On June 11, 2015, Spain approved a law that enables descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled as a result of the 1492 expulsion to receive Spanish citizenship. The law stipulates an “open application period” starting on Oct. 1, 2015, for a period of two years, with a possible one-year extension.


As the Seattle Sephardic Network obtains more information, we will share what we learn with the community.

For the most detailed information at the moment, we refer our community to a comprehensive FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions page) prepared by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities. We also invite you to review a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Luis Portero, the federation’s attorney who visited Seattle on Sept. 1-3 to speak and meet with our community.

The application for Spanish citizenship will have several provisions, including a requirement to provide evidence demonstrating Sephardic and Spanish lineage. In Seattle, that evidence of lineage likely would be documented via Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, Sephardic Bikur Holim and/or Seattle Sephardic Brotherhood. These organizations have begun communicating with the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities about the acceptance process for validating a person’s lineage.


By Dana Behar


The starting point to pursue this process is the Jewish Community of Oporto, whose website

and contact information appear below.  This organization has been granted the authority to

predetermine who meets the qualifications to apply for citizenship under this program. 

Those who succeed in this process will be granted a certificate issued by the Jewish Community

of Oporto, which they can then use in their application for Portuguese citizenship.  


Jewish Community of Oporto

Nationality Law Committee

Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue (Oporto synagogue)

Address: Rua de Guerra Junqueiro, 340, Porto, Portugal




The applicable Portuguese Law states the following: "The Portuguese Government may grant nationality to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who demonstrate a traditional connection to a Community with Portuguese Sephardic origins, based on proven objective requirements of a connection with Portugal, such as family names, family language, direct or collateral ancestry."

These are the conditions under which Portuguese nationality may be granted:

1. Portuguese nationality may be granted to descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, who after leaving Portugal, due to religious persecution (1496-1821), maintained ties with “organized communities” that were typically Portuguese, such as those that existed in Salonika and Smyrna before being decimated by the Shoah (KK Portugal, KK Portugal Velho, KK Lisbon, KK Évora, etc.); or had ties with the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogues in London, Amsterdam, Curaçau, Suriname, etc.

2. Portuguese nationality may be granted to applicants whose families once abandoned the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) and for centuries have been integrated into Portuguese and Spanish communities, commonly known as "Sephardim" (Turkey, Greece, former Yugoslavia, Morocco, etc.), rife with marriages between Jews of Portuguese origin and Jews of Spanish origin and who used the language known as Ladino (a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish languages with local languages). Those applicants may obtain the certificate, even if they cannot find "Portuguese” surnames in their known genealogy.


3. Portuguese nationality may be granted to all those descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who after leaving Portugal, due to religious persecution, travelled far and wide, whether in an organized manner or not, as part of a community or not and whether belonging to a synagogue or not, and who maintain an emotional connection to Portugal, even if they have since, by virtue of circumstances, become part or not of other Jewish Communities, whether Sephardic or Ashkenazi.


To apply for citizenship, applicants must send (via email is fine):


  • Contact details.

  • Copy of passport.

  • Birth certificate or similar document that contains applicant’s date of birth, place of birth and names of parents.

  • Proof of residence (examples include electricity, water or telephone bills or other official documents that contain the applicant's address).

  • All of the supporting documentary evidence of the applicant’s family history of connection to a Sephardic Community of Portuguese origin.

  • Proof of Judaism (examples include a Certificate of a Chief Rabbi, letter of an orthodox Rabbi recognized by organizations with halachic credibility, teudat nisuin of the parents, ketubah, membership of and orthodox community, etc.) The applicant for Portuguese nationality must be Jewish in accordance with halacha or have at least one Jewish grandparent, without which it is not possible to claim an emotional and traditional connection with the former Portuguese Sephardic Community. Many orthodox rabbis and Jewish organizations collaborate indirectly with the Jewish Community of Oporto. The government requires proof of Judaism of the applicants. So far the community has received hundreds of letters from Orthodox rabbis from 23 countries attesting that the applicants are Jews and Sephardic descendants.

  • In addition, the committee requires information regarding the applicant's family, namely the country of origin of the parents and grandparents and all their surnames.

  • Does your family speaks/spoke Ladino? Can the applicant prove this?

  • Does the applicant have a family tree? Which surnames are found in the family tree? There are hundreds of surnames of Portuguese origin and others that, although not of Portuguese origin, were used by descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews.

  • A letter signed by the applicant saying s/he is Sephardic (or a descendant of Sephardic Jews originating from Sefarad).


Once the committee has all of the documents, it will let applicants know via email whether they appear meet the committee's qualifications. Applicants who meet the requirements will need to provide the committee with a fee of 500 Euros for the first member of the family, with 250 Euros for each additional family member, and will need to complete a basic information form provided by the committee. Here are more details about the fee:


  1. Please send us proof of payment of the Committee's fee. Payment of the Committee’s fee to review the request (in the amount of €500.00 for the first member of the family and more €250.00 for other members of the same family) must be made by bank transfer to the account of the Jewish Community of Oporto.

    Bank: Santander Totta, Branch: Porto, 0018 - Porto Julio Dinis, Rua Júlio Dinis, 818, 4050-322 Porto, Swift code: TOTAPTPL, IBAN: PT 50 0018 000013154515001 80, Account: 000013154515001 80 

    The bank transfer MUST identify the applicant's name or the names of the applicants.

    All transfer and banking charges shall be borne by the applicant.

  2. Please confirm the personal data (writing on the computer, not handwriting) in the attached form and send us the form in Excel format. Attached is a form you will have to fill in with your personal data. It is crucial that the information on this form is correct since it will be used in the issuance of your certificate. We advise you that a certificate with incorrect or incomplete data will not be valid. The reissue of certificates owing to errors and lapses attributable to applicants may take about two months. Unfortunately the work of community administrative department has been greatly disrupted and hampered by the constant reissuing of imperfect certificates owing to errors and lapses attributable to the applicants. You must therefore take the greatest care in completing the form.


With this, they will issue a certificate. However, to obtain the certificate, applicants must also send all of the documents included via email to them via post.  


Once the certificate is obtained, applicants will need to work with a local Portuguese law firm to complete their application. The firm of Yolanda Busse (see contact information below) is highly recommended, but there are several others that will also do this work.  


Sara Luís Dias


Yolanda Busse, Oehen Mendes & Associados

Sociedade de Advogados, r.l.

Avenida Dr. Antunes Guimarães, 700

P-4100-075 Porto, Portugal

Tel: +351.226.100.001

Fax: + 351.226.184.567


The lawyer will inform the applicant that the request for Portuguese Nationality addressed to the Portuguese Government by Lawyers must be accompanied by these documents:


  1. The referred certificate issued by a recognized Jewish Community in Portugal (Jewish Community of Oporto or Jewish Community of Lisbon) that attests to the applicant's ties to a Jewish Sephardic Community of Portuguese Origin.

  2. Full copy of Applicant’s Passport certified by a Portuguese Consulate (including all the pages, with or without information; front and back cover).

  3. Power of attorney granting specific powers to lawyers (Please indicate us your status, residence and send a copy of the passport to prepare the draft).

  4. Applicant’s birth certificate issued within the previous six months and certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the document in question.

  5. Translation into Portuguese of the above mentioned birth certificate issued within the previous six months and certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the document in question.

  6. Criminal record from the applicant’s country of birth and country of which s/he is a citizen, as well as from those countries where the applicant has resided, issued within the previous 90 days, certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the documents in question.

  7. Translation into Portuguese of the above mentioned criminal records certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the document in question.

  8. Applicant’s marriage certificate issued within the previous six months and certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the document in question.

  9. Translation into Portuguese of the above mentioned birth certificate issued within  the previous six months and certified by the Portuguese Consulate of the country of origin of the document in question.

  10. Portuguese Criminal Record (which the applicant’s Lawyers may obtain for applicant in Portugal).

  11. Indication of the circumstances which establish the connection to a Portuguese community of Sephardic origin and some evidence of such circumstances, not only by means of the Certificate issued by the Jewish Community of Portugal, which will require some restatement of those criteria that provided such evidence.  


Once the documents have been assembled, the applicant must send them to the lawyer, along with payment for the applications process.  With regard to this process, the above mentioned law firm indicates the following:


Please be advised that we have no responsibility if you cannot obtain Portuguese nationality. We will do all we can to assist you for this purpose, and we think that, with the referred certificate from the Community, there is a real probability of success, but we cannot ensure any result.


In relation to our fees: Assuming we encounter no difficulties and no additional proceedings are required, we estimate 750.00 Euros + VAT (tax), in a total of 922.50 Euros, per case.


This value does not include disbursements and costs such as any copies, records, travel, translations, communications, etc., for which we ask for an advance payment of 500.00 Euros + VAT (tax), in a total of 615.00 Euros, relating to the registry costs and to initial estimate for disbursements.


The payment (total of 1,537.50 Euros) of that amount can be made to the following account:

Yolanda Busse, Oehen Mendes & Associados

Millennium BCP

Account no 23103752

NIB: 0033 0000 0002 3103 75205

IBAN: PT50 0033 0000 0002 3103 75205

wiftcode: BCOMPTPL




The above is largely quoted from other sources, primarily the Jewish Community of Oporto the law firm of Yolanda Busse. The information is shared for informational purposes only. Any of the above items is subject to change.  


The starting point for all work related to obtaining Portuguese citizenship under this program is the Nationality Law Committee of the Jewish Community of Oporto. Once you make contact with the committee in this endeavor, you will be directed to the steps needed to follow to complete the process.


Wishing you the best of luck in your effort to reclaim your Portuguese citizenship!


The Seattle Sephardic Network website

is your online portal to news, events and information related to the Sephardic Community in the Seattle area.


Mailing address: 

Seattle Sephardic Network

300 Queen Anne Ave. N.  #267
Seattle, WA 98109-4599

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