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SPAIN – Citizenship for Descendants of Sephardic Jews


Effective 1 October 2015, a new law (Ley 12/2015) grants Spanish citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews.


Under the new law, descendants of Sephardic Jews will be granted Spanish citizenship without first holding a residence status in Spain, and without renouncing their nationality, if they meet the required criteria. Applicants must prove their Sephardic background and show a special link to Spain, such as donations to a Spanish charity or investment in Spanish property.

Applicants over the age of 18 must also pass a test of Spanish language and knowledge of the culture and constitution of Spain. A criminal record certificate will also be required from any country in which the applicant has lived during the previous five years, as well as the applicant’s birth certificate. The citizenship application must be submitted online here before 1 October 2018 (although the deadline may be extended an additional year).


Spain and Portugal both expelled Sephardic Jews in in the fifteenth century. Earlier this year, a similar citizenship law came into effect in Portugal, with looser qualifying requirements. There are an estimated 3.5 million people of Sephardic heritage around the world, but it is expected that only a small proportion will apply for Spanish or Portuguese citizenship.

Action Items

  • Consider a Spanish or Portuguese citizenship application for employees who are of Sephardic heritage.