What is the law regarding Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews?
In 2015, a new law was introduced (Decree-Law 30-A/2015) in regard to the right to Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews.
When referring to Sephardic Jews, this specifically refers to the descendants of the traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula. This new law means that the Portuguese government may grant citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Portugal during the fifteenth century.
This new opportunity for Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews is now being widely used and can be a great legacy to leave your family. Acquiring a European passport can open up access to a whole world of new possibilities, particularly from a country like Portugal. The country has been ranked as having the third most powerful passport in the world and is also in the midst of an economic boom, with a stable political environment that makes it incredibly attractive to investors.
In this article you will find all the information you need to know about obtaining Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews:
- Who can apply?
- Application requirements
- Step-by-step process to applying
Who can apply for Portuguese citizenship by means of Sephardic Jewish ancestry?
This opportunity is not just restricted to Jewish people, Portuguese speakers, or residents of Portugal. Any descendant of Portuguese Sephardic ancestry may apply, regardless of nationality.
Under the law you can apply for Portuguese citizenship as a person of Sephardic descent if you comply with the following conditions:
- You are over 18 years old or emancipated according to Portuguese law
- You are of Portuguese Sephardic descent
- You belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin
The history of Sephardic Jews in Portugal
The history of Sephardic Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula goes back hundreds of years, before the foundation of the Christian Iberian kingdoms.
After the Alhambra Edict of 1492 up until the late fifteenth century, many of these Jewish communities became the subject of persecution under the Spanish Inquisition, at which point many took refuge in Portugal.
King Manuel, who initially issued a law guaranteeing their protection, later rescinded and ordered the expulsion of all Jews who did not undergo Catholic baptism. Many Jews were therefore expelled from Portugal during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
These communities then established themselves in other countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Turkey, parts of North Africa, and later in the Americas, such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and the US.
Click here to find out the most common surnames for Sephardic Jews from Portugal.
How can those of Sephardic Jewish descent claim Portuguese citizenship?
Despite their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula, many Sephardic Jewish communities have to this day retained not only their use of the Portuguese language but also many rites of traditional Portuguese-Jewish worship, as well as surnames, objects, and documents proving Portuguese origin.
Those of Sephardic Jewish descent may be granted citizenship by the Portuguese government if they fulfill specific requirements. In these cases, the acquisition of nationality always depends on a decision made by the Minister of Justice.
Application requirements for Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews
Any application for citizenship must be accompanied by the following documents:
- A birth registration certificate
- A criminal record certificate issued by the relevant Portuguese authorities, the country of residence, or the country of origin
- A Jewish community certificate proving Sephardic Jewish lineage of Portuguese origin. This can be through surname, language, genealogy, or family memory
Jewish community certificate for Sephardic Jews in Portugal
This is a certificate issued by officials of a Sephardic Jewish community which is recognized under Portuguese law. In order to obtain a certificate, the following documents may be requested:
- Evidence of the applicants’ family history in connection to the Sephardic Jewish community by means of name or genealogy
- Proof of use of Ladino as a family language
- Evidence of Portuguese Jewish ancestry through other documentation:
- Family records
- Family tree
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Death certificate
- Cemetery registries
- Brit Milah records
- Government archives which show arrivals and departures from Portugal
The certificate must include the following information:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Location of birth
- Applicants residence
- Description of applicant’s Sephardic origin
- Evidence supporting each of these elements
In the absence of a certificate, other evidence may be submitted:
- A document issued by your local Jewish community supporting the application for Portuguese nationality
- Documentation which proves direct descent, such as records from synagogues, residence permits, property deeds, and wills
If there is any doubt as to the authenticity of the contents of the documents sourced abroad, the relevant Jewish authorities in Portugal may provide judgment on the evidence.
A step-by-step guide to obtaining Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews
There are just 5 steps to the process of applying for Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews:
- Obtain the necessary documents
- Documents are sent to Portugal
- The application is then submitted for approval
- The government analyzes the documents
- Portuguese citizenship is then given
After Portuguese citizenship is granted
After Portuguese citizenship has been granted, you can then obtain a Portuguese ID card or request a Portuguese passport. A Portuguese passport will give you freedom of movement throughout the Schengen zone and the UK, with no need for a visa. You can also travel visa-free to 183 countries around the world.