Portugal Citizenship Sephardic


Table of Contents

Portugal Sephardic Jews Law - Ministry of Justice Decree-Law No 30-A / 2015, Feb. 27

Sephardic Jews refers to the descendants of the ancient Jews and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula (Sefarad or Hispania), in other words, Portugal and Spain. The presence of these communities in the Iberian Peninsula is very old, and even before the formation of the Iberian Christian kingdoms, as was the case with Portugal.

Given that these Jewish communities, from the late fifteenth century and after the Alhambra Edict of 1492, had been the object of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition, many of its members took refuge in Portugal.

Contact VisaConnect's specialist Consultants, and our partner Portuguese Lawyers, in 2023, by phone or complete an online Form or visit us in our offices in Brisbane, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, UK and Lisbon, Portugal for advice and assistance with your Citizenship of Portugal application, and supporting documents, as a descendant of Sephardic Jews of Portugal!

History of Sephardic Jews of Portugal

Initially, King Manuel I issued a law that guaranteed protection of the Jews of Portugal, but then in 1496, he ordered the expulsion of all Sephardic Jews that did not convert through a Catholic baptism. Thus, many Sephardic Jews were expelled from Portugal in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century.

Generally, these peninsula Jews settled in countries like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey as well as in parts of North Africa and later in American territories, including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the United States of America (USA).

Despite the persecution and expulsion from their ancestral territory, many Sephardic Jews of Portuguese background and their descendants kept not only the Portuguese language, but also the traditional rites of the ancient Jewish worship in Portugal, preserving their surnames for many generations as well as objects and documents proving their Portuguese origin. In addition, they maintained a strong memorial relationship that leads them to qualify themselves as Portuguese Jews and Jews of the Portuguese Nation.

During the period of the Inquisition many of these New-Christians and Portuguese Jews managed to escape the kingdom. They established highly reputed and notable Synagogues, such as the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, the Synagogue Shearith in New York, the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, the Touro Synagogue in Newport (Rhode Island, USA) and the Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal.

Ladino Language Spoken by Descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews

In addition to the familiar nicknames and the use of Portuguese, particularly in the rites, there are descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who, even today, talk to each other in Ladino, the language used by Sephardim expelled from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century. Ladino is derived from castellano and Portuguese and currently spoken by about 150,000 people in existing communities in Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Morocco and in America, among many other places.

Portugal Citizenship Law - Right of Return for Sephardic Jews Descendants

The Portuguese Citizenship Act (Lei da Nacionalidade) authorizes the exercise of the right of return for Sephardic Jews descendants of Portuguese origin that so wish, through the acquisition of the Portuguese Nationality Concession or Portuguese nationality by naturalization, with its rights and obligations.

Eligibility Criteria for Foreign Naturalization as a Descendant of Portuguese Sephardic Jews

The Sephardic Jews Law requires that the applicant meet the following conditions to obtain Portuguese Nationality under the law - Decreto Lei no. 30-A/2015 de 27 de Fevereiro:

1. They are Adult or Emancipated under the law.

2. Not Committed Serious Crime - Not been convicted, with final judgment of sentence for committing a crime punishable with a maximum prison sentence equal to or exceeding three years, under Portuguese law.

3. Evidence of belonging to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese Origin - Evidence includes family surnames, familiar language, direct descendants or family relationship in the collateral line of common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

Most Common Portuguese Sephardic Last Names

The Sephardic diaspora around the world is composed of a number of different surnames, in the UK and the Netherlands specifically these are the most common:

  • Abrantes, Aguilar, Andrade, Brandão, Brito, Bueno, Cardoso, Carvalho, Castro, Costa, Coutinho, Dourado, Fonseca, Furtado, Gomes, Gouveia, Granjo, Henriques, Lara, Marques, Melo, Prado, Mesquita, Mendes, Neto, Nunes, Pereira, Pinheiro, Rodrigues, Rosa, Sarmento, Silva, Soares, Teixeira and Teles.

In Latin America the following names are also common:

  • Almeida, Avelar, Bravo, Carvajal, Crespo, Duarte, Ferreira, Franco, Gato, Gonalves, Guerreiro, Leo, Lopes, Leiria, Lobo, Lousada, Machorro, Martins, Montesino, Moreno, Mota, Macias, Miranda, Oliveira, Osrio, Pardo, Pina, Pinto, Pimentel, Pizarro, Querido, Rei, Ribeiro, Salvador, Torres and Viana.

Also, in other parts of the world these Sephardic Jewish names are also common among descendants of the Portuguese community:

  • Amorim, Azevedo, Álvares, Barros, Basto, Belmonte, Cáceres, Caetano, Campos, Carneiro, Cruz, Dias, Duarte, Elias, Estrela, Gaiola, Josué, Lemos, Lombroso, Lopes, Machado, Mascarenhas, Mattos, Meira, Mello e Canto, Mendes da Costa, Miranda, Morão, Morões, Mota, Moucada, Negro, Oliveira, Osório (or Ozório), Paiva, Pilão, Pinto, Pessoa, Preto, Souza, Vaz and Vargas

Evidentiary Conditions - Portugal Sephardic Citizenship

The Sephardic Jews Law requires that the applicant meet the following conditions to obtain Portuguese Nationality:

Certificate issued by the Portuguese Jewish Community

The applicant for Portuguese Nationality must first obtain a Certificate from the Portuguese Jewish Community of Lisbon, which attests to his/her ties to a Sephardic Jewish Community of Portuguese origin. A request for this Certificate must be addressed to the Jewish of Lisbon. Note that from 30 April 2022, applicants cannot apply to the Porto Jewish Community for a Certificate.

Evidence of the applicant's family history of connection to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese origin, by means of family names, language, direct or collateral descendants, or other elements which are indicative of this connection, may be direct and circumstantial.

Direct evidence - may be provided by means of the following: family records, family tree, community archives of births, marriages and deaths, cemeteries and lists of tombs, brit milah records, general Government archives that show arrivals from Portugal, lists of ships and passengers arriving from Portugal.

Circumstantial evidence - may be provided by means of any type of proof, provided that all of such elements of proof, when considered collectively or individually, in combination with direct evidence, will serve to convince the Committee.

Proof of Descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portugal

The following means of proof are acceptable:

1. Documented evidence - For example, family records, family tree, community archives of births, marriages and deaths (such as those in Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Curacao, St. Thomas and Sofia), cemeteries and lists of tombs (like those found in Surinam, Thessaloniki, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Curacao, Bayonne, Paris and Vienna), brit milah records, general Government archives that show arrivals from Portugal, lists of ships and passengers arriving from Portugal.

2. Synagogue documentary records - records of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as residence permits, property deeds, wills and other evidence of family connection to the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

3. Authenticated document issued by a Jewish community - Applicant's Jewish Community issues an Authenticated document confirming the use of the same Portuguese traditions in Jewish rites or, as spoken by themselves within that community, and confirmation of any Ladino language speaking proficiency.

4. Testimonial evidence - Reputable witnesses, such as a Community Rabbi, who can attest to a family's oral tradition. Testimonial evidence must be submitted in writing.

5. Sephardic Jewish Genealogist - Support of an expert on Portuguese Jewish diaspora. Expert evidence or report must be submitted in writing.

6. Autosomal DNA test - MyHeritage claims that its DNA test recognises markers that suggest Sephardic ancestry. However, a more reliable test would be a Y-DNA test as this stays relatively unchanged from one male to the next. FamilyTreeDNA has two Sephardic groups, one for people with proven Sephardic ancestry and another for those who believe that they have Sephardic ancestry but where the family later converted.

Lisbon Jewish Community Application

VisaConnect's Consultants can assist Applicants with the preparation of their application, supporting documents and completion of application forms to the Lisbon Jewish Community. The application process is as follows:

1. Apply for Certificate from Lisbon Jewish Community (Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa) - Certificate (Certificado) stating you belong to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese origin, embodied in particular in the applicant's name, in the familiar language, genealogy, and family memory.

2. Family Tree - A family tree must be prepared for the purpose of the application to the Lisbon Jewish Community. It should be as complete as possible, based on the submitted documentation, and be in the Lisbon Community format, up to two pages, visible and understandable. In addition, it should state the ancestry and descendants (if necessary), places and dates of birth, marriage and death.

3. Donation to the Lisbon Community - A non-refundable Donation of €500.00 EUR for each Applicant is required. These donations will be used in the development and maintenance of the Lisbon Jewish Community's services and activities to guarantee the continuation of culture and traditions, and in Portuguese society, through a few solidarity programs, which the community contributes.

4. Cover Letter - The applicant must prepare a brief 1 page Cover letter to outline and explain their motivation to apply for Portuguese nationality based on their Sephardic family and tradition roots, and Emotional memory.

5. Decision of the Lisbon Community - Customer Service does a Pre-analysis of the application submitted, without commitment of any advance donation or final approval obligation. Subsequently, the Commission of Analysis, makes the final decision, whether it is an approval or a request for further documents that corroborates your sephardic origins.

Portugal Ministry Application and Submission

VisaConnect's partner Portuguese Lawyers assist Applicants with the preparation of the second stage application, Process analysis, and Reports to the Portugal Ministry, with the following process:

1. Passport Biodata Page - certified by a Portuguese Consulate or Lawyer and apostilled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2. Power of Attorney - signed between the Applicant and the Portuguese Law Firm. No need for the Applicant to travel to Portugal.

3. Birth certificate - issued within the previous six months, with names of both Parents, and Apostilled.

4. Marriage certificate - issued within the previous six months, and Apostilled.

5. Criminal Record (CR) certificate - from the applicant's country of birth and countries which he/she has resided more than 1 year and issued within the previous ninety days, and Apostilled.

6. Portugal Criminal Record (CR) certificate - Your Portuguese Lawyer will apply for a Portugal CR for you, and it will be included in the application to the Ministry.

7. Evidence - Evidence which establishes the connection to a Portuguese community of Sephardic origin and the study which resulted in the Lisbon Jewish community certificate.

8. Translation of documents to Portuguese - The Law firm assists with the translation of your documents submitted, into the Portuguese language.

9. Submit Application to Portugal Ministry - Applications should be presented by your Lawyer to the Central Registry Offices (Conservatória dos Registos Centrais) in Lisbon, in diplomatic services. The address is: Conservatória dos Registos Centrais Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 198, 1099-003 Lisboa. Note that the Portuguese Minister of Justice has been invested with the power of granting nationality.

10. Pay Government Processing Fees - €250.00 EUR for each Applicant.

Portuguese Citizenship Granted to Descendants of Sephardic Jews

Processing time - the processing time until Portuguese citizenship is granted is approximately 24 months.

After Portuguese citizenship is granted, the applicant has the following rights:

  • Obtain a Portugal citizen card
  • Apply for a Portuguese Passport. Portugal Passport is Ranked 5th in the World - The 2022 Passport Index ranks the Portugal Passport as 5th most powerful passport in the world, and it allows visa-free access to 187 countries worldwide
  • The Portuguese passport allows visa-free travel to the 26 Schengen Area countries.
  • Access to residence permits to other European countries
  • Dual Citizenship - You do not need to renounce your previous nationality to become a Portuguese citizen
  • Freedom to Live, Work, manage a Business and Study in Portugal

Portugal Changes Law - Connection to Portugal Required - 1 September 2022

On 16 March 2022, the Portuguese Government approved a new Decree Law No. 26/2022, which amends the Regulation on Portuguese Nationality, and means that new Applicants applying must:

Prove an Effective Connection to Portugal by either:

1. Inheritance of a Property in Portugal - Ownership of a Portugal property (Real Estate), transferred by death or other personal rights or shareholdings in commercial or cooperative companies based in Portugal.

2. Regular Visits to Portugal - throughout the Applicant´s life.

Note that the change of law will not be retroactive, and therefore will not impact the citizenship of Applicants whom have already received Portugal Citizenship as descendants of Sephardic Jews. This amendment to the law came into force on 1 September 2022.

Lisbon Jewish Community's Response to the New Law from 1 September 2022

The Lisbon Jewish Community (CIL) has strong evidence, based on legal opinions, that the new regulations introduced in subparagraph d) of nº3 of article 24º - of the Regulation of Portuguese Nationality, are unconstitutional and, consequently, even non-applicable, or, if applied, can be subject to reversal by Court. CIL does not give up on any mechanisms in its effort to prove that the new norms, found to be unconstitutional, be annulled from the regulation. CIL have requested a meeting on three different occasions with the Minister of Justice, without receiving even an acknowledgement of their requests.

Portugal Golden Visa, Portugal Property and Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

See our Brochure below about the Portugal Sephardic Jews Law, and web page links regarding the Portugal Golden Residence Permit eligibility criteria, and assistance with the purchase of a Portugal Property:

Office Address and Telephone - VisaConnect Portugal

Contact VisaConnect's Consultants at our Lisbon, Portugal office below:

VisaConnect Portugal
Avenida do Atlântico, Nº 16, escritório 5.07,
1990-019, Parque das Nações

Telephone: (+351) 304 501 939

Useful Links - Portugal Citizenship for Sephardic Jews

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ - Portugal Citizenship

Do I get an Acknowledgement from the Lisbon Jewish Community, after submitting my Application?

Yes. You or your Visa Agency will receive an automatic Acknowledgement email confirming your information submitted in the Form and confirmation of your Declaration.

Do I get an email from the Lisbon Jewish Community, with my Process Number?

Yes. after you have made your Donation and approximately 2 - 3 days after submitting the application form, you or your Visa Agency will receive an email, with your Process Number.

How long is the Lisbon Jewish Community processing time until I get a Jewish Community Certificate?

As at 24 October 2022, the processing time for a Lisbon Jewish Community Certificate is approximately 12 months.

Can my Porto or Lisbon Community certificate be corrected, if there is a mistake?

Yes. Your Visa Agency would need to complete a new Family Tree and new Application form, with details of the correction required. For example, the current Certificate may have the incorrect spelling of a Name or incorrect Date of Birth or all the Applicant's Nationalities may not have been disclosed. Then, after a processing time of 6 weeks, Porto Community will issue a new signed Family Tree and new Certificate.

Can my Portuguese Lawyer submit my application to the Ministry of Justice, without the Lisbon Community Certificate?

Yes. Your Portuguese Lawyer can provide the Lisbon Community Certificate as soon as it is approved to the Ministry and send it by email or post.

Why do my documents need to be Apostilled?

In order for the Portuguese Government to accept foreign documents, they sometimes require proof that the official signatures on the documents are genuine. Therefore, the legal process by which a signature, stamp, or seal on an official public document is proved to be genuine is by being checked by your Country's Foreign Office against a specimen held on file. After obtaining proof that it is genuine, the Government Foreign Office will certify the signature, stamp, or seal and provide a certificate or stamp in the form of an ‘authentication’ or an apostille which is signed by the Government's Foreign office staff and sealed with a wet and a dry seal.

Who can do an Apostille and how is it done?

A Notary Public in your Country of residence can certify your original document as a true copy, such as a Passport, and then submit it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will add the Apostille stamp to the certified copy (Passport page) or to the Original document, such as a Police character certificate or Birth or Marriage certificate.

What documents does the Portuguese Lawyer need to make the submission to the Ministry?

Each Applicant's Signed Power of Attorney, Original and Apostilled Birth certificate, Apostilled Marriage certificate, and Apostilled Police certificates.

Can the documents be submitted to the Ministry in English?

No. All documents must be translated into Portuguese. This service is usually done by your Portuguese Lawyer.

Can I follow the progress of my application, with the Ministry?

Yes. You or your Portuguese Lawyer can check on the status of your Nationality process online, on the Ministry of Justice's website, as soon as you receive a Ministry Process Number. See the website link here: Nationality Process Status

What are the details of the Status of the Nationality Process?

1. It was Received. 2. It has been Registered. 3. Waiting for Queries. 4. Document Verification. 5. Order Analysis. 6. Dispatch. 7. Finished.