Portuguese passport

Parliament approves changes to Sephardic Jew amnesty

Tightens system for jews seeking naturalisation dramatically

Portugal’s parliament approved changes to the system for granting nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews yesterday, tightening the system dramatically.

Suggestions that the ‘Nationality Law’ – brought in in 2015 as a form of ‘welcoming back’ descendants of Sephardic Jews hounded out of the country during the Inquisition in the 15th century – have resulted in a criminal investigation and ugly legal challenge after it was claimed the process was being effectively ‘hijacked’ by non-European non-Sephardic jews seeking free access to Schengen Space.

The diploma was approved in the final overall vote with PS, IL, BE, PAN and LIVRE voting in favour, PSD and three Socialist MPs abstaining and right-wing CHEGA and PCP Communists voting against.

According to the text, the “certification of the demonstration of a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal (…) is subject to final approval by an evaluation commission appointed by the member of the government responsible for justice”.

This commission is to be made up of “representatives of the relevant services, researchers or lecturers at higher education institutions in Sephardic studies and representatives of Portuguese Jewish communities”.

Among changes is also the suspension of the procedure for acquiring nationality when the applicant is subject to “restrictive measures approved by the United Nations or the European Union”. This caters for incidents involving Russian ‘oligarchs’ seeking Portuguese nationality under the regime when they were subject to sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Thus, from now forwards the government can grant nationality to descendants of Sephardic Jews who demonstrate “a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal, namely surnames, family language, direct or collateral descent” and who have resided in Portugal for at least three years, instead of the usual five.

Changes to the nationality law also include the elimination of an age limit on access to nationality.

This law has been a boon for many jews, particularly Israelis, of which over 260,000 applied for naturalisation between 2015 and 2022 (when the changes finally approved on Friday were first mooted).

Source material: LUSA