Cátia Neto Ferreira
March 23, 2022
Portuguese Nationality Regulation on requests for nationality by descendants of Sephardic Jews
Decree-Law n.º 26/2022, of 18 March, amended the Portuguese Nationality Regulation (DL n. June), bringing answers and (un)certainties regarding questions that had been raised with the latest amendments to the Nationality Law.
However, coincidentally with the most recent news, or perhaps not, the aforementioned decree-law, through several amendments to article 24-A of the Regulation in force, introduces novelties regarding the request for Portuguese nationality by naturalization, of descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, to which this information is limited.
Indeed, paragraph 7 of art. 6 of the Nationality Law (Law nº 37/81, of October 3, in the wording given to it by Law nº 2/2020, of November 10) provides that “the Government may grant nationality by naturalization, with exemption from the requirements set out in subparagraphs b) and c) of no. 1, to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, by demonstrating the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal, namely surnames, family language, direct or collateral descent.”
The new regulation introduced, in addition to the three requirements that the previous one already provided, a new requirement, under subparagraph d) of paragraph 1 of article 24-A: demonstration of a tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin based on proven objective requirements for connection to Portugal, namely surnames, family language, direct or collateral descent. It is true that the previous regulation referred, under paragraph 2, that in the application to be submitted by the interested party, the circumstances that determine the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin are indicated and demonstrated, namely, family surnames, family language, direct descent or family relationship in the collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin.
It is not, however, the same thing, as an unprepared first reading might lead us to consider. First of all, one thing is a grant requirement and another is a complementary indication and means of proof and, as a requirement, it is more demanding, not only because of its nature of being a requirement, but also because of the wording given to it with reference to that the demonstration of a tradition of belonging is based on proven objective requirements for connection to Portugal, which in the previous wording was not so clearly evidenced, thus emphasizing what is provided for in the nationality law, when it refers to “proven objective requirements for connection to Portugal”. to Portugal”.
This is demonstrated in the evidence that becomes necessary, which includes in paragraph 3, under two new paragraphs, i) and ii), the combination of ownership, transmitted mortis causa, of rights in rem over real estate located in Portugal, of other personal rights of enjoyment, or shareholdings in commercial companies or cooperatives headquartered in Portugal; or regular travel throughout the applicant’s life to Portugal.
Therefore, there is no doubt that it is mandatory to demonstrate not only this tradition of belonging, but also that it is based on objective requirements of proven connection to Portugal so that the member of the Government responsible for the area of justice or, by delegation, the chairman of the IRN’s board of directors, or another sub-delegate by it (possibilities attributed by the amendment resulting from article 28 of the Regulation), grants the nationality to the interested party.
As has been the case until now, the demonstration of the tradition could be carried out through the presentation of the certificate of the Jewish community, attesting to the aforementioned tradition, or, failing that, through the means of proof listed, in a non-exhaustive way, in no. 5 of the said article. However, it is now provided that these necessary means of proof are the same that the interested party must present for the purpose of issuing the certificate of the Jewish community. In other words, the interested party can, with the same means of proof that he gathers, apply for a certificate attesting to the tradition of a Jewish community or proceed directly with the request for Portuguese nationality, leaving the analysis of the means of proof of the tradition entirely in charge. of the person responsible for granting nationality. Therefore, even if the person responsible for granting nationality is aware of the evidence gathered in the Jewish community for the purpose of issuing the certificate, which happens as a result of the amendment resulting from paragraph 7 of the aforementioned article, which now establishes the mandatory Jewish community, when issuing the certificate, attaching to it all the documents that served as evidence and that these must necessarily accompany the request for the acquisition of Portuguese nationality, we believe that the person responsible for the conception of nationality cannot place in causes the analysis and interpretation carried out by the Jewish community, under penalty of losing the useful effect of the certificate, and this extra procedure is no longer necessary, which, as is known, has an extra cost for the interested party. In the wake of such an understanding, paragraph 6 of the aforementioned article is maintained, admitting the legislator, albeit indirectly, that the Jewish community has a greater knowledge of the means of evidence and their interpretation to be accepted as evidence of tradition.
The Regulation also adds the obligation for the Jewish certificate to be issued using a model, still to be approved, which, in addition to the elements that were already mandatory, must include “the indication of the means of proof presented for this purpose” and, in particular, the “identification of the elements considered relevant to attest to the tradition of belonging to that community”.
With these amendments, the legislator seems to want to ensure that the person responsible for granting nationality has no doubts that the interested party has a tradition of belonging to a Portuguese Sephardic community and, necessarily, an effective connection to Portugal.
However, these changes concerning the nationality applications of descendants of Sephardic Jews, unlike the other changes that come into force on April 15, come into force only on September 1st, 2022, with the exception of the order referred to in the no. 4 of art. 24-A, concerning the model to be approved of the certificate of the Jewish community.