How to get a Portugal passport in 2024?
The last chance to get a Portugal passport in 2024 is still open. The Portuguese Parliament altered the process by which applicants receive citizenship, but until the citizenship law is officially changed, all chances are that an application can still be submitted according to the old conditions – receiving Portuguese citizenship based on proof of descent from Spanish Jews. The applicants won’t have to prove a connection to the community in Portugal, own assets there or speak Portuguese. In this article, a Portuguese passport attorney will explain the conditions for obtaining the passport and the meaning of the recent changes.
What is the background to the Portuguese “Law of Return”?
In 2015, Portugal and Spain implemented amendments to their citizenship laws. Unofficially, they were known as “Historical Compensation Laws”, which allowed descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century to recover their Spanish / Portuguese citizenship. In addition to compensating for a long history of persecution of Jews, forced conversion, expulsion from Spain and Portugal, and the burning of converts by the Inquisition, the law also had practical motives. Jewish immigrants were supposed to settle in Spain and Portugal, contributing to the economy and the connection between Israel and these countries.
Unfortunately, for most of the applicants this was an opportunity to obtain another European passport, not out of any desire to connect with their roots and move to the land of their ancestors. Among the Israelis applying to receive the Portuguese passport there was even a tendency to state this explicitly to the officials handling the applications.
Why did the law change?
Many politicians in Spain and Portugal wanted to cancel the changes in their citizenship laws, realizing that many people received the passport and very few of them moved to their new homeland or were interested in doing so.
Spain effectively abolished its “law of return” in 2020. Portugal continued to grant citizenship for several years, until it ran into trouble in 2022.
Proof of Sephardic Jews origin was handled vis-a-vis the Jewish communities in Portugal – in Lisbon / Porto – rather than directly with Portugal immigration services, who at the beginning of the procedure only receive a birth certificate, a certificate of integrity and the approval of the Jewish community. The communities checked the applicant’s documents, and issued a certificate that the applicant is indeed of Jewish-Spanish origin. The permit was issued on the basis of the prescence of a Sephardi Jewish community in the country from which the applicant came, his family name throughout the generations, as well as specific evidence that one of his ancestors was of Sephardic origin.
The problem? The Russian-Jewish oligarch Roman Abramovich received the recommendation of the Porto community even though his Spanish roots are doubtful. The chief rabbi of the Porto community was arrested on charge of accepting bribes.
After the scandal, the two communities stopped providing recommendations for obtaining citizenship for several months, and in September 2022 new regulations were passed in the Portuguese Parliament regarding citizenship by descent.
What do the new regulations say?
It is still possible to obtain Portuguese citizenship on the basis of descent, but one must prove a connection both to the Jewish community in Portugal and to Portugal itself – a life center or regular visits to Portugal, real estate or business ownership in Portugal, mastery of the Portuguese language. It is understood that the new regulations close the door on the possibility of receiving an additional passport for those who want to get a European passport without tying their life to Portugal.
Due to the regulations, almost no new applications for the passport were received, and most of the immigration offices in Israel stopped handling the issue. Our office continued to handle applications for Portuguese citizenship for the immediate family members of those who have already received the passport.
However, there is good news about getting a Portuguese passport in 2024.
Is it possible to get a Portugal passport in 2024 without proof of connection to Portugal?
Recently, a number of petitions against the new regulations reached the Supreme Court in Portugal. Among other things, it is argued that matters stipulated in the law cannot be changed by updating regulations and that action must be taken to change the law itself.
And if the court does agree with the claimants, then until the law is amended – perhaps with a certain easing in obtaining citizenship for those entitled on the basis of origin, according to the current discussions in the parliament – it is likely that any application that is submitted will be accepted or rejected according to the old standards. That is, once you have proven that you are descended from Sephardi Jews – you will receive the Portuguese passport and citizenship, without the need to master a language, move to or visit Portugal, purchase real estate, and the other requirements above
Is it certain that the request will be accepted?
You read the qualifiers above. It is likely that the requests will be accepted, this is what our contacts in Portugal, some of whom signed the petitions, think will happen, and the firm’s clients hope that this is what will happen. But we cannot 100 percent guarantee the Supreme court’s decision in advance.
If we are right, this is a last chance to receive a second European passport in Portugal for everyone who submitted the application before the law was changed, as well as for his family, children, and grandchildren.
In the worst case – prove that you are entitled to receive the passport, but you can only receive it according to the new conditions, while proving a connection to Portugal. In our agreement it is stated that most of the payment is based on receiving the passport, but you will have to pay for the working hours along the way. It is understood that if a precedent case is accepted according to which the passport can only be obtained on the basis of proof of a life center in Portugal, the other applications will have the option of stopping the procedure at that point.
What’s our recommendation as far as applying for a Portugal passport in 2024?
Try and see what happens. This is probably the last chance to get a Portuguese passport without having to move to Portugal. The last few months have proven the importance of obtaining the additional citizenship, and the benefits inherent in it. For many Ashkenazi Jews, the possibility of receiving a German or Austrian passport is still open. For Jews of Spanish origin, this is the last opportunity for another passport based on origin, and it is worth taking advantage of.