Portuguese citizenship and residency rules change for Sephardi Jews from September

Published at: 27/09/2022 11:36 am

Portuguese citizenship and residency rules change for Sephardi Jews from September

Descendants of Sephardi Jews could quickly become Portuguese residents and later citizens. Now, the situation is changing due to the opaque applications.


Many Sephardic Jews were killed or forced to convert to Christianity or leave Portugal at the end of the 15th century. In 2015, the Portuguese Cabinet approved new rules so that descendants of Jews expelled by royal decree from Portugal more than 500 years ago can claim citizenship. And they did. However, after half a millennium, proving whose family was expelled from Portugal is challenging. 


Between 2015 and the end of 2021, 56,685 Sephardic Jews obtained Portuguese citizenship, totalling 137,087. The Ministry of Justice rejected only 300 cases, and further 80,102 requests are pending. Meanwhile, the local Jewish community harshly rejects the first amendment,  that the Sephardic Jewish descendants must visit Portugal several times before obtaining citizenship. Meanwhile, the other applicants would not have to go to Portugal for the same reason. However, the legislators changed the rules and added requirements tailor-made for the Sephardic Jew candidates. 


Why did Portugal change the immigration law for Sephardic Jews?


It is incredibly challenging to prove someone's roots after 500 years. And the truth is that it's clear: not all successful applicants had historical roots in Portugal. Several scandals led to the reform of the legislation. The embarrassing case of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich reached the press worldwide. And in August 2022, journalists revealed the testament of the former head of Mossad, "Tamir Pardo's Sephardic ancestry anonymously uploaded onto Wikipedia shortly before he received Portuguese citizenship."


From September 2022, the applicable rules will change for the descendants of Sephardic Jews, and most of the interested applicants will not qualify for Portuguese naturalisation. Among the new requisites, the most important are property inheritance and proof of regular visits to Portugal to show the active connection. Until now, a certificate from the Jewish communities was the primary requirement to qualify. 




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