Portuguese Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

Updated: 12 July 2021


In the year 2015, Portugal passed a law which is Decree-Law 30-A/2015. According to this law, Sephardic Jews can get Portuguese citizenship depending on some requirements.

First, what does “Sephardic” mean?  “Sephardic” comes from the Hebrew word “Sepharad,” meaning Spain. The word “Sephardic” describes the Jewish people who lived in the Iberian Peninsula until 1492, and their descendants.
Furthermore, the Portuguese government has given this opportunity for Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews. Applying for Portuguese citizenship is an excellent opportunity to have an EU (European Union) citizenship. Portugal has an impressively strong economy. Additionally, the

Portuguese passport will grant you visa-free access to 188 countries worldwide.

The History of Sephardic Jews in Portugal and Spain

Looking at their history, it is clear that the Sephardic Jews inhabited and had communities in the Iberian Peninsula for generations. Their inhabitance of the Iberian Peninsula started from the period of the Roman Empire until the 15th century. The Iberian Peninsula is where Spain and Portugal are located. In 1492, however, things changed.

The King of Spain enacted a decree called Alhambra. The decree forced the Sephardic Jews to choose to convert to Christianity, or they had to face expulsion. They became persecuted under the Spanish inquisition. As a result, most of them fled to Portugal. However, in 1496, King Manuel I of Portugal also forced the Jews from Portugal to convert to Christianity. Some of them converted, became Christian, and stayed in Portugal.

On the other hand, while many Jews who were expelled escaped to different countries. As a result, their descendants moved to countries all around the world. Some of those countries are the UK, Netherlands, parts of North Africa, Turkey, and Israel.

After the long years of exile, Portugal enacted a law in 2015 to grant the Sephardic Jews Portuguese citizenship.

Portuguese Nationality for Jews of Sephardic Origin

Many Sephardic Jewish communities of Portuguese origin still have a strong connection with Portugal among themselves. Many Jews from a community of Portuguese origin still use the Portuguese language as their family language.
Moreover, many Portuguese-Jewish retain to this day the rites of the traditional Portuguese-Jewish worship. They also keep their surnames and documentation proving their origin.

Finally, those of Jewish Sephardic origin may apply for Portuguese citizenship under a number of conditions. The application of Portuguese citizenship by Sephardic Jews is reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.

Who Can Apply

If they get the endorsement of a Sephardic community, any descendant of Sephardic Jews can apply under Portuguese law. You also need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be older than 18 years of age,
    • or you must be emancipated under Portuguese law
  • You must not have a serious criminal record.

If you were convicted of three years of imprisonment or more, you cannot apply for this program.

Required Documentation for The Application Process

It is important to prove the relation to a Portuguese Sephardic community. The required documents are:

  • A birth certificate
  • Copy of passport
  • Criminal record.

Applicants must submit the criminal record issued by every country of residence and nationality. In addition, a translated and certified document indicating the Portuguese Sephardic ancestry and tradition is required by law.

Certificate to Prove  Portuguese Sephardic Ancestry and Tradition

The government may accept three types of documents. It will be sufficient to submit one of the following:

Certificate from a Sephardic Community

This needs to be from a community of Portuguese origin approved under Portuguese law. These include the community of Porto or Lisbon.

Moreover, the document must include the family name, lineage, language, and family memory. The applicant collects a rabbi’s declaration, texts, or recordings in Ladino, in order to get this certificate.

Finally, this document must be certified by the applicant’s Jewish community. This document is proof that the applicant uses Portuguese Sephardic languages, rituals, and expressions. Ladino is an example of that.

Family Ties with Portuguese Sephardim

This should be a certified document that proves the applicant’s family ties with Portuguese Sephardim. These documents include:

  • Property deed
  • Will
  • A record of family lineage
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Birth certificate
  • Circumcision record
  • Synagogue record
  • Cemetery record

Moreover, the application process takes a while to be reviewed. The applicants sends their application with the appropriate documentation. After that, the Central Registry Office evaluates it. It will take around six months for the application process to be completed.

Benefits of The Regulation

Descendants of Sephardic Jews will obtain Portuguese citizenship. This will grant applicants the same rights as EU citizens. This means that they can live, work, and travel in EU countries.

Frequently Asked Questions about Portuguese Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

What Is The Quality of Life in Portugal like?

Portugal has one of the world’s most stable economies. Its real estate and tourism sectors have proven strong in tough times. Citizenship in Portugal also means citizenship in the EU. Having an EU citizenship grants you the right to work, live and study in any European Country.

Can I Apply for Portuguese Citizenship If I’m not Jewish, but of Sephardic Origin?

Yes, descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews can apply for Portuguese nationality. For this, you must show documentation or a certificate proving your Sephardic ancestry.

What Is “Historical Evidence of Relation to Sephardic Community”?

The evidence can be language, family names, or descendant line.

How Can I Prove My Portuguese Sephardic Jewish Ancestry to Obtain Portuguese Nationality?

For your citizenship application under the Portuguese government’s nationality law, you need to obtain a certificate. You can obtain this certificate from the local Jewish community. This certificate is enough documentation to prove the Sephardic ancestry of the applicant.

Can Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews Apply for Citizenship in Portugal from Israel?

The Portuguese government has no restriction on location under their citizenship law for Jewish people of Sephardic origin. The application process only requires you to get a certificate from the relevant Jewish communities. This certificate proves your history of being of Sephardic origin.

Are There Any Specific Jewish Communities That I Can Get My Certificate from?

The Portuguese citizenship law accepts your certificate from any approved Sephardic community in Portugal. These are namely, the Jewish Lisbon community and the Jewish Porto community.

Is There Another Way to Obtain Citizenship in Portugal?

Yes. There are other ways such as the Golden Visa Program. This program is a residency by investment program which can lead to citizenship.

Portugal Golden Visa:
Definitive Guide 2021 Read More >

What Does The Word “Sephardic” Mean?

The word Sephardic comes from the Hebrew word “Sepharad,” meaning Spain. Sephardic Jews often refer to Jews connected to Sephardim. Spanish and Portuguese descendants of Jews fall under the term Sephardim. Sephardic Jews often practice their religion in a Sephardic synagogue.

What Is The “Law of Return”

This law was introduced in Israel. It states that any Jewish individual has the right to return to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship. When you obtain Israeli citizenship, you also have access to the Israeli passport. This passport allows you to visit 100 countries visa-free.

Can I Be Denied Citizenship in Portugal Even If I’m Sephardic?

The law of citizenship for Sephardic Jews in Portugal is run by the Ministry of Justice. This means that the ministry may not agree to receive you as a Sephardic Jew for one reason or another. To have the best chance, you may want to hire legal support to help you through the application process.

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