Portuguese Nationality Law —Additional rules for Sephardic Ancestry

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Portuguese citizenship regime for people with Jewish Sephardic ancestry will soon face restrictions.

The Socialist Party is Portugal’s ruling party. Despite being the same party that first implemented the law, it has promoted the discussion on restricting applications.

The Portuguese passport is a valued travel document, allowing visa-free traveling to more than 180 jurisdictions, including the United States of America, and the European Union.

Portuguese citizens can live in any European Union country and Portugal’s healthcare and education systems are mostly free of charge. Together with tax breaks (Non-habitual tax residency) the easiness of opening a bank account, own property, trade, and do business within Europe attracted many applicants. Many potential applicants perceived this to be a passport of convenience, going against the underlying purpose of the law: to correct the wrongs of the Inquisition in Portugal.

Furthermore, this regime has been marketed worldwide in a demeaning manner by companies and individuals. Most would provide legal services or advice without being Portuguese registered lawyers, a practice constituting a crime, and does not provide the needed level of protection to clients.

The back and forth discussion in the Portuguese Parliament of several proposals to restrict the granting of citizenship by adding additional requirements has come to an end. Several proposals proposal included the following requirements:

  1. Acquisition of real estate in Portugal
  2. Connection to Portugal
  3. Need to reside in Portugal for two years

Until now, the main requirement is the proof of Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

After the much-heated discussion involving experts, politicians, and Jewish communities, the Parliament stepped back from most attempts to severely limit applications for citizenship of descendants of Sephardi Jews.

Nevertheless, in July, the Portuguese Parliament approved some amendments to Portuguese Nationality Law. This new bill was approved by Parliament but vetoed by the President. In Portugal, a bill passed by the Parliament must be subsequently analyzed and sanctioned or vetoed by the President. The veto can, nevertheless, be surmounted by a new approval of the law by the Parliament.

The bill provides that the Government should enforce new objective requirements regarding proof of an effective connection to Portugal as a necessary step for citizenship. Implementation must take place within 90 days of the law being enacted. This is expected to happen sooner than later.

These changes will increase the complexity of each application and severely reduce the universe of eligible applicants. For this reason, we recommend filing your application as soon as possible while a more lenient regime is still in force.


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