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New Bill in Portugal Threatens to Tighten Restrictions for Obtaining a Portuguese Passport


Michael Decker

The Portuguese law of return, which was enacted in 2015, grants the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews the privilege of receiving a Portuguese EU passport. This law has been under review over the last few months. There,s a reasonable chance that the path obtaining a Portuguese passport based on Jewish heritage will be severely restricted. A new bill was tabled by the Portuguese Socialist party, seeking to change the legislation and proposing new restrictions for Obtaining Portuguese Passport. The amendment would oblige applicants to live in Portugalfor about two years before they can become citizens.

The law office of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh specializes in documenting Spanish and Portuguese Jewish roots of applicants in Israel and all around the world. We can locate your Spanish-Portuguese connection, if you have one, through an extensive genealogical report that is relatively easy and quick to obtain. In addition, our office is the leading firm for acquisition of Portuguese passports in Jerusalem.

Tightened Restrictions for Obtaining a Portuguese Passport

On April 28 2020, during the Coronavirus period, the Portuguese Socialist party proposed a bill to repeal the current format of the law of return for descendants of Spanish/Portuguese Jews. They want to replace it with a new law that restricts applicants from receiving the passport as easily as before.

If this new law goes into effect, it would require applicants to live in Portugal for about two years before becoming citizens. The proposed changes would go into effect as of January 1, 2022. This might be the deciding factor for many applicants who want to receive an EU passport but are not interested in settling in Portugal. The applicants may want to prepare and submit their documents before the deadline.

The proposed bill will do everything possible to amend 30-A/2015 so as to make the receipt of citizenship for descendants of expellee Jews more difficult.

Thousands of Jews of Sephardic origin from all over the world, particularly Israel, have submitted requests to receive Portuguese citizenship. However, the majority of them did not relocate to Portugal or invest in local economy, which was the initial purpose of the 2015 law.

Why is Portugal Considering Restricting the Conditions of the Citizenship Law?

Tightened Restrictions for Obtaining Portuguese PassportThe proposal to change the law is based on arguments such as: “Almost all the applicants do not move to Portugal,” “publicity in Israel has not been positive,” and “too many business intermediaries are taking advantage of the process. In other words — acquiring a Portugal citizenship has become merely a business venture, promising a hassle free EU passport.

Most commercial intermediaries promising to help obtain a Portuguese passport are not established law firms. Rather, they are private investment organizations that are only interested in financial gain. Most of those who acquired passports through these companies are not interested in any connection whatsoever to Portugal. They are only interested in the “free pass” between countries, which the Portuguese EU passport provides.

The Possible Scenarios that Might Take Place Relating to the Bill:

  1. The law may not change at all and the proposal will fall by the wayside.
  2. The proposal may come into effect, but not every condition will be in the final version of the law. Conditions may vary, and our law office will  keep you updated. It may be possible to submit a request under the previous conditions. Perhaps in Portugal there for a certain amount of time may be required, etc.
  3. Other proposals have been raised which indicate different conditions by which citizenship could be granted apart from permanent residency. These conditions may include charity donations,  financial, cultural, and athletic investments, or any other activity that benefits the Portuguese people or Portuguese organizations operating within Portugal. The intent is to support the state and the Portuguese public. Furthermore, a frequently omitted of the law is to further advance Portuguese Sephardic Jewish culture.

It is important to remember that applications for Portuguese passports submitted prior to the law changing will not be affected retroactively. We believe that the Portuguese government will maintain the current deadline of January 1, 2022, as previously mentioned.

However, we cannot state this with complete certainty. It is still too premature to be certain of what will happen. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that some changes will indeed occur; but at this moment, we do not know which changes or when.

The Attitude of the Jewish Community in Porto Towards the Decision of the Portuguese Congress

The Jewish Community in Porto is supportive of the citizenship process not requiring the applicant to reside in Portugal for two years. However, the reform may also result in a new benefit to the Portuguese country and people. The Portuguese government will focus on increasing its revenue in the wake of the legislation, hopefully ensuring that future Portuguese passport holders will provide a boost to the local economy.

In Conclusion—What Does the Future Hold for Applicants of Sephardic Origin?

It was not the intent of previous legislation that acquiring a Portuguese passport would require compulsory immigration to Portugal. Rather, the of the legislation was to right historical wrong and provide an avenue to Portuguese citizenship based on a historical onnection. Thus any change requiring present-day connections to the country, which is not possible for the majority of the applicants, would be quite severe.

On the other hand, any restrictive changes have yet to be implemented. Therefore, there is still the possibility to apply for the coveted European passport before the window of opportunity is shut.

Those of our readers who speak Portuguese are invited to personally review the proposed bill.

Contact Us About Acquiring a Portuguese Passport and About Any Questions Regarding the Tightening Restrictions

The window of opportunity for acquiring a Portuguese passport is threatening to shut. If you were postponing the process until a later date, take into account that the conditions for receiving Portuguese citizenship may become more difficult, or even impossible. We recommend turning to an experienced emigration lawyer for assistance.

Tightened Restrictions for Obtaining Portuguese Passport



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