Considerations surrounding Brazilian citizenship and naturalization

Naturalization in any country is nothing to be taken lightly by any stretch of the imagination. This is especially the case here in Brazil because citizenship, however obtained, carries with it certain serious responsibilites as well as rights. So before you decide one way or the other you should have as much information as possible.
Brazil is one of the nations that recognizes dual citizenship. You therefore must know about how one obtains citizenship and how it may effect you.
There are a number of ways in which one obtains citizenship;
The first is of course by birth. In most cases, and with a few exceptions, anyone born in a country is automatically a citizen of that country (jus soli). Anyone born in Brazil, even to foreign parents (provided that they are not in the service of their country) is automatically a Brazilian by birth.
The second is by having a parent of that nationality (jus sanguinis). The birth may need to be registered with the country’s consulate if a child is born abroad. It may also be applied for in most cases. Anyone who is born abroad and has a Brazilian parent may become a Brazilian citizen in the following ways: their birth is registered with the Consulado-Geral do Brasil in the country in which they were born; they come to Brazil as a minor and request citizenship; as an adult at any time upon application. If you have a child born in Brazil you are also entitled to citizenship under jus sanguinis.
In some countries you obtain citizenship based on marriage to a natural of the country (jus matrimonis). Here in Brazil this entitles you to apply for citizenship after a minimum period of time in the country.
You can become a citizen through the naturalization process. Any permanent resident qualified can apply for citizenship in Brazil:
You may obtain citizenship of a new country if your country of origin is anexed by that country and ceases to exist.
You can be granted citizenship of a country for humanitarian reasons.
You can be awarded “honorary citizenship” for some special accomplishment.
So let’s look at what the law says:

CITIZENSHIP LAW – BRAZIL

The citizenship of Brazil may be obtained in one of the two ways:
by birth:
by naturalization
BRAZIL CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH
The nationality of Brazil may be obtained by Birth by persons those born in the Federative Republic of Brazil, even if of foreign parents, provided that they are not in the service of their country;
those born abroad, of a Brazilian father or a Brazilian mother, provided that either of them is serving the Federative Republic of Brazil;
those born abroad, of a Brazilian father or a Brazilian mother, provided that they are registered with a proper Brazilian authority, or those who come to live in Brazil before coming of age and, having come of age, opt for Brazilian nationality at any time;

BY NATURALIZATION

Those who, as set forth by law that is (Law no. 6815, of August 9, 1980, as amended by Law no. 6964, of December 9, 1981, and Decree 86715, of December 10, 1981), acquire Brazilian nationality, and, for persons originating from Portuguese speaking countries, the only requirement being residence for one uninterrupted year and moral integrity;
Foreigners of any nationality, resident in the Federative Republic of Brazil for over Fifteen years uninterruptedly and without any criminal conviction, provided that they apply for Brazilian nationality.
The rights inherent to born Brazilians shall be attributed to Portuguese citizens permanently resident in Brazil if Brazilians are afforded reciprocal treatment, except in the events set forth in the Constitution.
The law may not establish any distinction between born and naturalized Brazilians, except in the events set forth in this Constitution.

BRAZIL NATURALIZATION PROCEDURE

An application for Brazilian citizenship through naturalization can only be lodged in Brazil. The application standards are set forth by Portaria (Ordnance) of the Minister of Justice No. 703 of June 13th, 1995, published by Diário Oficial Da União (the brazilian federal government official daily) of June 14th, 1995.

PRE REQUISTES AS TO NATURALIZATION

Applicants must meet the following conditions:
Legal capacity, according to Brazilian law.
Registration as a permanent resident of Brazil.
Proof of uninterrupted residence in Brazil for at least four years immediately prior to lodging the application.
Ability to read and write Portuguese in a manner commensurate with his or her possibilities.
Exercise of a profession or own sufficient property for support of self and family. This condition is met if the applicant:
receives a pension for work done in Brazil, or is a student up to the age of 25, or is married to a Brazilian citizen, or shows proof of support by a parent, relative or descendant who has enough resources to meet the legal requirement’s for the applicant’s support.
Proof of good behavior.
Absence of any denunciation, indictment or sentence in Brazil for a crime punishable, in principle, by more than one year in prison.
No income tax debts in Brazil.
Good health. (No proof of good health is required from a foreigner who has continuously resided in Brazil for more than two years immediately prior to the date the application is lodged.)

ABSENCE FROM BRAZIL AND PERIOD OF INTERRUPTION

The required four year period of residence is not considered interrupted by trips abroad, provided that the motive for such trip is considered relevant by the Minister of Justice and that the total sum of the periods of absence from Brazil does not exceed eighteen months.

REDUCED PERIOD OF RESIDENCE

The required four-year period of residence may be shortened to, if the applicant:
One year: has a Brazilian child or is married to a Brazilian.
One year: has a Brazilian parent;
One year: has rendered or is in a position to render relevant services to Brazil, at the discretion of the Minister of Justice.
Two years: is eligible because of professional, scientific or artistic ability.
Three years: owns property of expressive value in Brazil; is an industrialist, owning expressive resources; or owns expressive paid-in shares in any corporation specially and permanently active in industry or agriculture.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages / rights and obligations surrounding acquiring Brazilian citizenship?

On the plus side:

The right to vote and run for public office (with some exceptions for highest offices).
The right to apply for public service jobs / enter concursos.
The right to obtain a Brazilian passport.
The right to all services that are provided free of charge to Brazilian citizens because of age or disability.
The right to enroll in government programs that are restricted to Brazilian citizens, “Minha Cada – Minha Vida” or “Bolsa Família” for example.
On the minus side:
Regardless of any other citizenship you will be required to enter and exit Brazil using ONLY a Brazilian passport, so you must obtain one.
Regardless of any other citizenship while in the country you are considered first and foremost a Brazilian citizen, subject to all Brazilian laws, and if something goes wrong you cannot fall back on your other citizenship for any kind of protection. Your home country will probably not want to get involved in trying to help you if you’ve naturalized and then seek help because of some serious legal problem as they would if you were not a citizen.
Military service is obligatory so while it may not effect you, if you have any Brazilian born child they will be obligated to serve in the military upon reaching 18 years of age.
Depending on your home nation’s citizenship laws, you may automatically lose (or be required to renounce) your citizenship should you choose to naturalize in Brazil.
Voting in Brazil – since the vote is obligatory you will be required to vote or justify why you did not do so. There are penalties and loss of certain civil rights for those who fail to vote.
Naturalized citizen or not, there are always those Brazilians who will still consider you a foreigner or “outsider”. Xenophobia does exist here in Brazil to a great extent depending on where you come from.
So, now you know the facts you can make an informed decision on whether or not you want to naturalize in Brazil.

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