Portuguese Nationality for descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews

The designation of “Sephardic Jews” refers to the descendants of the ancient Jews and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula (Sefarad or Hispania), that is, Portugal and Spain.

Due to the Catholic Inquisition period, many Sephardic Jews were persecuted and forced into exile and obliged to leave Portugal from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century onwards, including those who had converted to Catholicism, also known as New Christians.

Portuguese Jews and New-Christians who succeeded escape, settled in several countries like Morocco, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, Northern Europe cities such as London, Nantes, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Glückstadt, Hamburg  or Cologne and other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Antilles and the US, among others.

Despite the expulsion and the persecution from their ancestral territory, they have kept, not only the Jewish Ladino language, but also the traditional rites, keeping their surnames, objects and documents proving their Portuguese origin over generations, besides the strong connection to Portugal.

Considering this historical legacy, the Nationality law was amended to offset such past injustice and allow the acquisition of Portuguese nationality by the descendants of Portugal’s Sephardic Jews.

So far, more than 51,000 descendants of Sephardic Jews already applied for the Portuguese nationality. A number that has been increasing from year to year. Most of the applicants come from Israel, Brazil and Turkey.

Last year, 25 thousand applications were submitted. In total, according to the Director of the Central Registry Office, approximately 17,000 Sephardic Jews have already been granted the Portuguese nationality and this number shall continue to increase in Portugal due to the few law requirements and  because in Spain the period for obtaining the nationality has already ended

Unlike Portugal, Spain has limited the possible time to submit a nationality application to 3 years and is obliged to take a Spanish language and culture test, a requirement that in Portugal is not required.

The approval of these processes can take between 9 months to 1 year and it is estimated that 10,000 Jews are currently living in Portugal.

Caiado Guerreiro has been taking care of applications since the beginning and is available to help applicants with this matter.

The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.