Sephardic Jewish Ancestry — Spanish regime no longer available.

Portugal as an alternative

The law allowing people of Sephardic Jewish ancestry to apply for Spanish citizenship is no longer in force after October 2019.

This means people of Sephardic ancestry lost their opportunity to apply for Spanish nationality. Even when it was in force, this regime had many cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles that deterred many people from applying.

The regime’s biggest barriers were required Spanish exams and exams socio-cultural history, the need to travel to Spain and high fees and costs. Although the applicants do not need to be practicing Jews, they are required to prove their Sephardic background through a combination of factors, including ancestry, surnames, and language (either Ladino, a Jewish language that evolved from medieval Spanish, or Haketia, a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish and Judeo-Moroccan Arabic).

According to the Spanish regime, even if applicants spoke Ladino or Haketia — dying languages that are spoken mostly by the elderly in some parts of Latin America, Morocco and Turkey — they are still required to pass a Spanish-language proficiency exam.

In addition to this hurdle, all applicants were required to take into consideration the “expiry” time of this law. Spain got on the spotlight during the last four years.

Sephardim hail from the Iberian Peninsula and not from a single country. Thus, as a Sephardic Jewish descendent if you can prove your ancestry and be eligible for Portuguese citizenship.

Contrary to Spain’s regime, the Portuguese citizenship regime has no expiry date. The Portuguese regime is not restricted to practicing Jewish people, Portuguese speakers or residents of Portugal. Any descendant of Portuguese Sephardic ancestry may apply, regardless of nationality, residence or language skills.

In Portugal, a total of 1,713 applicants were naturalized in 2017 based on their Sephardic roots. They constituted the largest group of non-residents who received a Portuguese passport that year and nearly 10 percent of the total number of people who became citizens last year. The numbers for the year 2018 are still being assessed.

The Portuguese regime does not require a Portuguese language exam or cultural exam, nor traveling to Portugal. The application can be filed through a lawyer.

Nevertheless, the candidate must meet all the requirements, such as being over 18 years old or emancipated according to Portuguese law, be of Portuguese Sephardic descent and must trace his/her belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

The first stage requires presenting proof of ancestry before a Portuguese Jewish Community. Proving Sephardic heritage can be achieved.

Please contact us should you require any assistance regarding this matter.

GFDL is an international law firm based in Lisbon. We advise corporations and individuals with complex needs and innovative projects.

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