The Race for Portuguese Nationality

By Prabhakar Timble
02 July 2012 22:42 IST

Around four members of Village Panchayats in Goa have been disqualified as they were ineligible to contest elections to political institutions as not being citizen of India.  They are holding a Portuguese passport, meaning thereby that by law and their conduct, they had acquired Portuguese citizenship. There are unconfirmed reports of the possibility of three newly elected MLAs holding similar travel documents. It would not be an exaggeration to hold that around twelve thousand Goans may be actually residing in Goa who has been either allotted or who have reached the final stages of receiving what they consider as the prized document. There is credence to these figures since the number of Goans who have applied for surrender of Indian passport to the Regional Passport Office; Goa for the period 2006 to June, 2012 is nearing 9600.  It is revealed that on an average 20 Goans per day submit their applications for surrender certificate to RPO, Goa. The surrender certificate of Indian Passport is issued by this office after obtaining the no-objection from Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. Such a surrender or renunciation certificate needs to be produced at the time of applying for Portuguese passport. There are many who do not hold an Indian passport and hence can apply directly for a Portuguese passport. However, there are few who hide the factual details and hold Indian as well as Portuguese passport. Goans from all communities, working beyond the shores of India or having strong intention to work overseas and the lust of eventually settling outside India forms the potential demand force for Portuguese passport. A Portuguese citizenship means a safe, smooth and hassle-free passage to Europe.

Hum Apke Hain Kaun

What is special in our relationship with Portugal that makes things simple and easy for Goans to move to Europe? On what grounds does Portugal entertain applications to grant Portuguese nationality?

It is nothing else but the accident of history i.e. the colonisation and the liberation of Goa. Goans born prior to 19th December, 1961 though of Portuguese nationality by birth automatically became Indian citizens by the Goa, Daman & Diu Citizenship Order, 1962. This resulted in a unique situation wherein people of Portuguese nationality acquired new citizenship. All those born prior to liberation had their birth registered with the “Conservatoria dos Registos” (Registry) in Goa and this registration meant provision of the birth-certificate which was known as “certidade de nacimento”. This is nothing more than certificate of birth. Almost all Goans born in Portuguese Goa would have such a document of birth.

The Portuguese government entertains applications from any of its citizens from the erstwhile colonies for grant of what is called as “Billet de identidade” (National identity card). This is applicable for all Goans born prior to liberation or for those who are born post-1961, if one of the parents was born in Portuguese Goa (prior 1961) and their birth and marriage are registered in Lisbon.  The first step to apply for Portuguese passport is to get the birth and marriage of parents registered in Lisbon. It is only after these records are entered and maintained at the Registry in Lisbon, the next stage i.e. application for the Portuguese passport commences. Registration of birth entitles the person to apply for nationality by birth. This means that mere registration of birth would not make a person a Portuguese citizen. So, after registration of birth, if the person applies for “billet de identidade” i.e. gives the consent or if uses this instrument as a travel document and passport, it would mean that the person has given up Indian citizenship and acquired Portuguese citizenship.

Having given up Indian citizenship, the stay of such a person in Goa is permissible only on application and grant of a residence visa. Such a person would have to also abide by the provisions of the Foreigners Registration Act. At the same time, a mere registration of birth i.e. citizens card in Portugal (cartao de cidadao) would not invite any infirmity or disqualification. This issue has come to the fore with the petition filed by Valanka Alemao praying for disqualification of Caetano D’Silva, the newly elected MLA from Benaulim constituency. If the evidence shows that the MLA had applied or given consent for grant of “billet de identidade”, it would be a grave violation of not only electoral laws but other enactments.

To be or not to be

India does not recognise dual citizenship. However, considering the special privilege that Goans are accorded by Portugal, if given the opportunity of dual citizenship, Goans would be eager to grab. In fact, a demand for dual citizenship is emanating from overseas Goans and Indians who have acquired foreign citizenship. This demand is being argued on grounds of facilitating investment and contribution to economic and social development of the land of birth. The trend amongst Goans to acquire Portuguese citizenship/passport is largely because of the possibilities of opportunities of employment and settlement. A few opt for it because they perceive better quality of life in Europe and a few others carry a negative complex of their land. I am quite sure that the positive trend for Portuguese passport is for self-interest and private gains. It has nothing to do with love for Portugal or anti-Indian sentiment or feeling. Hence, let us not read factors like nationalism and patriotism into this trend. At the most, I may say that those opting for foreign nationality or passport could be traders and brokers of nationality.

With the possible spectre of over twelve thousand Goans residing in Goa with Portuguese nationality and or passport documents, the Government of Goa; the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India; the Foreigners Registration Office of Goa Police have to demand information and transparency from the Portuguese Embassy and Consulate. One is free to acquire any citizenship.  At the same time the laws of the land should be followed. Under the veil of secrecy and friendly relations with foreign governments, the government of India and the government of Goa should not make matters so difficult for itself and other citizens that Goans opting for Portuguese nationality adorn the seats in our legislatures, local-governing bodies and other instrumentalities of the government with gay abandon.  The powerless individual citizens are expected to lead documentary evidence with government and the judiciary to prove the renunciation of Indian nationality by acquiring the Portuguese passport. Considering the magnitude of the issue at hand, the State and Central Government and also the higher judiciary should not wash off the hands and continue with a totally helpless posture.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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This article by Mr. Timble contains many inaccuracies and wrong interpretations - it does not surprise me as this is common in Goa - my motherland. That is how confusion reigns and misconceptions are fed to the people.

Very sad indeed.

In a nutshell, anyone born in Estado da India Portuguesa (Goa, Damao, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli) before the brutal invasion by the Republic of India (19 Dec 1961) is a Portuguese national by Jus Soli (birth place) according to Law 2098, of 29 July 1959. After the Indian invasion, these citizens never lost Portuguese nationality and, therefore, are still Portuguese nationals today according to Portuguese law. This is regardless of the Indian nationality which was imposed on them with the Indian Nationality Act of 1962.

Children of these Portuguese nationals are entitled to apply for Portuguese nationality by Jus sanguinis (blood relationship to a Portuguese national).

Birth registration in the Portuguese civil registry office is enough proof of Portuguese nationality. There is no need to apply for Bilhete de Identidade or passport.

Confusion reigns in Goa. Passport and nationality are two different concepts but Goans conveniently mix these two concepts.

Passport is merely a travelling document that is granted to Nationals.

Nationality is a much more complex concept, requires allegiance to the country of nationality (with respective rights and duties) and is proven by birth registration in Portugal. Mr Timble is, therefore, wrong.

Although Goans born prior to 1961 are Portuguese nationals according to Portuguese law, Portugal is not aware of their existence (the records remained in Goa after 1961). So, those born in Goa before 1961 who want to continue to avail of their Portuguese nationality need to request their birth registration from Goa to be integraded in the Portuguese civil registry services of Portugal. Only then can their children avail of the same.


Paulo Dias

- Paulo Dias, London | 04 th July 2012 02:38


The matter is not so easy... And it's not a matter that concerns travel agencies.

Portugal, a very small country, has strong relations with Indians from 1498. The integration of Goa, Daman and Diu in the territory of Indian Union was 1961, there are only 50 years.

I say frequently that we are the indians in Europe; because indian influence in Portugal is stronger than Portuguese influence in India.

The nationality has, nowadays, another sense.

Nationality concerns more the citizens than the States.

I believe that the Portuguese way of maintaining links is better than the British one.

To be Portuguese is to be European Citizen.

To be a citizen of the British Commonwealth is only remember a former status of colonialism, even if the persons from the Bitrish colony of Falklands are European.

Goa, Daman and Diu were, ever, a special case in the Portuguese empire. The persons born is this territories - not the ohters of Angola and Mozambique - where, never, "indigenas". They where citizens...

I sugest you to read my book about, that you can download in

- Miguel Reis, São Paulo | 04 th July 2012 01:47


"It is nothing else but the accident of history i.e. the colonisation and the liberation of Goa."

The word 'accident' seems rather inappropriate considering that colonisation seems to me quite a deliberate enterprise.

The beginnings of a colony certainly can stem from amateur exploratory expeditions and quests for fame and fortune.

Also, I was under the impression that the Republic of India 'invaded'(a more unambiguous word than 'liberated') and then annexed Portuguese sovereign territory in December 1961.

In any case, speaking(or in this case, typing) for myself, I felt far from 'liberated' while growing up in the ecological mess that was(and is) Indian controlled Goa of the mid-1980's to the mid-2000's.

I was born in and lived in Indian administered Goa until I left that particular 'administration' for the economic and political partnership that is the European Union.

My Portuguese nationality allows me visa free travel in every one of the EU's non-restricted(non-military)territory which covers over 4 million square kilometres of the Earth's surface, with territory and enclaves in the Arctic, the Americas, the Indian Ocean, the south-west Pacific and Polynesia.

I can interact freely with the world's third largest population(after China and India) under a single political and economic framework with few exceptions and certainly taking into account the laws in individual countries of the EU.

And of course I am able to visit(holiday, not paid work), again without the need of a visa, a number of countries including Canada and the U.S.A

As for visiting Goan/Indian territory, a person of Indian origin such as me and any Portuguese citizen originally from Goa, again, just like me, needs only to apply for a short term tourist visa that lasts 6 months or take her/his pick of the options listed here :

I do not understand why(but I certainly am able to guess the reasons for), with so much opportunity, including that of visiting and living in the motherland(India), a non Indian-national of a socially, economically, even ecologically sensitive(to some extent) 'western' nation with rule of law and overall political and economic corruption levels far below that of India, would want to subject themselves to some(I am really assuming and making an educated guess here) of the antiquated 'culturally specific' laws and restrictions of the Republic of India.

It's odd, to say the least.

"Perceived better quality of life" and "self-interest and private gains" indeed..

Thank you for this article Mr. Timble. It has been informative and obviously made me think of my motherland.

I guess you could categorise me as one of those with a negative complex with regard to "my land" (this is obviously not as simple as it sounds; I have seen much of "my land" and do not take criticism of it and it's people, history, environment and culture lightly)

- Mark Rodrigues, European Union Territory | 03 rd July 2012 20:16


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