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Portuguese Citizenship via Sephardic Lineage: Your 2024 Guide

Sephardic Jew to get the Spanish Nationality

Have you heard that you could acquire Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage? It’s true! Portugal offers descendants of Sephardic Jews the chance to connect with their history and become citizens of a European Union country. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll help you understand who is eligible, outline the application process, and explain how working with Lexidy can make the journey a seamless process. Ready to dive in?

2024 Amendments to the Portuguese Citizenship Law

In March 2024, the Portuguese government announced changes to the citizenship law which will impact Sephardic Jews’ descendants looking to gain citizenship here.

From April 1, 2024, Sephardic descendants can still seek Portuguese nationality by meeting two key conditions:

  1. Showing a connection to a Portuguese Sephardic community with a certificate from the Portuguese Jewish community, pending approval by an evaluation commission.
  2. Having legal residence in Portugal for at least three years, continuously or intermittently.

Applicants must navigate these new rules once the law starts. Note: those who applied after September 1, 2022, will follow the earlier regulations.

Interested in in learning more? We will dive deeper into the requirements and application process later in this article.

What is Portuguese Citizenship via Sephardic Lineage?

Becoming a Portuguese citizen as a Sephardic Jew offers a unique opportunity to connect with your ancestral heritage. This special category for citizenship was introduced as an acknowledgment of the significant history that Sephardic Jews have had with the Iberian Peninsula. 

It has been praised by many as a way to remedy the historical injustice of their expulsion from Portugal over 500 years ago.

So, what makes Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage so special? 

This pathway provides an array of rights and privileges, including the freedom to live, work, and travel throughout the 27 EU countries. It’s an invitation to be part of a community that honours your unique history while offering extensive benefits. 

We’ll dive deeper into those benefits and more throughout this article. But before we do, let’s take a look at the history of Sephardic Jews in Portugal.

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History of Sephardic Jews and their Connection to Portugal

Let’s start at the beginning. Sephardic Jews have a long history in the Iberian Peninsula. Originating from the regions now known as Spain and Portugal, Sephardic Jews lived on this land for centuries.

Unfortunate Goodbyes

As history tells us, 1492 wasn’t a great year for Sephardic Jews in Spain. The Alhambra Decree forced many to relocate, and many chose Portugal as their new home. But that sanctuary was short-lived because Portugal imposed similar expulsions a few years later. This led to what we now call the Sephardic Diaspora.

Ties That Bind

Fast forward to 2015, and Portugal has passed legislation allowing descendants of expelled Sephardic Jews to gain citizenship. This is a significant step toward acknowledging a historical wrong.

It’s More Than Just Paperwork

What we really want you to understand is, this isn’t just about passports and legalities. Gaining Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage is an opportunity to connect with a part of your history that may have been lost. In the following sections we’ll explore just how you can get citizenship in Portugal as a Sephardic Jew.

Who Can Apply? Understanding Your Eligibility

So, you’re interested in claiming Portuguese citizenship through your Sephardic roots? First, let’s make sure you tick all the boxes. Here are the eligibility requirements you need to meet:

  • Community Membership: You must demonstrate a tradition of belonging to a Portuguese Sephardic community, based on proven objective criteria linking to Portugal, through a certificate issued by the Portuguese Jewish community, subject to final approval by an evaluation commission.
  • Legal residence: You must have legal residence in Portuguese territory for at least three years, consecutive or intermittent.

So, do you meet these criteria? If you do, you’re on the right track. Documentation is your best friend in this process, so make sure yours is strong.

What are the Requirements?

Okay, so you’ve checked off the eligibility boxes. Great start! Now, let’s dig into the specifics. To get Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage, there’s a checklist of requirements you’ll need to complete.

  • Documented Evidence: You’ll need to produce evidence of your Portuguese Sephardic ancestry. And we’re talking about the kind of evidence that can withstand legal scrutiny (more on this below).
  • Residency Proof: You must prove that you are living or you lived in Portugal for at least three years. It could be consecutive or interpolated. The important thing is to prove that you have a legal residence in Portugal. 
  • Criminal Background Check: Last but not least, you’ll need a clean criminal background check.

You’ll want to gather these documents carefully; they’re your passport (quite literally) to become a Portuguese citizen.

How Can You Prove Your Portuguese Sephardic Ancestry?

So, you’ve got a feeling—or perhaps even some records—that tie you back to Portuguese Sephardic heritage. But how do you go about proving that to the Portuguese authorities? No need to worry, we’ve got your back.

First, it’s essential to understand that your lineage isn’t just a matter of family stories or old photographs. The government needs concrete evidence of your Portuguese Sephardic background. Thankfully, there are three main documents that they’ll accept as proof:

1. Certificate from a Recognized Sephardic Community

You can obtain a certificate from a Sephardic community recognized under Portuguese law, such as those in Porto or Lisbon. This certificate will vouch for your Portuguese Sephardic ties through family name, language, lineage, and even family memory. 

To get this, you’ll typically need to submit evidence like a rabbi’s declaration or texts in Ladino. And remember, if anything seems off, they might ask for additional proof.

2. Certified Document from Your Jewish Community

Got evidence right in your local Jewish community? Perfect. This document needs to prove that you use Portuguese Sephardic languages or practices, like speaking Ladino.

3. Certified Family Documents

If you’ve got paper trails like a property deed, will, or family lineage record that can trace you back to Portuguese Sephardim, these can work as well. Other examples are marriage, death, or birth certificates, circumcision or synagogue records, and cemetery records.

So there you have it. These are your ticket to proving your lineage and ultimately getting that Portuguese citizenship. Ready to tackle the application process?

The Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

portuguese citizenship via sephardic lineage

Alright, you’ve got your eligibility sorted, and you’re ready to submit that application. Let’s get into the finer details of how exactly you go about it. It’s a detailed process, but we promise, it’s worth it. So, sit tight and take some notes.

Step 1: Obtain the Proper Documents

First things first, you need to have all your paperwork in order. To kickstart your journey toward Portuguese citizenship, gather the following documents:

  • A birth certificate or an equivalent document issued either in Portugal or abroad.
  • Proof of your Portuguese Sephardic origin and/or identity, such as a rabbi’s certification or a family genealogy report.
  • Certified documents that confirm your family ties with Portuguese Sephardim.
  • Proof that you are or you were a legal resident in Portugal for at least 3 years.
  • A criminal background check.

Step 2: Start Your Application

You’ve got a couple of choices here: apply through mail or schedule an in-person appointment with your immigration lawyer. Whichever way you choose, make sure you’ve got all your documents, and don’t skimp on the details when filling out the application form.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

Once you’re confident that everything’s in tip-top shape, it’s time to submit the application to the Portuguese Ministry of Justice. Along with the paperwork, you’ll need to include proof of payment for the processing fee.

Step 4: The Government Analyses your Application

So you’ve submitted everything—what happens next? A panel of experts will review your application. If it’s approved, you’ll receive a resolution granting you Portuguese citizenship as a Sephardic Jew. Make sure to present this resolution at a local registry office in Portugal within six months of its issuance.

Step 5: Register as a Portuguese Citizen

You’ve made it to the last step! Present the resolution at a local registry office in Portugal and voila, you’ll be officially registered as a Portuguese citizen. After a few weeks, you can expect to be issued your Portuguese identity card and/or passport.

And that’s it! You’ve successfully navigated through the winding road to Portuguese citizenship. Well, theoretically at least. But we’re here to help you make it a reality. Ready to make the next move?

Benefits of Portuguese Citizenship via Sephardic Lineage

So, now you might be wondering, what’s in it for you? Beyond reconnecting with a significant part of your ancestry, there are some undeniable perks that come along with Portuguese citizenship.

The biggest benefit of this law is that it grants you the possibility to rediscover your roots and build a meaningful connection with your family history and legacy.

Now, let’s talk about practical benefits. Once you’re approved, you don’t just become a citizen of Portugal; you become a citizen of the European Union. This means you have the right to live, work, and travel freely in any of the countries within the Schengen Area. That’s 27 European countries at your fingertips, with no visa required.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the path to Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage can be a complex journey. Naturally, you’ve got questions. We’ve compiled some of the most commonly asked ones to give you the insights you’re seeking.

What are the application fees?

The application fees can vary depending on multiple factors, including administrative fees, notary fees, and translation costs. 

In general, the application fee for Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage is €250. This fee must be paid in full upon submission of the application and cannot be refunded. Also, additional expenses may be required. Consulting a legal expert, such as Lexidy, can provide you with a clearer picture of the expenses involved.

How long does it take to get Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage?

The time frame for obtaining Portuguese citizenship through this avenue can vary widely. After submitting all the necessary documentation, it can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years for your application to be fully processed. Factors such as the complexity of your case and the backlog of the relevant authorities can influence the timeline.

What does it mean to be a Sephardic Jew?

Being a Sephardic Jew refers to descending from the Jewish communities that originated in the Iberian Peninsula, primarily Spain and Portugal. Sephardic Jews have their own unique languages, customs, and traditions that differentiate them from Ashkenazi Jews or other Jewish communities worldwide.

I’m not Jewish but I have Sephardic Roots, can I still apply?

Great question! The short answer is yes. Anyone with Sephardic roots is eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. As long as you can provide the correct documents to prove this, you should be good to go.

How Lexidy Can Help You Get Portuguese Citizenship via Sephardic Lineage

Navigating the complexities of gaining Portuguese citizenship via Sephardic lineage may initially seem overwhelming. However, the process becomes more manageable when broken down into steps and guided by expert advice. 

At Lexidy, we’re committed to helping you demystify the legal intricacies, gather your evidence, and walk you through each step of the application process. So if you’ve ever considered exploring this avenue, there’s no better time to start than now!

Ready to take the next step? Fill out the form below and one of our legal aces will be in touch to guide you through the journey to your Portuguese citizenship.

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