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The Three Categories of Eligibility – Portuguese Passport

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

The possibility of receiving a Portuguese Passport based on the Portuguese “Law of Return” is appealing to many Israelis, thanks to the many EU benefits that come with it. But which Jews and non-Jews exactly are eligible to receive the passport? We will answer these questions in detail in this article.

Our law offices in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem specialize in helping obtain a Portuguese passport for the descendants of the Jews exiled due to the Alhambra Decree and the Portuguese inquisition. We specialize in the immigration field and have already helped a big number of Jews and Gentiles to receive the passport they desired. If you are recognized as eligible our law office can also help you in the legal and bureaucratic fields.

The Three Categories of Eligibility – Portuguese Passport
Portuguese Passport

Any person interested in receiving a Portuguese passport has to prove he is a descendant of Sephardi Jews. This connection can be expressed in a number of ways; a traditional-religious connection (food, tombstone type, clothing etc), family connection (surnames), language – Ladino or Haketia, personal documents and so on.

However, there are those who have difficulty proving a close Sephardi connection since they come from Middle Eastern or East European countries where the local Jewish population did not accept Sephardi culture. For these candidates we offer our services, providing a simple genealogical check for free. In the check we will go back through your ancestry. This is in order to check whether or not the candidate is descended from a Sephardic family, or has Sephardic ancestors.

To begin with, the candidate will be asked 2-4 simple questions about his parents and ancestry and we see whether eligibility is possible within a short timeframe. Before doing so, it’s important to know which countries are considered “more Sephardic” and which are considered “less Sephardic”, but still have some Sephardic population. There are also countries in a third category, where the parameter applies to non-Jews. We are speaking specifically about South American countries but also North Africa.

Eligibility for a Portuguese passport by country

In practice, there are three different categories representing three kinds of candidates:

1. First Category:

North African Jews from countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Alongside these, other formerly Ottoman countries are also often included; Syria, Greece, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Turkey, Bosnia (Sarajevo), Serbia, Macedonia and other countries. The candidates in this category need to be Jewish according to Halacha or have a father who is Jewish according to Halacha. Since the Jews in this category are almost exclusively Sephardic, getting the letter of recommendation from the Jewish community of Porto should be a simple matter.

2. Second Category:

Included in this category are Jews who see themselves as Sephardic, but come from countries that are not considered as Sephardic as the countries in the first category. We are speaking about places like Poland, Iraq, Ukraine, Iran, Uzbekistan (Bukhara), India, Yemen, Belarus and others. These candidates will need to provide a Genealogical opinion (that our law office provides together with a genealogical check as mentioned above) that should prove eligibility trading the applicant’s descent to Sephardi ancestor. Using the Genealogical opinion you will be able to get the recommendation letter from the Jewish community of Porto, after which you can start the official process to receive a Portuguese passport.

 3. Third Category:

Included in this category are all those who are not Jewish by Halacha but whose forefathers where among the expelled Jews of the Alhambra decree, the Anusim, or the conversos (Jews who converted to Christianity in Spain and Latin America). This includes thousands of Catholics in South America, especially Brazil. Within this category we also include Jews who converted to Islam in Muslim countries and especially the Maghreb (North Africa) and Middle East. Those expelled Jews left Spain and Portugal 500 years ago, some of them converting to Islam at some point. These candidates will be able to receive their letter of recommendation only through the Jewish community in Lisbon.

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