How to Obtain Portuguese Citizenship as a Sephardic Jew Descendant

Sep 18, 2020 | Immigration law, News

If you are Sephardic or you are a direct descendant of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula or forced to convert into Christianity, you may apply for Portuguese citizenship.

According to the Portuguese Decree Law No. 30-A / 2015 of February 27th, that modifies the Regulations on Portuguese Nationality, 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 Law does not make differences between Jews from the Spanish or the Portuguese kingdoms.

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.

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.

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.

The application process for Portuguese Nationality may be split into three different phases:

  1. A precise genealogical scheme should be completed in order to determine the Jewish origin of the surname. A Sephardic certificate of origin will be issued by one of the Portuguese Israeli communities legally authorized to issue it.
  2. A formal application of Portuguese nationality will be filed before the Portuguese Ministry of Justice, through a legal representative.
  3. Once the nationality is granted, birth will be registered in the Main Civil Registry of Portugal and the applicant will have to complete the formalities at the Portuguese Consulate of his permanent place of residence.


  • Portuguese citizens have free access to all countries in the Schengen area and Portugal is a full member State of the European Union (EU). Your passport grants you the same rights and obligations as any other citizen of the EU, including the right to free movement, residence, work or establish companies in any EU country.
  • As a Portuguese national, and therefore a European Union national, you have the right to reside and work in any EU country (If you wanted and did not have time to apply for Spanish nationality, Portuguese nationality will also allow you to reside and work in Spain).
  • You don’t need to travel all the way to Portugal to submit your application.
  • You don’t have to prove knowledge of Portuguese language or culture in order to apply for nationality.
  • You do not have to show a special link to Portugal.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to assist you in your application for Portuguese citizenship. Please contact us by e-mail: