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Naturalization for descendants of Sephardic Jews

The Decree-Law n.º 26/2022 of March 18 amended the Portuguese Nationality Regulation.

Besides having standardised the regulation in light of amendments made to the Nationality Law, it has also changed the requirements for naturalization of foreigners who are descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Concerning the naturalization process for descendants of Sephardic Jews, the changes have only come into effect on September 1, 2022 and, therefore, until that date, the previous provisions of the regulation have remained in effect.

The main change introduced is related to the requirement to prove the existence of a present connection to Portugal, based on objective requirements and the delivery of documents proving one of the following situations:

(i) Ownership, via mortis causa transfer (by inheritance), of real estate(s) located in Portugal, other personal rights or shareholdings in commercial or cooperative companies based in Portugal; and/or

(ii) Regular visits to the Portuguese territory, made by the applicant of the naturalization request.

Another change, although merely linguistic, is that, not only in the absence of a certificate issued by the Jewish Community but also in order for the certificate to be issued, it is necessary to provide the Jewish Community (in order to issue the certificate) or the Central Registry Office (if the certificate is not previously issued) with documentation proving the applicant’s descent from a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, the tradition of belonging to that community and the applicant’s family line, namely through:

(i) Authenticated document issued by the Jewish Community to which the applicant belongs, certifying, in a substantiated manner, the use of Portuguese expressions in Jewish rites or the use of Ladino as the language spoken by the applicant within that community; and/or

(ii) Authentic documentary records, such as synagogue and Jewish cemetery registers, as well as residence titles, property titles, testaments or genealogical studies proving the applicant’s family connection by direct descent or collateral family relationship of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

The Portuguese Jewish and Israeli communities already required these documents, but the legislative alteration has clarified the rule and its application.

The remaining relevant amendments relate to a better procedural organisation and ensure document preservation by the Central Registry Office and the Jewish or Israeli Communities involved in the process.

Therefore, the Portuguese Jewish or Israeli Communities now assume the role of trustees of the documents delivered to them by the applicant, for a period of 20 years, and should always digitalise them and send them to the Central Registry Office, which, in turn, may require the delivery of the originals of the documents if it considers that there is a risk of damaging.

In conclusion, from the applicant’s point of view, the amendments are extremely important since it is now necessary to prove, in addition to the descendance, a connection to Portugal, such as the ownership of real estate located in the Portuguese territory or of shareholdings in commercial or cooperative companies based in Portugal or regular visits to Portugal made by the applicant of the naturalization request.

With the appointed changes, the naturalization procedure has become more demanding for the descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin who intend to obtain the Portuguese nationality.

By Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge
|| features@algarveresident.com

Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge is founding member, senior partner and CEO of lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., created in 1987.
In his column, he addresses legal issues affecting foreign residents in Portugal.
Faro office at Gaveto das Ruas Pedro Nunes e José de Matos, 5 R/C
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