New changes in September to the immigration rules governing applications for Portuguese citizenship through Sephardic Jewish heritage

In 2015 the Portuguese government enacted Decree law 30-A/2015 introducing the right to Portuguese citizenship for the descendants of Sephardic Jews in an attempt to right the wrongs suffered by the expulsion of Sephardic Jews beginning in 1492. 

The criteria required to establish a Sephardic connection, such as the use of the Landino language within a family, a family name that recalled Sephardic ancestry as well as a range of documentation both drawn from official records such as cemetery records, Brit Milah records, birth, death and marriage certificates.

The entitlement was not limited by the nationality of the applicant.  In March 2022 the  Sephardic Genealogical Society raised the issue of abuse of the laws relating to the Sephardic rights to citizenship in Portugal, with particular mention of a Russian oligarch whose link to the Sephardic Jewish community in Portugal seemed tenuous at best and a marked reluctance to make public the documentary evidence.  The Sephardic Genealogical Society felt that the lack of robustness with regard to the criteria for application reflected unfavourably on the Jewish community, believing that it demeans and reflects negatively on those with Sephardic ancestry.

The Portuguese government acted quickly to change the criteria for obtaining Portuguese citizenship via the Sephardic route. 

Rute Lourenço an associate in the Porto office commented “the major changes in the law relating to Sephardic right of Portuguese citizenship is the requirement of a certificate or other probative document relating to the ownership, transmitted mortis causa, of real rights over real estate in Portugal, of other personal rights or of shareholdings, in commercial or cooperative companies based in Portugal.  Also evidence of regular trips to Portugal throughout the applicant's life, when such facts demonstrate an effective and lasting connection to Portugal.” Rute further mentioned “applicants will still be required to demonstrate evidence of the family heritage rooted in the Portuguese Sephardic community, such as family names, family language, genealogical evidence and to some extent family traditions and memory attesting to membership of the Portuguese Jewish community.”   

The new laws will come into effect in September 2022. However, there is still the opportunity to instigate an application for Portuguese citizenship under the previous law which offers the opportunity of providing less challenging evidence.

There is a small window of opportunity to make an application before the new more stringent laws are enacted.  Giambrone & Partners’ highly experienced immigration lawyers can fast-track assistance for applicants from across the globe with their submission for Portuguese citizenship under the existing laws, whilst they still prevail.  As it is possible that there will be volume of applications by individuals attempting to beat the new laws, our lawyers strongly suggest that a family considering this path should make an application as soon as possible as to avoid being timed out before the application can be made as the Authorities may not be able to process all submissions before the new laws are applicable.

Our immigration lawyers will review your application and ensure that your documentation is acceptable and has no errors or omissions that may cause your application to fail.

Rute Lourenço is an associate based in the Porto office.

Rute was admitted to the Portuguese Bar in 2021. Rute advises clients in immigration and a range of visa applications. She also provides valuable guidance and insight in corporate and commercial non-contentious matters as well as advice on real estate. Rute developed expertise with cross-border debt collection and drafting contracts.

If you would like to make an application for Portuguese citizenship through Sephardic ancestry please contact client services please click here