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Portuguese Citizenship Sephardic – Yoram Zara, Adv.

Yoram Zara is an attorney with offices in Israel and Portugal. Yoram has an LLM in International law and specializes in Portugal Sephardi Citizenship. His family immigrated to Israel from Turkey. He is decedent to the Baruch, Sasson and Habib families. Yoram has extensive knowledge of Sephardi history and culture. Yoram is well acquainted with the procedure and people of the Jewish communities in Portugal.

Portuguese citizenship and spouses

A common question we are asked is – What is the status of a spouse after the client receives Portuguese citizenship? The purpose of this post is to clarify this issue, and to indicate where there are still question marks.

The rights of a spouse due to Portugal’s membership in the European Union

Portugal is a member of the European Union. Today, there are 28 countries that are members of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (on the way out). EU countries allow residents of other EU countries to work and live without restrictions. Usually, there is an easier access to universities in EU countries. Sometimes the tuition fee is reduced or free. These rights are also granted to the spouse of a Portuguese citizen, even if they do not hold EU citizenship. You can see details of the legal situation in the matter here tinyurl.com/ycse2xoj

Does the fact that one of the spouses has citizenship according to the Sephardi law automatically grants citizenship to the other spouse?

No.

Does the fact that one of the spouses has citizenship according to the Sephardi law makes it possible to receive citizenship for the other spouse?

A person who has been married to a citizen of Portugal for over three years may apply for Portuguese citizenship. The success of the application is not guaranteed. It is required that the applicant has a connection to Portugal. Knowledge of language can help. For more on this, see www.embassyportugal-us.org/through-marriage/

Case Study – My wife Tammy
  1. I received my Portuguese citizenship according to the Sephardi Law, on 16 September 2016. Following this, I requested my wife Tammy to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as a test case. My wife was born in Israel, lived all her life in Israel, and is Ashkenaz on all sides. Tammy visited Portugal twice: in 2000 and in 2017.
  2. In February 2017 Tammy’s citizenship application was submitted. To establish her connection to Portugal, we attached to her application pictures of her visits to Portugal. Additionaly, she purchased associate membership at the Jewish community in Porto. The fee for this is 215 EUR at the day of writing this. Membership is possible for the spouse of a recipient of the community’s certificate of origin.
  3. In December 2017, the Ministry of Justice decided not to recommend granting citizenship to Tammy. The case was then referred for final decision to the Prosecutor General.
  4. In April 2018, the Prosecutor General decided to ignore the position of the Ministry and to grant Portuguese citizenship to Tammy. Her Portuguese birth certificate was issued on April 3, 2018.
  5. On her next visit to Lisbon (at the beginning of 2019), Tammy will get her identity card and a passport.

What can be learned from the test case?
It is clear from the test case that obtaining citizenship for the spouse is possible. Also, at least today, the process of obtaining citizenship for the spouse takes less time than the Sephardi process. A possible reason is that the number of spouses applying for citizenship, at least for now, is less than the number of Sephardi Jews.

What cannot be learned from the test case?
There is not yet a clear process or a recipe for citizenship for spouses. There I great importance to which attorney at the office of the Prosecutor General the case is allocated. In Tammy’s case, the case was dealt by a liberal attorney. There are conservative attorneys.

The Bottom Line
Portuguese citizenship for spouses is possible, but not certain. There is a significant risk component that the applicant must accept.

Our office handles the submission of applications for Portuguese citizenship to spouses. We ask you to contact us after one of you obtained Portuguese citizenship. We cannot start any procedure before that.

Tammy's Portuguese birth certificate
Tammy’s Portuguese birth certificate

Portuguese citizenship for minors

A common question our clients have is can minors obtain Portuguese citizenship? There are two situations: Minors born after the parent received the Portuguese citizenship – Here the situation is clear. These minors are Portuguese citizens. The more complex question is the status of minors born to a parent before the parent obtained Portuguese citizenship. In this post I shall try to clarify the legal situation in this matter. There are aspects where the legal situation is clear. There are other aspects where the legal situation is not entirely clear. What is said here reflects the state of affairs at the time of writing these words. From our experience, things change.

  1. Minors are not allowed to apply for citizenship according to the law for Sephardi Jews, which allows to receive Portuguese citizenship in a relatively simple procedure. Such applications can be made by adults only! In other words, an application for citizenship as a Sephardi Jew can only be submitted if the applicant is 18 years or older.
  2. Applying for Portuguese citizenship for minors can only be made after the parent has received Portuguese citizenship – the process of filing a Portuguese citizenship application for a minor can be made only after the parent has received the citizenship. If the parent did not receive Portuguese citizenship, it is not possible for the minor to apply.
  3. The submission of a request for Portuguese citizenship requires (apparently) proof of the minor’s connection to Portugal. Here, the legal situation is not entirely clear, due to a small number of minor Sephardi applicants for citizenship. From our consultations with government officials and other attorneys, it seems there is a difference between applications of minors in different ages: The younger the child is, the lower the level of the connection to Portugal required. There is a difference between a baby and a 16-year-old. As a rule of thumb, it appears that children over the age of 14 are demanded to show a stronger connection to Portugal than younger children. The most effective way to show such a connection is to speak Portuguese. If the minor does not speak Portuguese, we believe that Sephardi minors over the age of 14 should wait and apply for citizenship when they are 18.

Application for citizenship for minors under the age of 14 – a test case

  1. I received my Portuguese citizenship, as a Sephardi Jew, on September 19, 2016. Following my citizenship, I decided to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as a test case, for one of my children, Naomi. Naomi was born in Israel, is educated in the Israeli educational system, and has never lived outside of Israel.
  2. On February 13, 2017, we applied for citizenship for Naomi. Naomi was 9 years old at the time. To establish a connection between Naomi and Portugal we have taken several actions: A. We obtained associate membership for Naomi at the Jewish community in Porto. The application process is like that of receiving a certificate of Sephardi origin and costs € 215 on the day the post is written. B. Naomi signed up for a Portuguese course for children. C. We included pictures of Naomi’s visit to Lisbon. The documents proving these actions were attached to the application file.
  3. On January 19, 2018 Naomi received her Portuguese citizenship.
  4. On March 22, 2018, on a visit to Lisbon, Naomi received her identity card and her Portuguese passport. Following Naomi’s citizenship, I am about to make a similar request for her twin brother.

What can be learned from the test case?
It is clear from the test case that obtaining citizenship for minors is possible. Also, at least today, the process of obtaining citizenship for minors takes less time than the procedure for adults. A possible reason is that the number of minors applying for citizenship, at least for now, is much lower than the number of adults.

What cannot be learned from the test case?
This is a single case. There is not yet a clear procedure or a recipe for citizenship for minors. Of the few similar cases submitted to the government, it seems that the younger the minor is, the less paperwork is needed to prove a connection to Portugal. In addition, it appears that sometimes the government requests, formally or informally, that the applicant provide additional paperwork to strengthen the connection and sets the time limit for doing so. It requires a prompt response of the applicant and some creativity.

The Bottom Line
Receiving Portuguese citizenship for minors is possible, but not certain. There is a certain risk component that the applicant must acknowledge. In addition, the applicant may be required, after submission, to add paperwork to strengthen the minor’s connection to Portugal. Satisfying this requirement usually involves expenses. Generally, the younger the child, the lower the requirement to prove his Portuguese connection, if at all.

Our office handles the filing of applications for Portuguese citizenship for minors. Please contact us on this matter after the parent obtained Portuguese citizenship. It is not possible to start any procedures before that.

Portuguese Citizenship – Advantages

Many are not aware of all the benefits of a Portuguese passport. Here’s a short list:

  1. Most of the benefits result from the fact that Portugal is a member of the European Union. Today, there are 28 countries that are members of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (on the way out). EU countries allow residents of other EU countries to work and live there without restrictions. Usually, there is an easier access to universities in EU countries. Sometimes the tuition fee is reduced or free.
  2. A shorter waiting line at passports checks entering the EU. This is especially relevant for those who travel a lot to Europe.
  3. Easier entry than US citizens to several countries, such as: Bolivia, Brazil, Iran, Paraguay, Venezuela etc. To compare the entry requirements to different countries between US, UK and Portuguese passports: http://tinyurl.com/yc7zffxk

Does Portuguese citizenship come with a duty to pay income tax in Portugal?
The main issue that bothers applicants for Portuguese citizenship is the issue of income tax. If you are not a resident of Portugal, there is nothing to worry about. Income tax in Portugal is applied to residents of the country. A Portuguese citizen who is not a resident of the country does not have to pay income tax in Portugal.
On the principles of income tax in Portugal see here: tinyurl.com/yblwa57y

Islamic leader requests that the Portuguese law for Sephardic Jews be extended to Muslims

The dean of the largest Islamic university in the world argues that Portugal should give descendants of Muslims, expelled after the Christian reconquest, the same rights as those that are granted to Sephardic Jews

In an interview with Lusa, Ahmed Mohamed Al-Tayyeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Cairo, argued that the facilitated access to Portuguese citizenship granted to descendants of Jews expelled from Portugal should be extended to Muslims, whose ancestors were expelled from the country in the past.
“Muslims that are descendants of Muslim families from that time also have the right to appeal to entities and claim their rights”, stated the dean of Al-zhar, in an interview with Lusa.
During the XII, XIII and XIV centuries, many Muslims and Mozarabs were massacred in or expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, in the context of religious radicalization of the Catholic Church to the time, which also led to the expulsion of Jews that continued to profess the Jewish faith.
In recent years, Portugal apologized for expelling the Jews, and, in March 2015, the country issued an order granting the right to citizenship to the descendants of these families.
According to data from the Institute of Registration and Notary Affairs, since 2016, a total of 2.160 Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, which were expelled from Portugal during the XVI century, have acquired Portuguese nationality.
For Al-Tayyeb, “there should be citizenship justice, regardless of religious or ethnic origin of the person concerned”.
On Thursday, the dean of Al-Azhar university, Cairo, the largest normative reference of Sunni Islam, met with the President of the Republic, and several Portuguese officials.
While commending the meetings, the dean expressed belief that the Portuguese state will extended the reach of the legislation.
“I think it should be the same for everyone. Citizenship is based on a social contract, which does not recognize discrimination of any kind”, he said.

Translated from the original in Portuguese found here

2161 Sephardi Jews obtained Portuguese citizenship. More than half of them are from Turkey

Sephardi descendants from Turkey and Israel are the majority of those who received Portuguese nationality

A total of 2161 Sephardic Jews, descendants of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula expelled from Portugal in the 16th century, have acquired Portuguese nationality since 2016, according the Institute of Registries and Notaries.
Since March 2015, when the law granting Portuguese citizenship to Sephardi Jews came into force, 12,610 applications were submitted, 466 in that year, 5100 in 2016 and 7044 in 2017.
In 2015, no citizenships were granted yet. In 2016, 431 citizenships were granted and in 2017, 1730 citizenships were granted.
Sephardi Jews which are citizens of Turkey and Israel were the majority of those who received the Portuguese citizenship.
In 2016, 271 Turkish citizens and 81 Israeli citizens were granted Portuguese citizenship. In 2017, 968 Turkish citizens and 457 Israeli citizens were granted Portuguese citizenship. In total, until 31.12.17, 1,239 Turkish citizens and 538 Israeli citizens obtained Portuguese citizenship.
This legislative initiative is aimed to strengthen Portugal’s ties with the Jewish community and to recognize its heritage.
Translation from the original in Portuguese found here