112,000 Israelis applied for Portuguese nationality since 2015

Written By Manuel Poças

More than 112 thousand Israelis applied for Portuguese nationality under the Sephardic law in the last eight years.

The Sephardic law, which was approved in 2013 but only came into effect in 2015, established the possibility for the descendants of Sephardic Jews (those expelled from Portugal by the end of the 15th century) to obtain Portuguese nationality according to a special procedure.

According to an investigation made by the Portuguese media, between 2015 and 2022, 112 297 Israeli nationals took advantage of the referred legislation and contacted the Portuguese Ministry of Justice for the purpose of obtaining Portuguese nationality, which was granted.

One of the most famous figures to obtain Portuguese nationality under Sephardic law was ex-Mossad Director, Tamir Pardo. Pardo, who was in charge of the Israeli secret services between 2011 and 2016, became a Portuguese national in 2018. Since then, the ex-director became the owner of a medical cannabis plantation in Vila de Rei, Portugal.

Even though the Portuguese passport is among the most valuable in the world (in terms of Visa-free entries), the law was perceived, by those seeking it, as a safety net. The possibility granted by its application allowed Israelis to have a Plan B in case the conditions in the Middle East became unbearable and there was the need to escape like there is today.

However, last Friday, the Portuguese Parliament approved a law proposal made by the Government that intends to put an end to it. According to the relevant sources, the Sephardic Law is supposed to be revoked on January 1st, 2024.

During the debate that preceded the voting, the Portuguese Minister of Justice explained that the special regime granted by the law has been in place for over ten years and that, even though it represents a valid recognition, it has served its purpose.

The Minister also explained that the future ending of the Sephardic Law does not necessarily mean that descendants of Sephardic Jews will not be able to apply for and obtain, Portuguese nationality. It only means the ending of a special treatment.

From January 1st onwards, those descending from sephardic jews, like everyone else, will be subject to the general rules of the Portuguese Nationality Law.

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