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Portugal citizenship requirements for Sephardi Jews


Joshua Pex

Sephardi Jews are descendants of members of the Jewish community who resided in Portugal and Spain from the later eras of the Roman Empire up until they were persecuted and expelled from these countries at the end of the 15th century.

In 2015, Portugal’s government passed a “law of return” that allowed Sephardi Jews to receive Portuguese citizenship. This law was meant to correct the unjust expulsion that Sephardi Jews were subjected to and grant them the right to receive a Portuguese passport.

Advocate Joshua Pex is an immigration lawyer at the law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh. The law firm specializes in obtaining passports of Portugal for Sephardi Jews. Joshua will shed light on the requirements for Portugal citizenship in this article.

What is the eligibility?

The law of return to Portugal is applicable to the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jews, who had to leave the country due to religious expulsion in 1492 and 1496. These descendants must demonstrate traditional ties to the Sephardic Jewish community, as seen from their language, family names, and ancestry. Any member of the community can apply for citizenship, irrespective of their current nationality.

Eligibility criteria for Portugal citizenship include the following:

  1. Applicants must be over 18 years old or must be liberated from their parents under the law of Portugal (family members of applicants receive citizenship in a separate process)
  2. Applicants must belong to the Sephardic Jewish community that originated in Spain or Portugal.
  3. Applicants must provide their criminal record, to demonstrate they were never convicted of serious crimes.

Portugal citizenship requirements

Portugal citizenship requirementsOne of the core Portugal citizenship requirements for Sephardic Jews is that they must prove their connection to Sephardi ancestors. While applying for citizenship, they will have to attach their passport copy, and birth certificate. They will have to submit their criminal records, irrespective of their country of residence and nationality. In certain cases Portuguese citizenship will be approved even with a criminal record, but not if you were convicted of a serious crime. Applicants will also have to prove that they have traditional ties to and ancestry in Portuguese Sephardic community.

 Proving Sephardic ancestry

Under Portuguese citizenship requirements for Sephardic Jews, they need to prove their Sephardic tradition and ancestry. This ethno-religious community has undergone tremendous oppression during the 15th century. Despite that, many of their descendants have preserved their culture. They still speak Ladino and follow age-old rituals and traditions. Applicants for Portuguese citizenship must prove that they do the same by submitting one of the following documents:

  1. A written certificate from a recognized Sephardic community. The Portuguese law must recognize the community, like the community of Lisbon or Porto. The certificate gives confirms that the applicant has strong ties with the Sephardic community; using their language, family name, traditions, and lineage.
  2. A written document from a Jewish community in which the applicant is a member. This document provides evidence that the applicant is an active member of a Sephardi community, practicing its rituals and traditions.
  3. A document that shows that the applicant has family connections with the Sephardic community. A few examples of this document include a will, property deed, family lineage record, birth and death certificates, cemetery record, marriage certificate, circumcision record, and synagogue record.

Once the applicant is able to prove their Sephardic ancestry, they must receive a letter of recommendation from one of the accredited Portugal Jewish communities. This process takes about a month or two. After obtaining the letter of recommendation, the applicant becomes eligible to get a Portuguese passport.

How to get a Portuguese passport?

Having received a recommendation, the applicants must send their application request, along with the necessary documents, to the Ministry of Interior in Portugal. All the documents have to be translated into Portuguese, notarized, and provided with an Apostille seal.

After receiving the letter of recommendation, a formal document from the Portuguese authorities is given to the applicant. This document is seen as the applicant’s birth certificate bearing a new identification number from Portugal’s Ministry of Interior. Once the applicant receives the document, they must submit an application to get a Portuguese ID card.

Once the applicant gets the Portuguese ID card, they will be able to request the Portuguese passport. Israel’s Portuguese Consulate, situated in Tel Aviv, conducts the procedure for granting the passport.

To start the process, one has to make sure that they have met all the Portuguese citizenship requirements. Afterwards, they need to go through the following steps:

  • Sending the request to the Portuguese Consulate, and receiving an approval.
  • Registering the application order.
  • Having a personal meeting with external entities.
  • Conducting an authentication of all the documents submitted to the Consulate.
  • Examination of all documents to confirm all legally-prescribed requirements for Portuguese citizenship are met.
  • Approval or refusal to grant Portuguese citizenship
  • If granted, registration as a Portuguese citizen in the Portuguese Population Registry

If the applicant is under time-pressure and unable to wait for several months to get their passport, there’s a way to expedite the process. They need to approach the Portuguese authorities in Lisbon, where the process takes about four business days. But the expedition is only possible when the applicant has already received Portuguese citizenship in the form of a birth certificate. The applicant gets the passports after having several meetings with the authorities and following up with public departments.

Portuguese citizenship for family members

The law in Portugal allows the children of applicants who had received a Portuguese citizenship to get a passport in turn. Spouses will be given citizenship once they are married to the applicant for at least three years.

Any failure on the part of the applicant to meet Portuguese citizenship requirements will lead to either a rejection of the application request or call for deeper investigation into the applicant’s background by the relevant authorities.

Adhering to all requirements for Portugal citizenship will provide applicants with a passport for one of Europe’s loveliest and most economically developed countries. For Sephardic Jews, the citizenship will allows a connection with their ancient roots as well as thriving in a growing economy. Portugal is an amazing country in which to live, work and raise your family. Education in Portugal is free or low cost, meaning growing children can get good exposure without great expense. There are ample tax benefits available to citizens that prove advantageous when it comes to buying real estate in the country.

Contact us – Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh – Law Office

To know all the requirements for Portugal citizenship for Sephardic Jews, get in touch with us. We are located in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but represent clients from all over the world in the process of proving their connection to the Jewish community and obtaining the Portugal passport.  We will be happy to help you out with your case.

Portugal citizenship requirements

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