Numbers Portuguese Citizenship

Portuguese nationality attributed to 431 descendants of Jews expelled from Portugal

Translation from the original in Portuguese published 6 February 2017 here

More than 5,500 Sephardic Jews have applied for Portuguese nationality, and 431 have obtained it since the entry into force of legislation allowing the attribution of nationality to this community in 2015, according to official data.

In 2016 alone, Sephardic Jews made 5,100 applications for nationality with origins in Portugal, and 431 people were granted nationality, according to data from the Central Registry of Lisbon.

Last year, Portuguese nationality was granted to 271 Turks, 81 Israelis and 48 Brazilians descended from Portuguese Sephardic Jews.

It was also attributed to five Sephardic Jews from Panama, five from the United States, and five from South Africa, as well as four citizens from Serbia and four from Argentina.

Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Canada, Australia, Spain, Russia, Colombia and France respectively had a nationality attributed to their citizens.

Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin in Turkey lead the list of nationality applications submitted to the Portuguese authorities in 2016, with 2,103 applications, followed again by the Israelis (2,021) and the Brazilians (470).

People from a diverse list of other countries have already submitted applications for Portuguese nationality, such as Greece, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, the Dominican Republic, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Morocco, among others.

Between March and December 2015, the year in which the decree-law that allowed the right to nationality to Sephardic Jews came into force, 466 applications were handed over to the responsible authorities in Portugal, but no proceedings were finalized that year, according to the Conservatory of the Central Registries of Lisbon.

Also in 2015, it was the Turkish citizens who handed in the majority of requests for Portuguese nationality (212), followed by Israelis (149) and Brazilians (48).

In that year, the attribution of nationality by naturalization to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal from the fifteenth century onwards, after King Manuel I signed in 1496 a decree obligating the Jews to convert to Christianity or to leave Portugal.

In April 2013, the parliament approved an amendment to the Nationality Law, which provided for the granting of nationality by naturalization to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, and in July of that year the law was published, which should have been regulated within a 90 days.

However, it was not until the end of August 2014 that the Ministry of Justice presented to the Jewish communities in Lisbon and Porto a draft decree-law for regulation.

The Portuguese Government approved the decree-law that regulated the granting of Portuguese nationality, by naturalization, to descendants of Sephardic Jews in January 2015.

The decree-law was promulgated by the then President “Aníbal Cavaco Silva” and gazetted in the official government newspaper, “Diário da República” at the end of February 2015, coming into force on March 1 of that year.

The Portuguese legislation provides that candidates for nationality must submit a list of documents, including proof of there Jewish ancestry, a certificate to issued by the Jewish Community of Porto (CIP) or the Jewish Community of Lisbon (CIL), which in turn have received thousands of certificate requests.

Like Portugal, Spain has also passed a law that attributes Spanish nationality to the descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled in 1492, and the bill came into force on October 1, 2015.

Spain, Portugal naturalize nearly 5,000 Sephardic Jews

Nearly 5,000 people have become citizens of Spain or Portugal following the passing of laws in both countries on the naturalization of descendants of Sephardic Jews.

In Portugal, where a procedure for naturalization under the law went into effect last year, 292 applicants for naturalization have been approved, Catarina Madeira, a spokeswoman for the Portuguese Justice Ministry, told JTA on Wednesday.

Spain has naturalized 4,538 applicants for citizenship by Sephardim since the law went into effect last year. However, only three applicants were granted citizenship based on the actual law, the ABC daily reported Sunday. Others were naturalized by a royal decree and not through the nondiscretionary procedure devised for the law.

According to ABC, the Spanish government in effect blocked the nondiscretionary procedure to avoid mass immigration by an estimated 30 million non-Jewish descendants of Sephardim eligible under the law.

In both countries, the passing of the laws of return for Sephardim was described as an attempt to atone for the state and church-led mass expulsion, dispossession, torture and forced conversion into Christianity of Jews during the Inquisition — a period that began in the 15th century and ended with the disappearance and dispersion of what used to be one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. In both countries, the legislation followed an economic recession that led to high unemployment and vigorous attempts by Lisbon and Madrid to attract wealthy investors, residents and tourists.

Unlike the open-ended law in Portugal, the Spanish law set a three-year window for applications. The Spanish law is also stricter than the Portuguese one, as it requires passing tests attesting to cultural or language ties to Spain by applicants. Spanish authorities are currently processing another some 3,000 applications for naturalization under the law.

Portuguese authorities have approved only 7.5 percent of the 3,838 applications filed since March 2015, Madeira said. A bureaucratic block that had caused delays in the naturalization process was removed in February, she added.

In Portugal and Spain, each application is vetted by the institutions of those countries’ Jewish communities, which make recommendations to the government.

“The difference between the applications approved and those pending owes to the fact that each request for naturalization requires rigorous evaluation of documents,” Madeira said.

Portuguese Citizenship Law Attracts 250 Jewish Applicants, Primarily From Turkey

New law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile the right to citizenship passes three months ago.

Three months after Portugal passed a law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to citizenship, 250 applicants – most from Turkey – have already received official certification that they qualify.
This certification establishes that the applicants have provided sufficient proof of their connection to the Sephardic Portuguese community that existed before the 16th century Inquisition. The Portuguese government has delegated the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto with responsibility for vetting certification requests.

According to Portuguese Jewish leaders, 200 certificates have thus far been issued by the Porto community and another 50 by Lisbon. The law took effect in March. Last week, Spain passed a similar law, which will take effect in October. Once candidates receive certification, they are requested to produce documents required of any other candidates applying for citizenship in Portugal. But Jews of Portuguese descent, unlike others applying for Portuguese citizenship, are not required to relocate to the country. Their citizenship applications also go through an expedited process, and rather than wait the usual six-seven years, they will be notified within six months to a year if they have been approved.
Michael Rothwell, a spokesman for the Jewish community of Porto, said 900 applications had been received by their offices in the past three months, and 200 certificates had already been issued, among them 150 to Jews from Turkey. Another 15 certificates had been issued to Israeli Jews, and an identical number to American Jews. The rest, he said, were split among applicants from 15 different countries.
“For many of them, it is a desire to formalize the emotional connection to Portugal they’ve kept in their families for many centuries,” said Rothwell, explaining why these Jews were applying for Portuguese citizenship. “Others, particularly those in Turkey, are thinking about coming to live in Portugal.”
Jose Carp, president of the Jewish community of Lisbon, told Haaretz that he has already received 500 inquiries by mail and by phone from prospective applicants. Of the total number of certificates authorized by the Jewish community of Lisbon, 24 were issued to Israelis, 12 to Brazilians, five to Moroccans, three to Americans, three to Turks, and one each to a Russian, British and South African descendant of Portuguese Jews.
He said that 10 percent of the applications for certification had not yet been approved because important documents were missing.
“The people who have made inquiries have absolutely not been thinking about relocating,” said Carp. “The reason they are doing it is that they would like to have a European Sephardic identity. They’re very proud of it, and this provides a piece of proof that they can transmit to their descendants.”
The Jewish community of Lisbon, he said, is providing certification not only to halakhic Jews but also to descendants of the Sephardic community forced to convert to Christianity (also known as conversos). The Jewish community of Porto, on the other hand, is only providing certification to those who meet the halakhic requirements.