The Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) annual statistics show that the number of Israelis applying for Portuguese nationality has reached 20,975 in 2022, making them the largest nationality of applicants for the last two years.
According to local media, Israelis have overtaken Brazilians as the first applicant nationality for Portuguese nationality, despite the South American country having a population 20 times higher than Israel and having strong and longstanding ties to Portugal in aspects like culture, history and linguistics.
However, unlike other nationalities, Israelis don’t usually reside in Portugal, as only 569 Israeli citizens are residents despite 60,000 Israelis having Portuguese nationality as of 2022. As per Brazilians, 239,744 of them continue residing in Portugal after obtaining citizenship.
The reason for this phenomenon is related to the Israeli passport, which is quite more restrictive compared to EU passports, and, in addition to that, the EU and the US visa waiver program for EU nationals is under discussion.
“This was a big deal for Israelis as carrying an Israeli passport is much more restrictive. This general conversation also touched on higher education. The academic prerequisites for state universities in Israel are high, and private schools are costly. In the EU, however, the terms of acceptance are more relaxed, and the cost is lower if you are an EU national. This general discussion motivated many families with European origins to apply for EU nationalities,” Lior, an Israeli national who now has Portuguese nationality, pointed out.
Online searches in Hebrew for Portuguese nationality and information about living in Portugal surged with over 100,000 results, while many businesses offer their services to Israelis who want to obtain Portuguese citizenship.
Some of the best benefits that Israelis have after obtaining Portuguese citizenship are paying less taxes, more affordable living costs, and, in general, a less stressful life.
On the other hand, the main disadvantages for Israelis can be the language barrier and lower income.
However, the easy access to the borderless zone and the benefits Portugal has to offer to Israelis as a European country aren’t the only things that attracted the nationality group.
Amikam, an Israeli healthcare professional who also applied for Portuguese nationality in 2017, said that opportunities that come with EU citizenship can also be good for the future.
“It made me think of the opportunities embodied in EU citizenship, and I also thought that living in the EU would better suit my liberal views. And it’s always good to have a plan B in case things in Israel turn for the worst. It [the process] cost 10,000 ILS (around 2,500€) and took about two years for most people,” he said.
The number of Israelis seeking Portuguese citizenship might drop next year as 2022 was the last window for Israelis to apply for nationality in Portugal under the Descendants Policy. In addition, the number of those seeking to obtain Portuguese nationality dropped from 21,263 in 2021 to 20,975, respectively.