Portugal grants citizenship to 10,000 descendants of Sephardi Jews
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Portugal grants citizenship to 10,000 descendants of Sephardi Jews

After 2015 law opens up opportunity for citizenship, Israelis soar to second place in list of nations requesting Portuguese passports

The Spanish Inquisition Tribunal, a 19th century work by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. (Wikimedia Commons/CC BY)
The Spanish Inquisition Tribunal, a 19th century work by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. (Wikimedia Commons/CC BY)

JTA — Portugal has approved about a third of approximately 33,000 applications for citizenship under its 2015 law for descendants of Sephardic Jews, according to official data.

Applications based on the 2015 law, primarily from Israel, Turkey, Brazil and Venezuela, are behind a 10 percent increase in applications in 2018, which saw 41,324 such requests in 2018, the Publico magazine in Portugal reported last month. It was the highest tally in at least five years.

The report did not say how many applications have been declined.

Israel, which used to provide Portugal with no more than a few dozen new citizens per year before 2015, provided 4,289 applications in 2018 — the second-highest number of any country after Brazil. Israelis submitted more applications for naturalization than even former Portuguese colonies like Cape Verde (4,259) and Angola (1,953).

The Kadoorie Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in Europe. (Wikipedia/Bricking/CC BY-SA)

Citizens of Turkey, who in past years had made few applications for Portuguese citizenship, accounted for 1,141 last year. Venezuelans submitted 562 such requests.

The Foreigners and Borders Service told Publico the increase owed primarily to the law about descendants of Sephardi Jews passed in 2015.

Portugal passed that law shortly before Spain passed a similar law, which is more restrictive and ends in October 2019. Thousands of descendants of Sephardic Jews have obtained Spanish citizenship. Portugal’s law is open-ended. Both countries said the law was to atone for the Catholic Church-led persecution of Jews in the 15th and 16th centuries, known as the Inquisition.

Many Israelis sought to obtain Portuguese citizenship because it grants an unrestricted right to travel to and among 26 European nations that are members of the so-called Schengen Area.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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