Spain’s offer of citizenship to Jews has mostly symbolic value

Spain’s offer of citizenship to the descendants of Jews who were expelled from the country over 500 years ago during the Inquisition has created global interest.

One Israeli lawyer who specializes in applications for citizenship in European countries, said she had received over 1,000 enquiries since the Spanish government approved the draft citizenship bill on February 7.

Most enquiries have come from Israel but there has also been interest from United States and Europe. 

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, a private umbrella organisation for Jewish groups, said it had received more than 5,000 requests for information since the government announced its plans to ease the naturalisation process for Sephardic Jews.


Young people want it mostly for practical reasons to work and live in Europe.


Spain already grants citizenship to proven Sephardic Jews, the descendants of the Jewish people who were expelled in 1492 in a period of Roman Catholic zeal under the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.

But the draft bill would streamline the process by clarifying the qualification criteria and allowing successful applicants to keep their original citizenship.

Current legislation stipulates that Sephardic Jews granted Spanish nationality have to give up their existing citizenship, which puts off many potential applicants.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon has said Spain wants to repair a “historical mistake” with the bill, which still must be approved by parliament.

Though estimates vary, historians believe at least 200,000 Jews lived in Spain before the expulsion.

Many who refused to convert to Christianity or leave were burned at the stake.

Up to 3.5 million people around the world are thought to have Sephardic – Hebrew for “Spanish” – Jewish ancestry.

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