Portugal might block the road to citizenship for Sephardi Jews

The ruling Socialist party is proposing to demand applicants to show an effective connection to Portugal

 (photo credit: SHAHAR TAMIR)
(photo credit: SHAHAR TAMIR)
In 2015 Portugal amended its citizenship law to allow Sephardi Jews, descendants of those persecuted and expelled from the country, to obtain Portuguese citizenship. Tens of thousands of Jews, mainly from Turkey and Israel applied and obtained citizenship under this regime. A recent proposed amendment by the ruling Socialist party might put an end to this.

What does the amendment say? 
"The Government may grant citizenship by naturalization…to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews…. That have shown an effective connection to Portugal. The requirement for an effective connection applies to all requests received from January 1st 2022.  
The dramatic addition here is the condition that the applicant has an effective connection to Portugal. The amendment does not specify what would be sufficient to meet this requirement. The amendments' explanatory notes shed a light on the way the submitters see the fact that Portuguese citizenship has become a great success in Israel and in Turkey.
This is the reasoning of the amendment:
It is necessary to assure that the Portuguese nationality is not made into a tradable asset. Since 2017 there has been an exponential increase in the number of requests for naturalization by Sephardic Jews. The number has risen from 4.000 in 2017, to over 21.000 in 2019.  4,000 requests have been made since January 2020 alone. This increase is likely to continue because a similar law in Spain expired in October 2019.
Most of the applicants for Portuguese citizenships are Israeli and Turks who do not live in the country and do not have any ties to Portugal. 
The current system allowed for the creation of specialized companies that sell, through aggressive advertising, the Portuguese citizenship as a way of acquiring the advantages of an EU passport, exemption from visa requirements in many countries, such as the USA and the right to live in the member states of the EU. This distorts the purpose of the nationality law – to express the ties between an individual and the Portuguese government. The lack of affectional ties to Portugal grants other countries the right not to recognize that nationality, which could affect all Portuguese citizens. Portugal should grant Portuguese citizenship to those who possess affectional ties to the country, not to those who see it as a matter of convenience. 
It is thus justified the necessity to request that Sephardi Jews share a relevant connection with Portugal.
Not to hinder legitimate expectations we propose a transition period during which the current system will still apply.
How do we see the situation following this proposal?
Accepting this proposal would inject an element of uncertainty to the application process. Meeting this new requirement will increase the costs of the process too. This amendment would likely discourage many potential applicants from applying.
However, due to the Covid 19 crisis, the parliament in Portugal is busy with more pressing matters. It is still unclear when this amendment will be discussed and decided.
Applications submitted under the current legal system will be decided according to the current requirements of the law and will not be affected by a future amendment.
It is evident from this proposal that the option for Sephardi Jews to obtain Portuguese citizenship is in Jeopardy. The window of opportunity might close soon. Preparing a typical citizenship application for submission takes up to six months. Sephardi Jews that are considering applying should hurry. Things might get worse soon.
For more information, visit Yoram Zara Law website here.