Spain Grants Citizenship to 4,300 Descendants of Sephardic Jews

The approval comes a day after Spain adopted a new law that allows applicants to keep their existing citizenship.

People in Jewish Quarter of Toledo
People stand near a gift shop in the old Jewish Quarter of Toledo, Spain. AFP

AP - Spain on Friday granted citizenship to 4,302 people whose Jewish ancestors fled after being told in 1492 to convert to Catholicism or go into exile ahead of the Spanish Inquisition that saw many Jews burned at the stake.

The naturalizations were approved a day after Spain adopted its new citizenship law for descendants of Sephardic Jews, said Justice Minister Rafael Catala.

It allows applicants to maintain their original citizenship so they can have dual nationality.

Those granted citizenship Friday applied under an older law requiring them to relinquish home country nationality but can now have dual nationality.

Spain's Federation of Jewish Communities praised the mass naturalizations, adding that most applicants were from Morocco, Turkey and Venezuela.

The new law gives Sephardic Jews and their descendants three years to seek a Spanish passport, with the right to work and live in the 28-nation European Union.

Like others seeking Spanish citizenship, applicants must be tested in basic Spanish and pass a current events and culture test about Spain.

They also must establish a modern-day link to Spain, which can be as simple as donating to a Spanish charity or as expensive as buying property.

The Spanish Jewish federation has received more than 5,000 requests for information about the Spanish law. No one knows how many people might be eligible, though some estimates run into the millions.

Portugal adopted a similar citizenship path for Sephardic Jews to make amends for its 1496 decision giving Jews 10 months to convert or leave.

The Portuguese citizenship application process does not require applicants to take language or culture tests or prove a modern-day link to the country.

The 204 applications received since the law went into effect in March are still under evaluation, Portugal's Justice Ministry said.

Spain also allows dual nationality for people born in countries that used to be Spanish colonies.