Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Consideration: Obtaining My Spanish Citizenship as a Sephardi

I have been thinking about becoming a Spanish Citizen. Due to my ancestry I will be able to do so quite easily without losing my current citizenship in the United States. I'm just not yet sure if I want to go through with it, so I have been researching it quite extensively.

There has been a buzz for a few years now about people of Sephardic descent being able to obtain citizenship in Spain without having to denounce their current citizenship. Just the other day on the 7th day of February in the year 2014, the Spanish Cabinet passed a new law giving a 2 year window for descendants of Sephardic Jews to apply for fast-tracked citizenship. While this law is finally coming to fruition it has been in the works for many years now. 

In 1992, King Juan Carlos prayed at Beth Yaacov Synagogue in Madrid to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Alhambra Decree. King Carlos then declared "Sefarad is not nostalgia but a home which should not be said that Jews feel at home, because the Spanish-Jews are at home. What matters is not accounting for our mistakes or successes, but the will to project and analyze the past in terms of our future." In 2012 at a ceremony at Madrid’s Casa Sefarad-Israel the Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón announced the Spanish Government would be opening automatic citizenship for anyone who could prove they descended from Sephardic Jews. 

There was a major problem with the 2012 law which made it impossible to work. It required a Certificate from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (
Federación de Comunidades Judías de España) but the Federation refused to give out certificates until the Spanish government defined what documentation an applicant required to be considered Sephardi. Just over a year later the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain are now praising the law passed by the Spanish Cabinet. A statement they released about the law said “The minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, kept his word, and this honors him. Spain, once again, not only did not disappoint, but made a historical step for the Sephardic Jews”

The new law still must pass the Spanish Parliament before being officially implemented. While the law speeds up the process it still has stipulations which must be met. The law entails that the applicant prove they are Sephardi by one or more of the following requirements;

1. A certificate from the General Secretariat of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain saying the applicant is of Sephardic origin.

2. A certificate from the Rabbinical Authority legally recognized in the country in which the applicant resides.

3. Family names, languages, or other evidence of applicants connection to the Sephardic Community.

4. If said person was included in a list of Sephardic families protected by Spain such as the decree of December 29th, 1948 or those who obtained special naturalization through the royal decree of December 20th, 1924. 

5. The applicant can prove linkage to person or family member who the previous stipulation applies to.

6. In the event the application is sent to the civil registry office in charge of the residence of the applicant it will consider any applicant's sign of belonging to the Spanish community in their area.

If one or more of these stipulations are met then the applicant must also provide a statement of loyalty to the King of Spain and obedience to it's constitution and laws. The acquisition is then recorded in the Spanish Civil Registry. 

Now the question comes about of whether or not to go through with this...

If you would like to read the actual law please click link (warning: automatically downloads .pdf and is in Spanish);


  1. Thank you for your post! I have been following this as well, and am wondering how I could go about getting a certificate from the "Rabbinical Authority legally recognized in the " USA. Any ideas? And how to prove that one's grandparents spoke Ladino?

  2. There are no Rabbinical Authority legally recognized in the USA because we have a separation of Church and State, but from the wording of the document it seems that isn't a deal breaker as long as you fall under one of the other stipulations. As for proving your grandparents spoke Ladino, I assume they would want either a physical letter (something they wrote in Ladino), video of them speaking Ladino, or family traditions which would point to that (does your family use Ladino words around the house or have traditions linked to Sephardic culture?). Most of this is really up to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, so I am curious myself to see what they will require.

  3. Hello my name is Ann Horowitz and I'm working with a production company on a film about the Spanish Inquisition. I would love to speak to you about your blog....