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Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews

Jews of Sephardic descent might be eligible for Portuguese citizenship under a law introduced in 2015. Find out more about how US Sephardic Jews can obtain Portuguese citizenship.

For professional assistance with your situation, call our lawyers on +1 844 290 6312. We are here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.

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    What Are the Regulations Regarding the Naturalisation Process for Sephardic Jews?


    Please note that the Portuguese parliament has approved a government proposal set to take effect on January 1, 2024. This proposal intends to terminate the current framework allowing the naturalization of descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. The criteria include establishing a lasting connection to Portugal through substantiated, objective requirements, particularly linked to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

    Nevertheless, Portugal is currently accepting applications until January 1, 2024. Ensure that you submit your application before this deadline.

    In 2015, Portugal introduced the new Decree-Law 30-A/2015 offering Portuguese citizenship to US Sephardic Jews. To understand why the country enacted this law, it is necessary to have a look at the history of Sephardic Jews in Portugal.

    The history of Sephardic Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, which is the region covering Spain and Portugal, goes back to the Roman Empire. In 1492, the King of Spain enacted the Alhambra Decree making Jews either convert to Christianity or leave the region. Shortly after, in 1496, King Manuel I of Portugal also began to expel Jews who refused to change their beliefs.

    Some Jews decided to convert and remained in Portugal, others fled to other countries. However, despite leaving the Iberian Peninsula many continued to use the Portuguese language and retained Portuguese surnames.

    The 2015 law aims to correct these mistakes. It allows the descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin to return to Portugal and acquire Portuguese nationality.

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    What Are the Eligibility Requirements?

    Any descendant of Portuguese Sephardic Jews can apply for Portuguese citizenship, regardless of their current nationality. Nevertheless, to be able to get it, they must fulfil the following eligibility requirements:

    • Be at least 18 years old or be emancipated under Portuguese law
    • Belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin (for example by the name or language)
    • Be of Portuguese Sephardic descent
    • Not have any serious convictions on a criminal record (Should not have a criminal record for offenses that, under Portuguese law, carry a prison sentence of three years or more.)
    • Provide evidence illustrating the factors that establish a connection to a Portuguese Sephardic community, such as the family surname, spoken language within the family, direct lineage, or collateral descent with a shared ancestor.

    It is important to note that applicants do not have to be Jewish themselves in order to apply for Portuguese citizenship through Sephardic ancestry.

    As part of the application process, applicants must prove that they have genuine Sephardic origin and must demonstrate a link with Portugal. To do that, they must include several supporting documents which include:

    • Birth certificate
    • Criminal record certificate issued by authorities in Portugal, their country or residence, or their country of origin
    • A certificate issued by a Jewish community operating as a religious collective entity, situated in Portugal and compliant with the prevailing law at the time of this article’s enactment, is required. This certificate must confirm the adherence to the tradition of being part of a Portuguese-origin Sephardic community, manifested through the applicant’s surname, the official language within the family, genealogy, and familial recollections.
    • The certificate referred to above must encompass comprehensive details, including the applicant’s full name, date of birth, birthplace, affiliation, nationality, and current residence. Additionally, it should specify the direct lineage or collateral familial connection through a shared ancestor within the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin. The certificate is expected to include all pertinent evidence supporting these claims.
    • A certificate or any alternative documentation verifying the ownership, inherited through succession, of real property rights related to immovable assets situated in Portugal, as well as other personal enjoyment rights or shares in commercial or cooperative entities established in Portugal.

    If the mentioned certificate is unavailable, the proof of direct or collateral family connection to the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin and the tradition of belonging to said community can be established through the following means:

    • A validated document issued by the community to which the applicant is affiliated, confirming the utilization of Portuguese expressions in rituals, Jewish languages, or Ladino as the spoken language within the community.
    • Officially certified documentary records, including records from Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, along with residence permits, property titles, wills, and other forms of evidence showcasing the applicant’s familial ties through direct descent or collateral relationships in the common parent line from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

    The process of proving your descent can be time-consuming and complex. This is why it is advisable that you hire an immigration lawyer who can help you prepare all the required documents and make your case as strong as possible.

    Call our legal experts today on: +1 844 290 6312

    What is the Application Process?

    Those who establish they are eligible for Portuguese citizenship by the means of Sephardic Jewish ancestry can initiate the application process.

    The first step is to obtain the necessary documents that confirm their eligibility and prove their belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin. All documents must be translated and certified.

    Once they put together a complete documents file, they must send them to Portugal for approval. Then, the government analyses all the evidence and assesses whether the applicant qualifies. If so, the applicant is granted Portuguese citizenship.

    After they receive Portuguese citizenship, they can obtain a Portuguese ID card and apply for a Portuguese passport. Becoming a citizen of Portugal means that they gain the right to move freely between countries that belong to the Schengen zone. And, they can move to any EU country to work and live without having to meet any specific requirements or apply for visas.

    Portuguese citizenship for Jews with Sephardic origins is granted at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. Getting it depends on whether the applicant provides sufficient evidence proving their Sephardic ancestry.

    If they fail to submit documentation supporting their application, the Minister of Justice can decide not to give them citizenship.

    Call us today to learn more about the process of Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews. Contact Us

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      How Can Applicants Prove Their Portuguese Sephardic Ancestry?

      There are three documents that applicants can use to prove their Portuguese Sephardic ancestry. These are:

      • A certificate issued by a Sephardic community that is recognised under Portuguese law – the document confirms that the applicant has ties with a Portuguese Sephardic community through language, surname, lineage, or family memory.
      • A certified document from the applicant’s Jewish community – the document proves that the applicant speaks Portuguese Sephardic languages or engages in cultural practices used by the Portuguese Sephardic community
      • A certified document such as a marriage certificate, death certificate, or birth certificate that confirms the applicant’s family ties to the Portuguese Sephardic community

      To make the application process as smooth as possible, applicants should try to obtain the certificate issued by a Sephardic community that is recognised under Portuguese law. This document is also referred to as the Jewish community certificate.

      Call our legal experts to help you today on: +1 844 290 6312

      How Can Applicants Obtain the Jewish Community Certificate?

      To obtain their Jewish community certificate, applicants must provide the following documents:

      • Evidence of family history tied to the Sephardic Jewish community by means of name or genealogy
      • Proof of using a language used by the Sephardic Jewish community
      • Evidence of Portuguese Jewish ancestry through documentation such as family records, family trees, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, cemetery registries, government archives

      The certificate must state the following information:

      • The applicant’s full name
      • The applicant’s date and location of birth
      • The applicant’s nationality
      • The applicant’s country of residence
      • Detailed description of the applicant’s Sephardic origin
      • Evidence proving all of the above

      In Portugal, there are two authorities that have the legal right to issue the certificate. These are the Jewish Lisbon Community and the Jewish Porto Community.

      Applicants might be able to obtain the document abroad but if there are any doubts regarding the authenticity of the information provided in it, the Jewish authorities in Portugal can give an opinion.

      It is advisable that applicants start the application process for Portuguese citizenship right after they receive their Jewish community certificate.

      Do Applicants Need to Give Up Their Existing Citizenship?

      Portugal allows dual citizenship which means that those with Sephardic ancestry can get Portuguese citizenship without having to give up their existing citizenship.

      The concept of dual citizenship means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. This allows them to hold two passports and access benefits such as unrestricted access to employment opportunities or social services in both countries.

      As Portugal is a member state of the EU, those who have a Portuguese passport also enjoy additional EU citizenship. It grants holders the right of free movement and residence within the territory of EU member states.

      It is important to note that this kind of citizenship is automatically granted to any person who holds citizenship of an EU country. So, Sephardic Jews who successfully obtain their Portuguese citizenship do not have to do anything else to become EU citizens.

      However, some countries do not allow dual citizenship and might request the person to give up their original citizenship to obtain a Portuguese one.

      This is why all applicants should check the laws in their home countries before initiating the application process for Portuguese citizenship.

      How Can IAS Help?

      At IAS, we have a team of experienced immigration lawyers who have helped many clients move to Portugal and obtain Portuguese citizenship.

      If you have Sephardic ancestry and would like to use it to immigrate to Portugal, get in touch with us. Our lawyers can assess your situation and help you determine whether you qualify to apply for Portuguese citizenship using the route for descendants of Sephardic Jews.

      The process of proving your belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin can be a tedious process as you need to provide numerous documents that confirm your descent.

      Luckily, our lawyers are here to guide you through the whole process, helping you gather all the necessary documents. They can explain to you in detail what information to prepare and how to submit your application. Our team can also tell you how you can obtain the Jewish community certificate.

      Thanks to their help, you can make sure that your application is complete and mistake-free. And, if at any stage of the process you have some questions, our lawyers can answer them and offer professional legal advice.

      Call us today on +1 844 290 6312 and find out more about how IAS can help.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                Regardless of the route foreign nationals use to apply for Portuguese citizenship, applicants must pay the registration fee of €250. If they want to include their spouse and children in the application, they must pay an additional €250 for each person.

                There might also be extra fees applicants must cover, for example, for getting their documents issued or translated.

                If you do not have Sephardic ancestry but you want to become a citizen of Portugal, you might be eligible for other routes to Portuguese citizenship.

                Foreign nationals become eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship after living in Portugal for a certain period of time. First, they must spend five years in Portugal as temporary residents. After that, they can apply for permanent residency.

                Once they obtain permanent residency, they must spend an additional year in Portugal before they become eligible for Portuguese citizenship by naturalisation.

                It is also possible to obtain Portuguese citizenship by investment. Those who have enough funds to make a significant investment in Portugal can apply for the D9 Visa, also known as the Golden Visa. There are several types of investments that foreign citizens can make to qualify but the minimum amount required is €250,000.

                Initially, the D9 Visa is valid for one year but its holders can continue to renew it for two-year periods as long as they maintain their investment in Portugal. After living in Portugal for five years on the D9 Visa, they have the right to apply for Portuguese citizenship.

                Sephardic Jews can apply for Portuguese citizenship if they are able to prove their ancestry. This is regulated by the Decree-Law 30-A/2015 introduced in 2015. The law makes it possible for any descendant of Portuguese Sephardic Jews to apply for Portuguese citizenship, regardless of their current nationality.

                However, to be able to obtain Portuguese citizenship using this route, they must meet the following requirements:

                • Be at least 18 years old
                • Be able to prove that they belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin
                • Be of Portuguese Sephardic descent
                • Not have a criminal record

                To prove their Portuguese Sephardic ancestry, applicants should obtain the Jewish community certificate. It is a document that confirms their ties to the Sephardic Jewish community by means of name, genealogy, or language. In Portugal, these certificates are issued by the Jewish Lisbon Community and the Jewish Porto Community.

                If you need assistance figuring out whether you meet the eligibility requirements, get in touch with our lawyers by calling 0333 305 9375.

                The process of obtaining Portuguese citizenship through Sephardic ancestry can be lengthy. Immigration officials must assess all the documents and determine whether the applicant’s link to the Sephardic community is genuine. Typically, the whole process takes around two years.

                Keep in mind that if you fail to provide some of the required documents or if some information is incorrect or missing, the waiting time can be longer. This is why it is recommended that you hire an immigration lawyer who can review your application before you submit it. They can help you make sure that the evidence you included is sufficient and that your case is as strong as possible.