Can I obtain Spanish Citizenship through Sephardic Ancestry?

The Gobierno de España introduced legislation stating that all Jews with Spanish bloodline were eligible to submit an application for Spanish citizenship. Whilst this law has now expired, there are other options for members of the Jewish community wishing to live and work in Spain with a Sephardic- a Jew with Spanish roots – history.  There are still certain benefits when it comes to applying for Spanish citizenship. This guide will advise you on your options and the documents required for each.

Click on a link to the sections:

Can Sephardic Jews apply for Spanish citizenship?

Yes, it is possible to be granted citizenship if you have Sephardic ancestry but that alone doesn’t allow you to obtain Spanish citizenship. Sephardic descent is a factor in a successful application, however, there are also other criteria you need to fulfill.

The application for Spanish citizenship through Sephardic ancestry starts with what Spanish law defines as ancestry. Sephardic ancestry, or family members who were Spanish Jews, includes:

  • Mother or father (biological or adoptive)
  • Grandparents
  • Great, great grandparents
  • Great, great, great grandparents

How can I become a Spanish citizen as a Sephardic Jew?

There are four possible ways to gain permanent residence in Spain if you missed the opportunity to obtain citizenship as a direct result of your Sephardic heritage. Your options now include:

Spanish citizenship through naturalisation

The Carta de Naturaleza, or citizenship through naturalisation, was the preferred route of most people of Sephardic ancestry prior to the dedicated law passed in June 2015. While certain categories must have legal residency in Spain for ten years before obtaining citizenship, people of   Sephardic origin can apply to become a Spanish citizen after just two years of legal residency.

The additional requirements for citizenship through naturalisation are as follows:

  • Passing two tests: A2 Spanish language test (DELE) and the cultural exam called CCSE
  • Having no criminal record

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Spanish citizenship through marriage

If you are married to a Spanish-born person, and your husband or wife still resides in their home country, you can apply for Spanish citizenship through marriage. To do this, you must also have had a legal residence permit for one year.

Documents needed to apply for Spanish citizenship through marriage

You need the following documents if you are applying for Spanish citizenship through marriage:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Residence permit
  • Your passport, and your husband/wife’s
  • Empadronamiento, which demonstrates your relationship
  • Birth certificate of you and your husband/wife

For a full list of legal documents needed, contact our team. Giambrone & Partners' immigration team can help you to understand the process and to ensure your application passes in your first attempt.

Spanish citizenship through descent

You can obtain Spanish citizenship by descent if your immediate relatives were born in Spain, or if you were adopted into a Spanish family prior to your 18th birthday. Immediate relatives include your mother or father, grandparents, or great grandparents going back four generations. 

Documents needed to apply for Spanish citizenship through descent

  • Passport or residency documentation
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Proof that you’re employed in Spain
  • Criminal background check
  • Confirmation that you’ve passed the citizenship exams (DELE A2 and CCSE)
  • Proof of purchase for application fees

You can read more about obtaining Spanish citizenship through descent here

Access to Spain via Portuguese citizenship

As in Spain, Portugal also enacted the  2015 law enabling Sephardic Jews to apply for citizenship; due to the Iberian Peninsula (which includes Spain and Portugal) having a history that saw Jews forcibly rejected from both countries. Unlike Spain though, Portugal still has in place an application process for Sephardic Jews seeking residence. If you find you cannot apply for citizenship through the alternative methods listed, obtaining Portuguese nationality offers an easy bridge between Portugal and Spain. By obtaining Portuguese citizenship, you are only obliged to live in Spain for only two years before applying for Spanish citizenship.

Documents needed to apply for Portuguese citizenship as a Sephardic Jew

You need to attach the following documents to your citizenship application:

  • Birth certificate
  • Residence permit
  • Current passport
  • Criminal record certificate issued by Portuguese authorities, your country of residence, or by authorities in the country you were born
  • Jewish community certificate proving Sephardic Jewish lineage of Portuguese origin. Your certificate can be based on surname, language, family tree, or reliant upon what your ancestors say.

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Giambrone can help you collate and organise your documents

If you are applying for Spanish nationality via Sephardic heritage you may need help gathering or checking your documents, Giambrone's experienced lawyers in the immigration team can offer a professional service providing expert legal advice and assistance in matters of Spanish citizenship and dual nationality law.

To take your first step, fill in a callback request form on our website. You can read more about our immigration services here.

FAQs on applying for Spanish citizenship as a Sephardic Jew

How will I know if my surname is of Sephardic origin?

You can check online at Obviously, having a Sephardic surname is a good indicator that you have Sephardic ancestry, so there is a compelling reason to see if your name appears on the list.

How long does it take to get Spanish nationality for Sephardic Jews?

This depends on which route you choose and how quickly you can complete your application, attach the relevant documents, and begin the process. Giambrone can help you with this process by providing guidance on anything you’re unsure about and ensuring that your document is complete and accurate.

Which Jewish authorities have the legal right to issue a certificate?

For more information, visit the website for Federacion de Comunidades Judias de Espana (Platform for the Request of Sephardic Origin Certificates).

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Applying for Spanish citizenship through descent