction, as Brazilians sought to escape Brazil’s economic problems by going overseas, often acquiring a second nationality in the process. In the 1980s, many Brazilians were obliged to give up their Brazilian citizenship after living abroad. But it was soon realised that these Brazilians were acquiring second passports mostly for pragmatic reasons, and that at heart they remained Brazilians, true to the Brazilian Motherland, and intent on returning home again one day. So the Constitution was changed, to allow Brazilians to come home.

Which is how you and I also came to benefit, dear reader, assuming that you, like I, are a gringo interested in acquiring Brazilian nationality. We too have benefited from the changes in the Brazilian Constitution, and we too now have the right to Brazilian citizenship while retaining our British, US, Australian, or any other passport.

So how do you qualify for Brazilian citizenship? If you have been a permanent resident of Brazil for 15 years and do not have a criminal record, then you qualify. However, the process can be cut down to four years if you read and write Portuguese, have employment or have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family, are in good health and of “good conduct”. (I’m not sure whether this includes writing misleading articles on the Internet about Brazilian citizenship)

Time requirements can be further reduced to only one year if you have a Brazilian wife or child, or to two years if you are have certain professional, scientific or artistic abilities, or to three years if you own property or a business in Brazil with a certain value.

So it seems that the foreigner can actually get Brazilian citizenship within a year, after marrying a Brazilian. On the other hand, it takes five years for a Brazilian in the same circumstances to get British nationality. Maybe in the interests of reciprocity the British government should make it easier for Brazilians.

What are the advantages and responsibilities of holding a Brazilian passport? You will be able to get through immigration faster. You will be eligible to vote, but did you know that voting is compulsory? If you’re unable to vote, you will have to justify this to the relevant bodies, but this is usually a trivial task. You could be eligible for military service, as Brazil still practices conscription. You will be able to stand for public office, although you can’t be president of Brazil unless you’re born there, and this applies to a few other top jobs. You will be eligible to apply for jobs in the Brazilian public service, which are normally better paid than those in the private sector.

However, if you want to take advantage of these opportunities, and fulfil these duties, you need to speak, read and write Portuguese well. If like me, you picked Portuguese up by chatting to friends and reading the newspaper, it’s time for some serious study, especially if you want to apply for a good job in the Brazilian public service.

I better start behaving myself.

Stephen Thompson runs “O Gaucho”, a snack bar serving breakfast, juices, smoothies, sandwiches. Galeria 2001, 2001 Avenida Paulista, São Paulo. For an English menu contact

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy

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