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Nationality Law

Portuguese citizenship for Sephardic Jews

This amendement to the Portuguese Regulation on Citizenship (Regulamento da Nacionalidade Portuguesa) establishes the requirements for the descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin to obtain Portuguese citizenship and describes the documents needed for the apllication for Portuguese citizenship.

The name Sepharad means "Hispania", Iberian Peninsula -Portugal and Spain.

During the 15th and 16th centuries the community of Sephardic Jews was expelled from Portugal. Despite of that, many of the Sephardic Jews kept the language, the rites of the oldest Jewish cult in Portugal, the family names, objects and documents which demonstrate their Portuguese origin and a strong historical connection to Portugal.

Considering this historical heritage, the Portuguese Citizenship Act (Lei da Nacionalidade) was amended back in 2013 as to facilitate the acquisition of Portuguese citizenship by the descendants of Portugal's Sephardic Jews.

With the amendment made to the Citizenship Act in 2013, a foreign citizen descendant from Sephardic Jews that intended to obtain Portuguese citizenship by naturalization had to demonstrate the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

So this amendment to the Citizenship Act could come into force it was necessary to amend the Portuguese Regulation on Citizenship. This amendment, occurred last February 2015 with the approval of the Decree-Law 30-A/2015, and came into force on  March 1st 2015.

This new Decree-Law 30-A/2015 adds Article 24-A to the Portuguese Rules on Citizenship. establishing the requirements for the acquisition of citizenship by naturalization and listing the documents that must be presented with the application for Portuguese nationality.

1. Requirements that must be fulfilled to acquire Portuguese nationality:

It determines that the applicant must:

a) Be of age or emancipated under Portuguese law;

b) Not have been convicted of a crime punishable under Portuguese law with imprisonment of three years or more;

c) State and demonstrate in the petition the circumstances that establish the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

2. Documents to be filed with the petition:

The application must be presented with the following documents:

a) Birth certificate;

b) Criminal record issued by the competent Portuguese services, as well as by the authorities of the country of birth, country of nationality and country of residence (if other from the country of birth and residence);

c) Document that proves the direct progeny or family relationship to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin and the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

As a rule, this should be a certificate issued by a Jewish community with the status of a religious legal person legally based in Portugal, attesting the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on the surname, genealogy and family documents and memories.

If this certificate can not be obtained, evidence can be based on authenticated documents, issued by the Jewish community of applicant, certifying that he/she uses Portuguese expressions in spoken rites or he/she speaks Ladino in the community.

Also documentary records such as copies of Synagogue and Jewish cemeteries archives (such as those in Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Curacao, St. Thomas and Sofia), cemeteries and lists of tombs (like those found in Surinam, Thessaloniki, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Curacao, Bayonne, Paris and Vienna), residency certificates, property deeds and wills, family records, family tree, community archives of births and marriages, brit milah records, general Government archives that show arrivals from Portugal, lists of ships and passengers arriving from Portugal, all can be used to demonstrate the connections of the applicant's family to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

Henceforth, a foreign citizen who descends from Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin and is able to prove in the fashion describe above, the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, may obtain Portuguese citizenship without having to speak the current Portuguese or residing in Portugal.

The average time it takes from the moment a request for Portuguese Nationality is submitted to the Portuguese Government and Portuguese Nationality is granted is approximately 6 months and it is not necessary for the candidate to come to Portugal in person to obtain Portuguese citizenship.

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