Portuguese Citizenship Regimes

Sephardic Ancestry

Descendants of Sephardic Jews from all over the world are now entitled to apply for Portuguese nationality, with all the associated benefits of having an EU passport.

For some, the Portuguese passport will represent the return to the lost homeland. For others it is an opportunity to gain free access to the European Union.

In 1492, Spain’s Catholic monarchs passed the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews, forcing Spanish Jews to either convert (Anusim) or leave the dominion.

Most found shelter in Portugal but, later on, the Portuguese King was pressured to evict all Portuguese Jews. All non-converts left to North Africa, Amsterdam, Thessaloniki, Constantinople, France, Morocco, Brazil, Curaçao or the Antilles, keeping the ladino (Espanolit) language.

Sephardic Jews, such as Baruch Spinoza or David Ricardo, kept their family house keys as a reminder of their lost past in the Iberian Peninsula throughout their diaspora.


Portuguese Sephardic ancestry

If you can trace your Jewish origins back to Portugal, you can apply for the Portuguese citizenship.

The Portuguese Government approved a new law that enables descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago to enter and live in Portugal or in the Schengen Area. Portuguese citizens have free access to all countries within the Schengen area and can engage in free trade, open bank accounts, work or incorporate companies in any EU country.

The Portuguese Nationality allows for dual nationality, enabling new citizens to retain their previous citizenship and having an EU passport.


Applicants must have their criminal record verified in order to apply for citizenship and must produce evidence of their Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Evidence may include Sephardic Jewish traditions, family names, objects and documents that allow applicants to prove a Portuguese Sephardic ancestral origin.

Citizenship applies to:

  • Adult or emancipated foreigners (family members’ citizenship may be applied for after);
  • That have not been convicted of a crime punishable, according to Portuguese Criminal Law, with imprisonment for a minimum of three years.

UPDATE April 2017: Minors may also apply.

Therefore, it is not necessary either to speak Portuguese or to reside in Portugal, as required by the normal route into citizenship by naturalization.

There are no minimum stay requirements and Portugal does not levy taxes based on citizenship or on wealth.

It is also possible to marry in Portugal without any religious ceremony or implications.

Portuguese Citizenship

Our team provides counsel to individuals and families in relation to obtaining Portuguese citizenship in accordance with the Portuguese Nationality Law.

The Portuguese passport allows for visa-free travel to 155 jurisdictions, ranking in fourth place along Austria, Luxembourg, Singapore and the United States of America.

Portugal allows multiple citizenship and does not limit the number of other citizenships its nationals may have. Portuguese citizens do not have to renounce their foreign citizenship. Please note that there is no international treaty which determines or limits the nationality or citizen status of a person. Such matters are governed exclusively by the laws of each country or jurisdiction which vary and can be inconsistent with each other.

All successful applicants for Portuguese citizenship receive the same type of passport as native citizens and are entitled to the same rights.

Among other requirements, Portuguese citizenship is granted to:

  1. foreign citizens of Portuguese ancestry;
  2. foreign citizens by naturalization, married to a Portuguese citizen;
  3. foreign citizens living in Portugal under a permanent residency permit;
  4. children born in Portugal if both parents are legal residents of Portugal for five years or the minor concludes the first compulsory stage of education in Portugal;
  5. foreign citizens by adoption;
  6. foreign citizens of Portuguese ancestry born in overseas territories while such territories were part of Portugal*.

*Goa, Damão, Diu, Dadrá, Nagar Aveli, Angola, Mozambique, Guiné Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Macau and Timor-Leste.


This page only contains an overview of the possible implications and benefits related to a specific topic. It is not to be used in place of proper and complete professional advice, as it does not constitute a binding legal opinion nor does it consider the particularities of your case.