GV spouse document requirements

Apologies for starting a new topic, but I think this is important: Can someone here point me to the actual legal framework that lists the documentation requirements for a spouse/dependent? To cut to the point: does the dependent need criminal conviction certificates from the country of residence AND the country of citizenship (if different), or either/or?

I am having an ongoing battle with my lawyer about how many Certificates of No Criminal Conviction (let’s call it CNCC) the spouse of the applicant needs. We are US citizens who have lived in Hong Kong for 37 years, to the point that the USA is only a distant foreign land which we visited (pre-covid) briefly every two years. We don’t even have an address there for those rare times when we’re asked for one. Thus, an FBI report for my wife seems, well, absurd.

For our initial application in 2018 and our first renewal, my wife and I submitted CNCCs from Hong Kong, no problem. We were lucky enough to get our second renewal appointments in December 2021. Again, we submitted the Hong Kong CNCCs. Still waiting for SEF to process.

Now my new lawyer insists that my wife, but not I, is required to submit CNCCs from both Hong Kong and the USA. I say “new” lawyer because our law firm recently passed our cases to her. Our previous lawyer there never once mentioned the American FBI report, not even as an optional submission, in all the interactions we had. When we were at the biometrics appointments for both application and first renewal (and also this second renewal), the official behind the counter never said, “Where’s the CNCC from the USA?” In fact, the first I ever heard about this was when our new lawyer brought it up.

I swear that I remember seeing something on the SEF’s own website stating that the spouse needs a CNCC from the country of residence OR the country of citizenship, if different. My new lawyer insists the correct conjunction is “and”, not “or”. She says that SEF “might” respond and require it, so that we should get it “just in case”. I don’t believe her.

If it were a simple process to get the FBI report, I’d humor her and do it. But getting and apostilling the FBI report–while we’re in Hong Kong, while the US consulate is booked solid until June and beyond for notarial services, and while international courier services are at a near standstill (even the ultra-premium “overnight” FedEx service took a month to arrive last time I tried, in December)–is such an enormous and time-consuming pain in the tush, it’s not something I want to initiate “just in case”.

If someone has a link to the actual section of the law, or guidance on the SEF site which spells this out clearly, I would be very grateful.

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Thanks so much. Your findings helped me to locate this other government site:

Certificado de registo criminal do país de origem ou do país onde o requerente resida há mais de um ano.

Here, the key word is ou. I will send to my lawyer for comment.

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You have already found what you need, but you might still find this SEF location helpful, Lourenço: Resultados de Pesquisa. Many documents there are related to renewal and I note that all renewal documents have the same text to which you refer: tem que juntar certificado de registo criminaldo país de origem, ou do país (ou países) onde resida há mais de um ano.


Thanks. Most of these articles apply to the ARI “golden visa”, but actually my wife is not applying under ARI. Officially, the way it works is that I apply under ARI and she applies as a dependent. Not a “dependent of ARI”, but simply as a dependent. The SEF web page refers exactly to this: “Residir em Portugal e Reagrupar Família”. The documentation required is different. It is clear that ARI applicants only need the report from the country of residence, period.

The other thing interesting that I notice is that the text I found on the other Portugal government site says: “…Certificado de registo criminal do país de origem ou do país onde o requerente resida…” Note the phrase “país de origem”, not “país de nacionalidade”. This is the same as the English version (“country of origin”) from the SEF website as in the first response above. Since my wife was born in Hong Kong, that is her country of origin. And since that’s where we live, then the CNCC applies to both (she no longer has Hong Kong or China nationality; she has only USA citizenship). On the other hand, the Portuguese version from SEF’s site says “país de nacionalidade”. In other words, nothing matches up. That’s why I’m looking for the actual law itself. Anyone know what law it is?

Both sites refer to Artigo 98, but they don’t specify Article 98 of which law. I have tried to find it through the site which contains the full civil laws of Portugal, but my searches have come up empty. Ideally, I’d like to find the law itself.

My mistake. The major Law that defines conditions, procedures for entry, residence, exit etc. of foreign citizens in Portugal is this: https://dre.pt/dre/detalhe/lei/23-2007-635814. Article 98 - is “Autorização de residência para reagrupamento familiar”, although the Article is more about the right to reagrupamento familiar, not about “país de origem” or “país de nacionalidade”.

I am not clear on what grounds your wife is applying, if not as “dependent of ARI”.

If we just come back to ARI - this requirement has been discussed a few times on this forum.
The feedback so far points out to the following rule:

  1. If born and currently residing in the same country X - ONE certificate from that country X
  2. If born in country X, but currently residing in country Y for MORE THAN ONE YEAR - ONE certificate from country Y
  3. If born in country X, but currently residing in country Y for LESS THAN ONE YEAR - ONE certificate from country X

Obviously these are just summary notes from the forum feedback, but they match the SEF official requirements. Still, the individual SEF agent may ask for something different of course.

Note about the lawyers - they are not the authority, and they only represent ONE view from the process they run. Some prefer to collect every possible document ‘just in case’. Others operate a bit less heavy handed.
I personally had arguments with my lawyer about many requirements like birth certificate etc., and in most cases he was wrong!

The actual authority remains with SEF, and the useful feedback remains with this forum :slight_smile:


Hi Everyone,

I would like to help as I had the exact same issue with my current renewal.

Just to be clear it’s an ARI renewal, and based on SEF the same exact requirements related to this specific document (no criminal record) apply to both applicant and dependent.

The law clearly states “or” with regards to someone who is born in a country but has resided in another for more than 1 year.

So I had my renewal in 2019 where I only submit the NCR from country of origin. Everything went well and I received my card…although I had been residing in another country for more than a year.

The next renewal in Nov 2021, I applied again with the same documents, and the SEF agent accepted my documents at the counter…all seemed well.

45 days later, my lawyer received a request from SEF requesting an addition NCR from country or residence.
I was confused and stressed out, I had to provide the document attest it and send it to SEF all within 20 days…

I asked my lawyer why this is requested now and not before, she did not know.

I have completed the request anyways and sent to SEF.

Just be safe, always prepare NCR from both countries.
It seems SEF is requesting these now as an updated security measure.

Don’t waste time, and take it from my experience…get the required documents and let your lawyer request an extension if you need more time.

Hope this helps.


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@Bisho Did you apply as a dependent? Also, which SEF office did you apply through this latest time?

The dependent application has always had different requirements, in our experience. According to the documents our lawyers provided in our first application and our first renewal, the main applicant (me) must provide NCR only from the country of residence; there is no mention of country of nationality/origin. My wife, the dependent, is the only one which mentions NCR from country of origin or residence. Every time, our lawyers point out the discrepancy in the requirements between the main applicant and the dependent.

Thank you for the clarification. It really helps. I think my lawyer is being overly cautious.

I applied at Lisbon office, I am the primary applicant.

Bisho, it looks like SEF disregarded that you provided the ‘wrong country’ certificate the first time when you applied. Second time they were more accurate and thus requested the ‘correct country’ certificate from you.
The word ‘OR’ is interpreted as per the formula I noted in my earlier post.


The ‘family reunion ARI’ requirements are indeed somewhat different from the main ARI applicant, but not on the point of criminal certificate.
Anyone who is 16 years old or older is asked to provide the certificate. The formula to identify the source country is above.

Disclaimer - I am not SEF, and I have not passed my biometrics yet, but I am already at the Candidatura Aceite stage, and the formula above worked for me. Btw I have one dependant who was born in country A, lived in country B, then in country C and now happily lives in country D (longer than one year) :slight_smile:
We provided ONE criminal cert from country D.

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I can’t say whether you need the FBI report or not, but I just wanted to let you know that you don’t need to go through US Consulate in Hong Kong. You can use the online FBI electronic submission system and follow the steps here: Electronic Departmental Order. Then get the fingerprints done by the HK Police and DHL them together with the email from the FBI that you get after you submit the application. After the FBI receives it, you will get an emailed copy of the FBI report in about five days. You can then use a private company in the US to get the State Department apostille by forwarding them the emailed copy of the report. I used a company called Monument Visa, which I would recommend. Last summer the whole process took about a month after the FBI received the fingerprints. I hope that helps and that the situation in Hong Kong gets better soon!



Thanks. You say

is this the dependent of ARI or the original main applicant or main applicant(s), etc?

For this:

Would you mind sharing the birth certificate issue?


The requirement and the rules for the criminal check are the same for the main applicant and dependents. Below 16 year of age - not required.
Just refer to the official SEF requirements page for clarity.

The birth certificate point was an incorrect request from my lawyer to supply birth certificates for all applicants ie. Main + dependants.
SEF only requires birth certificate as a proof of relation only where applicable.
Ie if children apply, then their cert is needed.
If parents apply, the main applicant’s cert is needed.
If parents-in-law apply, the spouse’s cert is needed.

Hope this helps.

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I can now definitively answer the question of whether the spouse of a GV applicant has to submit Criminal Conviction Certificates from the country of residence AND/OR the country of citizenship (if they aren’t the same).

My wife and I, both US citizens, submitted the certificates from our long-term place of residence, Hong Kong. Today the SEF sent a note requiring her, but not me, to also submit her FBI certificate, despite the fact that she hasn’t lived there in 37 years. This also despite the fact that in our initial application and first renewal, they did not ask for her FBI report.

So that answers it once and for all: the rules are different for dependents. According to a private message I received, it’s a typo in the law, which no one has ever fixed, and some bureaucrats take seriously.

I’m cussing up a storm in three languages right now.

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Sorry to hear

To clarify your point, are you stating the rules for Dependents are dependent (sic) on the whims of the bureaucrat reviewing their application?

In some instances, the bureaucrat won’t require NCCs from both your Dependents’ place of PE and origin/citizenship (assuming different) but in other instances, they may, purely based on their whims?..

unsurprising i suppose.

It is absolutely, entirely, 10,000% based on the whims of the bureaucrats. Here’s my story:

I live in Hong Kong. The HK Police will not give a CNCC (Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, as the HK Police call it) to the applicant. They will only deliver it to the requesting government authority, and for that they demand a request letter from that government authority. Prior to our biometrics appointments, SEF will absolutely not supply such a letter. So, in both our application and first renewal, we attended the biometrics appointment, at the end of which we were given a document for each of us, requesting the “missing” CNCC.

When we got back to Hong Kong, we went to the Police with the letters from SEF. Then the Police produced the CNCC’s and sent them directly to the SEF in Lisbon–without apostilles and without translation. And guess what? They were accepted by SEF, without apostille, and entirely in English. After all, they came directly from the HK Police, so there is no question of their being genuine. Those bureaucrats in the Lisbon office, who obviously read English, used their discretion and made it easier for all by recognizing that it made sense to accept the CNCCs as-is. And they never asked for my wife’s FBI report.

The point I’m emphasizing is that, yes, it is up to the discretion of the bureaucrat, or perhaps the office, processing one’s file. This can go in your favor, as it did for us twice. Or it can turn into living hell, as it is for us right now, beyond just the matter of the FBI report.

Here’s the rest of my story up until today. The CNCCs are killing us. Because of the scarcity of biometrics appointments, our lawyers grabbed appointments in December 2021 for me in Faro and my wife in Porto, because those were the only ones available. Clearly those offices are much more bureaucratically rigid than Lisbon, because when we did the same procedure as above, both of our CNCCs were rejected.

For us, there is another way: applying to the Portuguese Consulate in Macau to supply the request letters. Then the Police send the CNCCs to the Consulate, and they can be picked up there by me or a representative. Sounds easy? Think again. Suffice to say that they are Portuguese bureaucrats, and they are putting us through hell regarding slight differences in our names between our Hong Kong IDs and our US passports. Obviously, SEF in Portugal has only our passport names and numbers, but the Portuguese Consulate will ONLY issue request letters based on our Hong Kong IDs, since they only provide the service to bonafide HK and Macau residents. Which means that SEF in Portugal is guaranteed to reject them due to the slight name differences. No, neither the HK Police nor the Portuguese Consulate is willing to put both names and document numbers on their report or letter. The Police will do either-or (in the previous times, they used our passports), but the Consulate will not.

I am seriously ready to abandon the whole Golden Visa. This issue, so trivial yet so monumentally puffed up by the bureaucrats, along with getting my wife’s FBI file (another nightmare: she has extremely light and shallow fingerprints, already rejected as “low quality” by the FBI) has caused three full months of 24/7 stress. It’s completely ruining my enthusiasm for moving to Portugal, which we were planning to do this year. Even if I give up the GV and move there, starting over with a D-7 visa, we will eternally face the issue of the CNCC. Maybe it’s time to find a different country.

@Lourenco Sorry to hear this. I can imagine how agonizing it must be. There must be some way to get this done. Could you put the burden on your lawyer to find a way. That is what they are paid for, to deal with complex situations. Otherwise, try to find another lawyer that has connections that can make it happen. If you can get the CNCC from the consulate and then have your attorney write a letter clarifying the situation and apositille all of that, maybe they would accept it coming from your lawyer.

Good luck.