Published On: Thu, Oct 27th, 2016

Portugal Has Only approved 292 out of 3, 838 of Sephardic Jewish applications for citizenship

Since March 2015, when descendants of Jews persecuted 500 years were granted the right to apply for citizenship, Portugal has only approved 8% of the applications.

Jewish Sephardic Man holding Torah returning to Trancoso,   Portugal 370. (photo creditCourtesy Michael Freund)

Only 8% (292 out of 3, 838) of the applications for Portuguese citizenship has approved to Sephardic Jews who were persecuted under the Inquisition, by Portugal’s Institute of Registers and Notaries (IRN), Público newspaper reported.

Both Portugal and Spain in 2014 announced that they would allow Jews who can prove that their ancestors were expelled from those nations at the end of the 15th Century to apply for a right of return of sorts and to become citizens.

The Jewish Community of Oporto, Portugal, who are responsible for checking existing documentation of the applicants’ ancestors, often written in Ladino, has begun the process after Portugal approved the law in March of 2015.

The rights apply to those who can demonstrate “a traditional connection” to Portuguese Sephardic Jews, such as through “family names, family language, and direct or collateral ancestry.”

Spain Grants Citizenship to 4,302 Sephardic Jews Under New Law

The portugues Público reported that of the 3, 546 unapproved applications, none have yet been denied. They remain in treatment. The daily citing the Ministry of Justice, to which the IRN belongs, was quoted that the process requires “a rigorous examination of the submitted documents” along with the verification of the submitted data with public bodies, such as the ministry’s own Judicial Police, the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Foreigners and Borders Service and the Directorate-General of Justice Administration.

According to Lisbon-based Público, a plurality of applications have thus far come from Turkey (about 50%), Israel (31%) and Brazil follow. When the law first came into effect, the IRN had a monthly average of about 46 applications which this year grew to 374, the Ministry of Justice said.


Sephardic Jews Can Start Applying for Return to Portugal

on 31 March 1492, the Catholic rulers of Spain , Ferdinand and Isabella ordering the expulsion of practicing Jews from the Castile and Aragon and its territories by 31 July.

Over 200, 000 Jews converted to Catholicism and between 40, 000 and 100, 000 were expelled. Some 80, 000 of them crossed the border into Portugal. In 1496 King Manuel I marry Isabella of Aragon the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Eager to find favor with Spain, he gave the Jews 10 months to convert or leave. When they opted to leave, Manuel issued a new decree prohibiting their departure and forcing them to embrace Roman Catholicism as “New Christians.” They forced to adopt new names,  and eat pork in public to prove their devotion to Catholicism.

Some of the “New Christians” kept their traditions secretly alive. observing the sabbath at home then going to church on Sunday. In 1506 more than 2, 000 “New Christians” Jews are believed to have been murdered in Lisbon, by local people.


Requests for citizenship should be addressed by digital means to the following email address: [email protected]. An applicant should include all of the supporting documentary evidence as may be required for a proper evaluation of the matter and decision.


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