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Draft Bill No. 72/XV/1st on Portuguese Nationality for Sephardim

According to the Communiqué of the Council of Ministers of April 6, 2023, in its item 5, it informs that the draft law was approved, to be submitted to the Assembly of the Republic, which amends the Nationality Law.

Among the proposed amendments, a time limit is set for the validity of the regime that allows descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews to apply for Portuguese nationality.

Background of the Law

Organic Law No. 1/2013, of July 29, 2013, amending Law No. 37/81, of October 3, 1981, approving the Nationality Law, allowed descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin expelled from Portugal at the end of the 15th century to acquire Portuguese nationality by naturalization, dispensing with the requirements of residence in Portugal and knowledge of the Portuguese language.

This regime aimed to promote a historical reparation for the persecutions suffered by the Jewish community since the reign of King Manuel I, making possible the return to the Portuguese community of the descendants of the Jews expelled or fled from the Inquisition who objectively demonstrated the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.

Statistics

In this context, by the end of 2021, some 140,000 naturalization applications had been filed and some 57,000 descendants had been granted Portuguese nationality.

Since 2017, there has been an exponential increase in naturalization applications – a trend exacerbated by the repeal, in 2019, of the regime approved in Spain for the same purpose – from approximately 7,000 applications per year in 2017, to more than 50,000 in 2021.

In 2021, these applications will account for 72% of all applications for acquisition of Portuguese nationality by naturalization.

At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of naturalization applications from family members of citizens who have obtained Portuguese naturalization.

Connection with Portugal

Almost all naturalized persons do not live in or have ties to Portugal, contrary to what was intended with the establishment of the regime.

Given this context, it is justified to include in the Nationality Law the requirement that descendants of Sephardic Jews must have an effective and current connection with Portugal, demonstrating, at the time of application, the existence of this connection with the country and the national community.

In this way, access to Portuguese nationality is guaranteed to those who wish to have an effective link with the national community.

Sephardic Jewish Ancestors

At the same time, taking into account that only Portugal currently has a naturalization regime for foreigners based solely on the distant ancestry of Sephardic Jews who were expelled more than five centuries ago from the Iberian Peninsula and that said regime has been in force for seven years, it is understood that the purpose of historical reparation pursued by Organic Law 1/2013, of July 29, 2013, has been fulfilled.

Historical Reparation

Given that no historical reparation regime should be eternal, it is considered that a time limit should be established for the validity of the exception regime for the descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin, as occurred in Spain, whose regime had a limited application in time and was very demanding for the granting of Spanish nationality to the descendants of Sephardic Jews.

The experience gathered also recommends the collection of biometric data of those interested in Portuguese nationality, in order to strengthen the mechanisms for verifying the reliability of the data communicated by the interested parties in the nationality process.

Possible changes in Law 37/81

As possible changes to the Portuguese Nationality Law for Sephardim, would be the following:

  • The existence of effective connection links with the national community will be verified by means of:
  • Sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language.
  • Not to have been convicted, with a custodial sentence of one year or more, for a crime punishable under Portuguese law.
  • Not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defense.
  • Collection of biometric data In order to verify the reliability of the data submitted in the nationality process, the following biometric data may be collected from the interested parties (a) facial image; b) Fingerprints; c) Height.

Entry into force and effects

This law shall enter into force on the day following its publication. 2 – The provisions would enter into force on January 1, 2024, not affecting the examination of applications for the granting of Portuguese nationality submitted on the basis of articles 6 and 7 of Law 37/81, until December 31, 2023.

Cybergraphy

Communiqué of the Council of Ministers of April 6, 2023:

https://www.portugal.gov.pt/pt/gc23/governo/comunicado-de-conselho-de-ministros?i=544

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