Say 'I Do' as a Foreigner in Portugal

31 May, 2024

News article by Raquel Babo, Lawyer - International Atlantic Services

Marriage is legally defined by Portuguese law as a contract between two people who intend to form a family through a full communion of life. The spouses are mutually bound by duties of respect, fidelity, cohabitation, cooperation, and assistance.

Portugal does not require legal residency to get married in the country, making it an attractive option for a destination wedding, thanks to its beautiful weather, lovely beaches, and picturesque countryside locations. However, foreign citizens who want to get married in Portugal must navigate a bureaucratic process. This applies whether both individuals are foreigners or if one member of the couple is Portuguese. For foreigner couples, it is required a connection to the country, as a pending process with the immigration authorities.

The marriage process is initiated when the engaged couple declares their will to get married to the civil registry office and ends with the registry office’s order with authorization (or refusal if impediments are observed) of the marriage, and the couple has then 6 months to proceed with the wedding. This process can also be conducted by legal representatives.

To start the process the engaged couple must indicate:

  • The type of marriage (civil, catholic, or civil under religious form).
  • The marital property regime.

The engaged couple can decide on the set of rules that will regulate the ownership of their assets within their marriage. In Portugal, there are the following property regimes to choose from:

  • Community of assets acquired during the marriage: all assets that the couple acquires after the marriage belong to both (except inheritances, donations, and salaries). The assets that each person already had before the marriage remain their own. This is the regime automatically applied if no other is chosen.
  • Total sharing of assets: all assets belong to the couple, acquired before or after the marriage, with few exceptions as inheritances or donations received on that condition.
  • Separation of assets: each person keeps the assets they already had and owns the assets acquired during the marriage. The only option to have common assets is to buy under co-ownership.
  • It is also possible to create a different property regime, unique to the engaged couple, combining rules from the other regimes or creating new ones.

It's essential to note that in cases where one member of the couple is a Portuguese citizen and the other is a foreigner without a residence permit in Portugal, additional procedures are taken to ensure that there’s no risk of the couple being involved in a marriage of convenience, which is a punishable offense. These additional procedures may include an interview with the immigration authorities in Portugal to assess the integrity of the relationship.

In conclusion, Portugal's marriage process is designed to ensure its legality. While the bureaucracy associated with it may seem daunting for the engaged couple, having the option to rely on a legal representative throughout the entire proceeding can ensure a more streamlined and stress-free process.


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