The Jewish Community of Belmonte now offers a Sephardic heritage certificate

Until recently, there were only two Jewish communities which had received official recognition from the government of Portugal for the purpose of issuing Sephardic heritage certificates used for the Portuguese citizenship process:  The Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa (CIL), and the Comunidade Israelita do Porto (CIL).  Now, there is a third, called the Comunidade Judaica de Belmonte (CJB).

According to an article published in January of this year by the Times of Israel, the Portuguese government requires religious entities to have been registered for a minimum of thirty years in order to qualify for state recognition.  It was difficult for me to find the official registration date of the CJB, but it appears that it was officially registered on January 5, 1989.  That would mean that the CJB is now eligible to issue certificates.

The CJB now has an official website located here which includes its instructions for applying for a Sephardic certificate from the CJB, which is a prerequisite to applying for Portuguese citizenship.

So why apply to the CJB as opposed to the CIP or CIL?

Firstly, the CJB does not list any religious restrictions as to who is eligible to apply.  That makes it more liberal, like the CIL, which allows anyone who can prove descent from a Sephardic ancestor to apply for citizenship, and unlike the CIP, which requires that at least one grandparent of an applicant for a certificate have been Jewish according to halakha.

Secondly, the CJB is new, which means that it is likely to have a smaller backlog of applications to sort through as compared to the CIP or CIL.  Although the CIP does not appear to have any serious issues right now, until recently the CIL has been the only realistic method of applying for descendants of forcible converts to Christianity, and wait times have been reported of over six months.  I personally applied for a certificate in August and am still waiting for it to be issued in December.  The CJB may have the same problem in the future, but since it is new right now, it makes sense to apply while you're still at the front of the line.  I have read some comments on Facebook indicating that the CJB has a same-day response time for the pre-approval process, which backs the theory that they don't have a backlog to deal with yet.

Thirdly, the CJB is reasonably priced.  The CIL charged me 500 Euros for my application, which is still pending.  The CIP lists a price of 250 Euros for its application process.  The CJB comes in closer to the CIP's side of the price rang at 350 Euros.

So, if you're reading this and you still haven't applied for a Sephardic certificate but believe you're eligible for one, or you have applied but have been waiting ages for a response, you may want to consider applying to the Jewish community of Belmonte for a certificate and hope that it gets issued to you faster than any of your alternatives.

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