Portuguese citizenship and Portuguese passport

In 2013, the Portuguese government issued a notice, according to which it intends to allow the descendants of Portuguese Jews to receive a Portuguese citizenship according to lenient criteria in relation to the usual process of obtaining a Portuguese citizenship. In July 2014, an order was issued by the Portuguese government to institute regulations regarding the processes involved in granting Portuguese citizenships to Jews descendants of the Jewry of Portugal, within 90 days.

The procedure was briefly delayed, but eventually, on 27.2.2015, the easing of obtaining a citizenship for descendants of the Conversos and exiles from Portugal was ratified. The law came into effect on 1.4.2015.

The legislation making it easier for Portuguese Jewish descendants to obtain a Portuguese citizenship mostly relies on a similar law, providing abetments to descendants of Portuguese citizens, who left the country during the thirties and twenties of the previous century, and settled in Portuguese-speaking countries, Brazil being foremost of these.

The common practice in accordance with the law relies on demonstrating the citizenship of the grandfather or grandmother via documents from the authorities in Portugal itself or the country to which the grandparent emigrated. Applying this practice of proving a connection to Portugal through documents is extremely hard nigh impossible, as far as it concerns the majority of the Portuguese Jewish community, which was exiled many centuries ago.

Eventually, on 29.1.2015, the Portuguese government approved the aforementioned law, and after the appropriate regulations went into effect, it is now possible to apply for a Portuguese citizenship. Initially, the law was said to be applied for a period of 10 years, during which the applicants could apply for a Portuguese citizenship for Jews, with significant leniencies justified by the fact that they are descendants of the Portuguese Jews. This limitation of the window of opportunity was omitted in the final draft of the law. Approximately one year after the law had taken effect the first applications for citizenship were already approved.

The Portuguese legislator delegated the Portuguese Office of Civil Registry to handle the demonstration of the required connection, as there are several academic institutions that hold the knowledge and copies of existing documents on the subject in their research centers, and there is no guarantee that even the information held by research institutions would bear the burden of proof implemented today in Portugal. The approved law determines two paths through which applicants can prove their affiliation with the Portuguese Jewry.

The first: submitting a request to the preeminent Jewish communities in Portugal. Choosing this path, the applicant must approach one of the communities and demonstrate his or her connection to those in charge of the matter in the community. The handling of the request entails a service fee, which must be paid to the community in charge of the request. If the community's committee finds that there is indeed a connection that was appropriately demonstrated, it will give the applicant a certificate that is accepted by the Portuguese authorities.

The second: handing in proof of the required historical, genealogical and cultural connection to the Jewry of Portugal and its diaspora since the expulsion in the 15th century. The law specifically indicates a list of surnames such as Pinto, Suares (Zuarets), and Castro, which are typical to Jews throughout the world, as an additional means to demonstrate this connection. It is important to note that the list of surnames appearing in the law is very partial and that a surname from that list is does not necessarily constitute a sufficient condition for demonstrating the required connection.

The law enumerates further information which can help in proving the connection, such as producing a certificate issued by a Jewish community pertaining to the Portuguese Jewry, but not located in Portugal, which confirms that the applicant is a member of its community and participates in its ceremonies. Lastly, the law gives the Portuguese authorities the option to consult with the Jewish communities in Portugal in order to make a decision in the case of each applicant.

There is concern that this clause would bring about a situation in which the second option becomes disregarded, and the authorities in Portugal would redirect every request that comes in without confirmation by a Jewish community in Portugal to one of the Jewish communities, in a manner which would cause the process of any application for citizenship handed in to the Portuguese authorities without an appropriate Jewish community's certificate to take considerably longer, as it takes a roundabout route – from the authority to the community and back.

The main means of proof to the Jewish community or to the Portuguese authorities:

A. One of the principal elements is proving that the applicant's surname is included in the list of surnames pertaining to Portuguese Jews, recognized by the Portuguese government. It must be clarified that the latter is not the list of surnames drafted by the Portuguese government, but another list, which as mentioned above, was published as part of the law. It is worth noting once more that the list is partial and a surname is not a sufficient means for recognition.

B. Producing a confirmation that one is a member of a Sephardic Jewish community outside of Portugal, which upholds the customs of Portuguese Jewish prayer and community.

C. Producing proof through use of documents such as rabbinical court rulings, ketubahs, books, pictures, and research on the required connection.

D. Demonstrating descent through documents / genealogical research, which includes delineation of a family tree that is as detailed and goes as further back as possible.

In light of our office's expertise in legal counseling regarding historical events, we believe that suitable historical-genealogical research can indicate in the most efficient and clear way the specific Portuguese origins of each client. It is important to note that the leniencies offered to those requesting a Portuguese citizenship under condition of being descendants of Portuguese Jews during the expulsion must still stand up to several conditions that any applicant must face, such as lack of a criminal record.

We believe that in order to obtain the Portuguese citizenship one must receive proper representation both in Israel and in Portugal itself. Our partner in Portugal is a large, leading law office, with several branches, that has taken upon itself the representation of our clients in conjunction with the authorities in charge of approving the applications for citizenship.

We are proud of having represented the first Israeli citizen to receive a Portuguese citizenship under the amendment to the law, which enables descendants of the exiled Jews to become Portuguese citizens.

Portuguese passport

After receiving the citizenship from the Portuguese government, any citizen can apply for a Portuguese passport.

The Portuguese passport is a European passport which allows free movement through all the European Union member countries; makes unnecessary the need for a visa in order to enter the United States of America; facilitates and makes it possible to enter countries into which entry is difficult or impossible for Israeli citizens. The process of obtaining the passport itself in Portugal is considered quite simple.

Residency permits in Portugal Portugal's economic situation is not good these days, but there are manty other good reasons to live there, primarily that the cost of living in Portugal is decidedly cheaper than all Western Europe countries. On top of this, one can include the attending one of several important academic faculties across the country.

These and other reasons bring about the need for obtaining residency permits for short or long periods from the Portuguese Ministry of Interior. With the help of Portuguese lawyers, who work in the field, we assist our clientele in obtaining the required residency permit. We examine each case and advise our clients whether to combine the request for a residency permit with another process - be it a derivative of the reception of an investor visa or as part of the process towards the acquisition of a full-fledged Portuguese citizenship.

With the help of large and well-known law firm in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, our office aids and walks its clients through the process, and through the location of suitable real-estate properties in Portugal and, if necessary, its renting, with the aid of a local real-estate agent.

Please contact us through the contact form or at 03-5101159 and we will be happy to help.

We are proud of having represented the first Israeli citizen to receive a Portuguese citizenship under the amendment to the law, which enables descendants of the exiled Jews to become Portuguese citizens.