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Guidelines for Sephardic Citizenship in Spain

Note: This process for obtaining Spanish citizenship is no longer available

Background

Recently enacted legislation permitting the conferral of Spanish nationality on  Sephardic Jews came into force on October 15th, 2015. Law 12/2015 establishes a new process by which all  those who can prove that they are descendants of Sephardic Jews and who have a special connection with Spain may obtain Spanish nationality.  

The application can be made online via the website of the Ministry of Justice and, as well as the conditions just mentioned, must demonstrate an understanding of the Spanish language. to level A2 or higher, (being exempt those applicants who are nationals of Spanish-speaking countries) as well as Knowledge of the Spanish Constitution and Sociocultural Practices.

The legislation is considered to be an act of atonement for the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century. These Jews were known as Sefardí in the Hebrew tongue, meaning ‘Spanish’. They were given the option of conversion to Christianity or expulsion from their country. The descendants of the Sephardic Jews that were originally expelled are now believed to be numbered in the millions.

Naturalisation Process

Under this new procedure, it is understood that the circumstances  required for Sephardic foreign nationals to obtain Spanish nationality by naturalization include proof:

  1. That they are descendants of Sephardic Jews, and
  2. That they have a special bond with Spain, even though they do not have legal residence here.

This new procedure avoids that by acquiring the Spanish nationality, the applicant must renounce their previous nationality ie they may have dual nationality.

Proof of Sephardic Origin

The legislation lists a number of documents to prove the status of Sephardic origin, not all of them are mandatory but the more that are presented the better. Also other documents proving Sephardic origin may be presented even though they are not on the list.

A certificate issued by the President of the Permanent Commission of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, which can be ordered on the website of the federation: https://certificadosefardies.fcje.org The cost of this certificate is 50 € (+VAT).

A certificate issued by the President or someone in a similar capacity of the Jewish community in the area of ​​residence or hometown of the interested and certificate of the competent rabbinic authority legally recognized in the country of habitual residence of the applicant.

In the case that the certificates issued by the President or similar charge of the Jewish community or by the competent rabbinic authority in the area of ​​residence or hometown are not accompanied by the certificate issued by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, the Law provides alternative methods to prove the applicant’s suitability by providing duly authorized, apostilled or legalized and, if necessary, translated into Spanish by an official translator, all of the following documents:

  • A copy of the original statutes of the foreign religious entity. A partial copy which contains the data that identifies the document itself, data of establishment, functioning, form of representation and purposes of the entity, will be considered sufficient
  • Foreign entity certificate that contains the names of those who have been appointed as legal representatives.
  • A certificate or document which proves that the foreign entity is legally recognized in its country of origin.
  • A certificate issued by the legal representative of the company attesting that the signatory Rabbi holds, effectively and currently, such status under the requirements set out in its statutes.
  • Other documents that help to prove the status of Sephardim of Spanish origin: the use of the Ladino language, certified by a competent entity or where the surnames of the applicant are Sephardic of Spanish lineage.
  • Unequivocally Sephardic surnames of Spanish origin:  proving the family genealogy or that their Sephardic surnames come from the Sephardim expelled from the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and Navarra or forced to convert to Christianity, since 1492.

Accreditation of Special Links with Spain

The evidence of the applicant’s special relationship requires passing an assessment test knowledge of language, culture and Spanish customs, managed worldwide by the Cervantes Institute. The applicant must show that they have passed the tests of both language and socio-cultural knowledge, DELE A2 and CCSE  Applicants from Spanish-speaking countries are exempted from the language test and the steps can be carried-out electronically.

The applicant may demonstrate that they have a special bond with Spain by any or all of the following:

  • Transcripts of Spanish history and culture issued by official or officially recognized private institutions.
  • Proof of knowledge of the Ladino language or “haketía”.
  • Inclusion of the petitioner or his direct descent in the lists of Sephardic families protected by Spain, that, with regard to Egypt and Greece, referred to in Decree-Law of 29 December 1948, or from those who obtained their special naturalization via the Royal Decree of 20 December 1924.
  • Blood relationship of the applicant with a person referred to in letter c).
  • Realization of charitable, cultural or economic activities  involving Spanish persons or carried-out in Spanish territory as well as those developed in support of institutions oriented to the study, preservation and dissemination of Sephardic culture.
  • Any other circumstances that clearly establish special links with Spain.

Procedure

The required documentation must be submitted electronically with the application. Thus the notary makes ​​a preliminary assessment and avoids unnecessary displacement by the applicant where they have not fulfilled the requirements for granting of Spanish nationality.

The accreditation of the notorious fact concerning the status of Sephardic origin is conducted before a Spanish Notary, appointed by the General Council of Notaries taking into account the preferences expressed by the applicant.

The applicant must personally attend the appointed notary, in Spain. Only in case of minors or applicants with legal capacity modified are can be replaced the personal appearance by its legal representative.

Deadlines

Those interested should formalise their request no later than three years after the entry into force of the law (October 2015), although this deadline may be extended an additional year if so decided by the Government, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Requests for acquisition of Spanish nationality covered by this Act shall be resolved within a maximum period of twelve months from the date when it had been entered into the Directorate General of Registries and Notaries. After the expiry of the above period, where there is no express decision, requests will be understood to have been rejected by administrative silence.

After being notified of a favorable decision , the applicant has one year to complete the acquisition of nationality before the civil registrar. If not, the decision to grant of citizenship ceases to be effective and would, if necessary, lead to re- examining the case in its entirety.

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