Voluntary Code of Conduct for working with clients applying for Portuguese or Spanish citizenship under the Sephardic nationality concessions
There are no agreed guidelines for those providing services to applicants for Portuguese and Spanish citizenship based on Sephardic ancestry. The Sephardic Genealogical Society is proposing a voluntary Code of Conduct as an interim measure.
It is hoped that the Portuguese and Spanish Governments will adopt official guidelines to regulate the sector. Meanwhile the Sephardic Genealogical Society invites genealogists, law firm, synagogues and others involved in the process to adhere to this voluntary Code of Conduct, and to link to it from their websites.
1. Portugal and Spain. The offer of nationality to people of Sephardic ancestry by the Republic of Portugal and Kingdom of Spain is an honour and privilege. Nobody working in the field should do anything that demeans the offer or reflects in a negative way on Sephardim.
2. Portuguese and Spanish Laws. The texts of the Portuguese and Spanish nationality concessions are imprecise on Sephardic history and genealogy. The intention of the concessions are clear. Those offering services will comply with both the letter and intent of the laws.
3. Sephardic Jews. Sephardim are a diaspora community descended from Jews expelled from 'Spain' in or before 1492 as well as those descendants of Jews forcibly converted in Portugal in 1496 whose families later created or joined Jewish diaspora communities. There are three Sephardic sub-groups: the Megorashim of parts of North Africa; the Eastern Sephardim of the Ottoman Empire; and the Western Sephardim (the “Nação Portuguesa”) of the Atlantic World. Nationality applications based on Berber-, Musta’arabi-, Mizrahi-, Italian-, Romaniote-, Karaite-, Ashkenazi- and other Jewish origins are not admissible. Those offering services must be able to differentiate between Iberian Sephardim and other Jewish groups.
4. Genealogical Research. All genealogical research will comply with the Code of Conduct/Ethics of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and the principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard as far as possible. Every genealogical claim must be evidenced and claimed lines of descent must be proven. Where Sephardic community records (only) have been destroyed or lost, the genealogist must use best judgement and obtain an independent second opinion.
5. “Surname Reports”. “Surname reports” are studies that show that surnames in an applicant’s family were previously used by Sephardic Jews and/or ”New Christians”. In the absence of genealogy, these reports can be inappropriately used to imply that there is a familial connection between two unconnected individuals of the same surname, even when divided by centuries and continents. All 100 of the most common Portuguese surnames have been used by Sephardim at some date, as have 99 of the 100 most common Spanish surnames. “Surname reports” have no place in Sephardic genealogy.
6. Transparency. Everyone providing paid services to applicants for Portuguese and Spanish nationality agrees to maintain good records and to make these available for review by the Portuguese or Spanish Ministries of Justice, as appropriate.
7. Legal Services. Only lawyers and law firms registered with the Ordem dos Advogados in Portugal will offer legal services to applicants to Portugal. Only lawyers and law firms registered with the Abogacía Española – Consejo General or member associations in Spain will offer legal services to applicants to Spain.
8. Confirmation of Sephardic ancestry. Only Iberian-origin Sephardic congregations should be asked to supply letters confirming Sephardic ancestry.
9. Ashkenazim, ‘Crypto-Jews’/’Bnei Anusim’ and other who believe they have distant Sephardic ancestry are under the same requirement to supply clear genealogy as everyone else. A family tradition can reinforce documented and sourced evidence, but do not constitute evidence in itself.
10. DNA is not accepted as evidence except in specific cases where it can prove consanguinity between an applicant and their cousin when evidential documents are unavailable to the applicant AND this is accepted by the relevant authority in Portugal or Spain.
11. Fair treatment of clients.
a. There is public confusion over who qualifies for citizenship under the concessions. No client should be taken on unless it is apparent that they have Iberian Sephardic ancestry, or the probability has been explained to them.
b. Clients who have been sold “surname reports” should be offered full refunds
c. Synagogues, genealogists, law firms and others who have sold services to clients who clearly have no proven Iberian Sephardic ancestry should offer full refunds.
12. Review process. Those reviewing applicants’ Sephardic origins in Portugal and Spain are asked to work to agreed and published national evidential standards, be consistent in their adjudications, and be reasonable.
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