Decree Law No. 30-A/2015 and 26/2022, which amended DL 237-A/2006
The designation of “Sephardic Jews” refers to the descendants of the ancient Jews and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula (Sefarad or Hispania), that is, Portugal and Spain.
The presence of these communities in the Iberian Peninsula goes a long way back, and in fact precedes the formation of the Iberian Christian kingdoms, namely Portugal. Until the 15th century, some Jews occupied very prominent places in Portuguese political and economic life.
Following the Alhambra Edict of 1492 and their persecution by the Spanish Inquisition, a very large number of Spanish Jews sought refuge in Portugal and joined the Portuguese Jewish communities. However, King Manuel I of Portugal, who had initially issued a royal-decree law guaranteeing their protection, ordered in 1496 the expulsion of all Jews that did not convert to Catholicism.
Notorious anti-New Christian riots broke out in 1506, killing up to four thousand in a massacre in Lisbon. After the massacre the crown softened its New Christian stance for a time, allowing migration. In 1515 the king requested to establish an inquisition to systematically persecute New Christians, but it was initially denied by the Pope.
The Portuguese Inquisition was formally established in Portugal in1536 under King João III and, although the last public auto-da-fé took place in 1765, was only extinguished in 1821 when the country went through a constitutionalist insurrection.
The Inquisition focused its attention on New Christians and crypto-Jews. The fact that anyone arrested by the Inquisition was subject to having his property confiscated insured that the campaign was carried out with alacrity. Tribunals were set up in a number of towns in Portugal, but also in the kingdom’s overseas possessions, namely Brazil, Goa and Cape Verde.
According to historian António José Saraiva, 40,000 individuals were charged by the Portuguese Inquisition. Of them, in the mainland venues alone, 1,175 were burned at the stake, and an additional 633 burned in effigy.
Thus, many Sephardic Jews were forced into exile and compelled to leave Portugal from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century onwards, including those who had converted to Catholicism – the conversos, also known as New Christians, Anusim or Marranos. Some hid their practice of Judaism over the years and are generally designated as secret, hidden or crypto-Jews.
Portuguese Jews and New-Christians who managed to escape, settled in several Mediterranean countries like Morocco, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, Northern Europe cities such as London, Nantes, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Glückstadt, Hamburg or Cologne and other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Antilles and the US, among others.
Despite the expulsion and the persecution of their ancestral territory, they have kept, along with their descendants, not only the Portuguese language, in some cases, but also the traditional rites of the ancient Jewish worship in Portugal, saving their surnames over generations, objects and documents proving their Portuguese origin, along with a strong memorial connection to Portugal. Consequently, they are often referred to as “Portuguese Jews” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation”.
Considering this historical heritage, the Portuguese Citizenship Act (Lei da Nacionalidade) was amended as to permit the acquisition of Portuguese citizenship by the descendants of Portugal's Sephardic Jews.
All the legal requirements regarding the application of descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin for Portuguese nationality (through naturalization) are clearly defined and stated in the Portuguese Decree-Law 30-A/2015 and 26/2022 , which amended DL 237-A/2006 in which the Regulation on Portuguese Nationality is approved.
Applications should be presented at the Central Registry Offices (Conservatória dos Registos Centrais) in Lisbon, in diplomatic services, and the Portuguese Minister of Justice was invested the power of granting nationality.
RTP2- PROGRAMA CAMINHOS
10 July 2016
BBC - Turning Portuguese
24 May 2019
By Decree-Law, it is mandatory to hold a certificate issued by the Portuguese Jewish Communities - duly registered locally under the status of religious legal entities, that is, the Jewish Communities of Lisbon (CIL) and of Porto (CIP).
The Jewish Community of Lisbon has made available:
The “burden of proof” rests on the applicant, who must provide as much evidence as possible, of all kinds, showing direct or collateral progeny and the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin. In fact, since a very large number of Spanish Jews migrated to Portugal when they were expelled from Spain, proving Spanish ancestry from families known to have lived in Portugal is also acceptable. Please note that our internal Experts’ Committee verifies the information provided but does not run genealogical studies itself.
Means of proof
Applicants are expected to provide different means of proof and it is understood that they will not be the same in each particular case and some people won’t be able to provide all of them:
We propose this model bellow - A genealogical description with the direct ancestors in text . (download)
Model B Genealogical Description PT EN.doc
All the above may be presented in Portuguese, Spanish, French or English.
All the applications and attached documents/means of proof are kept in our records for future reference and a list of all issued certificates is sent monthly to the Portuguese Ministry of Justice.
See below the complete list of documents to be presented (end of page)
Please check with our Customer Service information about donations to do this process. These donations will be used in the development and maintenance of our services and activities which guarantee the continuation of culture and traditions in our jewish community, as well as in the Portuguese society in general, through several solidarity programs with whom the community contributes.
Our Customer Service Staff does a pre-analysis without commitment of any advance donation or final approval obligation. We hereby, clarify that, a first opinion by e-mail is not binding.
On the other hand, the power of the final decision whether it is an approval or a request for more documents that corroborates your sephardic origins is solely taken by the Commission of Analysis.
Also, we inform you that, in case of no approval, the donations given are not refundable, without prejudice of the process come to be analyzed again through presentation of additional documents.
IBAN: PT 50 0007 0006 0025 6930 0064 8
Owner: Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa (CIL)
Bank: Novo Banco
Agency: Marquês de Pombal (Lisboa - Portugal)
Account nr. : 0062 5693 0006
or by PAYPAL
New applicants and general information - click here
For ongoing processes click here
Phones: +351 213 931 130 (Portuguese/English)
PUBLIC ATTENDANCE : Monday to Thursday from 10am to 1pm | 2pm to 5 pm.
Friday: 9am to 1pm.
Closed on Shabbat, Jewish Holidays and Portuguese Bank Holidays
The application should be presented to the Portuguese Central Registry Office (Conservatória dos Registos Centrais) in Lisbon and the Jewish Community of Lisbon has no involvement in the decision or even in the process.
However the law does state that the following documents should be presented, including their translation into Portuguese, duly certified by the Portuguese consulate at the country of origin or residence and bearing the Hague Convention Apostille:
The Portuguese Central Registry Office charges a non-refundable and pre-paid 250 € fee per applicant.
You may obtain further and accurate information at the nearest Portuguese Consulate.
Conservatória dos Registos Centrais
Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 198
Phone: (+351) 213 817 600
Fax: (+351) 213 817 698
Upon the granting of nationality, the Central Registry Office shall issue and mail to the applicant’s address a Portuguese birth certificate. Portuguese ID documents, such as passports, may then be issued by the nearest Portuguese Consulate.
Do I have to come to Portugal in person? Do I have to reside in Portugal? Do I have to speak Portuguese?
The answer to all the above questions is “no”. You may be represented by a third party in your application and you neither have to come or reside in Portugal nor to speak Portuguese.
Does my family name have to be in “the list of Sephardic names”?
No. There are indeed some family names which are commonly accepted to belong to descendants of Portuguese Jewish families but your family name may have changed along the years. In such case, please provide proof of your genealogical relation despite the name change.
Do I have to hire the services of a lawyer?
There is no such requirement concerning the issuing of Jewish Community of Lisbon’s certification and our community has neither a special partnership with any law office nor shall recommend any specific one. We receive daily applications both from individuals and law firms. However, regarding the stage of preparation and submission of the applications to the Portuguese authorities, you may find that the services of an experienced and qualified lawyer will proof to be quite useful.
Can I file a family application? Can my spouse be granted nationality as well?
Each member of the family, including the children, should file the application separately although, for the purpose of the certification issued by our community (step 1 above), having already checked the documentation of a member of the same family does make it easier to check the documentation. Spouses may apply later for citizenship through the Portuguese Central Registry Office, not under this law amendment or its provisions but as any foreign spouse of a Portuguese citizen.
Did anyone get the Portuguese nationality yet? How long does it take?
Since March 2015, several thousands of foreign citizens were granted Portuguese nationality under this law amendment and only a very small number were refused, mostly due to legal and technical reasons or lack of documentation. The process itself is not complicated but it does take time for the documentation to be gathered, duly translated and certified, and obviously thoroughly verified by all the parties involved. Altogether, there are thousands of pending applications and the applicant must be patient and wait for a nationality assignment process to take place beyond 18 months. The certification period of the Jewish Community of Lisbon varies and will depend on the quality and organization of the documentation with which the process is submitted by the applicant and the degree of complexity of the respective process.
Application Form Model B - example List of documents
We request that you complete this DIGITAL FORM in order to facilitate and speed up the process of identification and *pre-analysis (non-binding) of the process submitted by the applicant. * We remind that this pre-analysis is not binding and definitive and does not mean the final approval of your process, checking in advance whether the process is eligible for due study and historical analysis in order to apply for Portuguese Nationality based on Decree-Law no. 30-A/2015 and 26/2022 which amended DL 237-A/2006, where is approaved the Regulation of Portuguese Natioanlity concession for descendants of Jews of Sephardic origin. Depends on and is the responsibility of the Analysis Committee due final opinion, based on due historical analysis, and its process is subject to possible requests for additional documentation from this Committee. ATTENTION: Filling out this form does not replace or dispense with the proper sending of documents namely - the complete pdf with OFFICIAL FORM duly completed and signed, the means of proof, identification documents (see list of documentation) and the required family tree. For a correct and safe reception of your process, we recommend that you do not send the same submission repeatedly. Thanks for your cooperation.
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