Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Consideration 3: Spain and Portugal Pass Sephardic Right To Return

Spain finally passed the law of return for Sephardic Jews this past June. The law goes into effect in October 2015 but expires after three years, although it can be extended for another year if deemed necessary. Candidates must apply to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE) and they must hire a Spanish Notary and pass tests on the Spanish language and history. The law has many different hurdles the candidate must get over and has been defined as some as a bit excessive. Most of these hurdles are in the second section of the law, stating;
Spanish Parliament applauds after approving law
to grant citizenship to Sephardic Jews

"2. The condition of Sephardic jews originally from Spain will be attested through the following means of proof, evaluated as a whole:
a) Certificate issued by the President of the Permanent Commision of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain.

b) Certificate issued by the president or similar position of the jewish community of the area of residence or birthplace of the applicant.

c) Certificate of the competent rabbinic authority, legally recognised in the country of residence of the applicant.

The applicant may attach a certificate issued by the President of the Permanent Commision of Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities that endorses the authority condition of the expeditor. As an alternative, to prove the idoneity of the documents mentioned on b) and c), the applicant must provide:
1st. Copy of the original statute of the foreign religious entity.

2nd. Certificate of the foreign entity containing the names of those designated as legal representatives.

3rd. Certificate or documents proving that the foreign entity is legally recognised in its country of origin.

4th. Certificate issued by the legal representative of the entity which proves that the signatory rabbi currently and effectively holds such condition in accordance with the requirements established in the statutory rules.
In addition, the documents referred to in the previous paragraphs, exception made from the certificate issued by the President of the Permanent Commision of Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities, will be, when necessary, appropriately authorised, translated into Spanish by a sworn translator and shall contain the Apostille (of the Hague) or the pertinent seal of legalisation.
d) Accreditation of use of Ladino or “Haketia” as family language, or through other evidence that proves they traditionally belong to that community.

e) Birth certificate or “ketubah” or marriage certificate indicating its celebration according to the traditions of Castile.

f) Report issued by a sufficiently competent entity proving that the applicant’s surname belongs to the Spanish sephardic lineage.

g) Any other circumstance that can reliably prove the condition of Sephardic originally from Spain."

Portugal passed a similar law in January which became effective in late February with the first 21 citizenships being given by March 3rd, 2015. The Portuguese law is less strict than the Spanish law, requiring candidates to obtain a document issued by a Portugal-based Portuguese community attesting to their Portuguese Sephardic ancestry as well as providing their criminal record and birth certificate. To obtain the document attesting to Portuguese Sephardic ancestry a candidate must prove 

"the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, materialised, namely, in the family name of the applicant, native language, ancestry, and family memory."

or they must provide the following evidence;
  1. a)  Certified document, issued by the Jewish community that ther applicant belongs to, proving their usage of Portuguese expressions in Jewish rites, or as a language spoken by them in the heart of that community, the Ladino;
  2. b)  Certified records, such as registers from synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as residence permits, property titles, deeds of will, and other pieces of evidence of family connection from the applicant, through direct ancestry or family relationship in a collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin. 
Now that both Spain and Portugal have passed laws, it is interesting to look at the history of Sephardic Jews, Spanish Nationality Law, and Portuguese Nationality Law. In 1492 the Alhambra Decree was signed and brought in the Spanish Inquisition, requiring Jews to either convert to Catholicism or leave the country. In 1536 Portugal followed suit and began their own Inquisition against the Jews. It is said that when the Inquisitions happened the leading Rabbis declared a cherem on Spain, or a ban on living in Spain (oddly enough I never heard or read about a cherem being placed on Portugal). The expulsion from Spain was viewed by many leading Jews as a betrayal and even some Jews who converted to Catholicism (or pretended to) - such as Don Abraham Senior Coronel - were considered betrayers of their people. Fast forward about 500 years to 2013 and the first draft bills in both Portugal and Spain are being put forward to "right the wrongs on the Inquisition" by giving descendants of Sephardic Jews "the right to return" by granting fast-tracked citizenship. 

As I spoke about in The Consideration 2, some see this as a political ploy to bring money to their dying economies. A little unknown fact many people miss is that Portugal had already passed a "Jewish Law of Return" in April 2013 which allowed Sephardic Jews to gain a 'fast-tracked' citizenship. The law of return in Portugal was a bit stricter than that proposed in Spain; requiring applicants to have "belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin with ties to Portugal" and to show Sephardic names in their family tree. Interestingly enough this is an amendment to the already established law "Law On Nationality" which was established in 1981 and determined citizenship by whether one or both parents are citizens of the state as opposed to place of birth. This is called Jus Sanguinis, or right of blood, and makes it so someone born in Portugal can't gain citizenship without at least one parent having citizenship or having held residence for at least 6 years in Portugal.

There are still a lot of questions with both laws and it will be interesting to see how many applications are accepted come October. Many are saying that Spain's law is too strict and they should lighten their requirements, similar to Portugal. A lot of people seem skeptical and believe that this is a ploy to just help the Spanish and Portuguese economies out of their recent slumps. I'd be interested to hear from anyone with personal experience applying for the citizenship and any problems they may have encountered. Now it's time to consider if I want to start the process.

Read the Other "Consideration" articles;
The Consideration: Obtaining My Spanish Citizenship As A Sephardi
The Consideration 2: A Step Forward For Obtaining Spanish Citizenship
The Consideration 4: Starting the Process for Portuguese Citizenship


  1. Hi. Is there any update on this? Also, how does one get the Portuguese community to provide the verification?

  2. Hi. Is there any update on this? Also, how does one get the Portuguese community to provide the verification?

  3. Hi fellas,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful article really!
    If someone want to read more about that Country of Origin Certificate I think this is the right place for you!