Legal Practice Guide for Sephardic applicants of Spanish Nationality

Once expired the term of Law 12/2015 of June 24th, regarding the Granting of Spanish Nationality to Sephardim with Spanish origins, some people wonder: what happens with the applications for the Spanish nationality already filed and that are in process?

If you have filed your application for Spanish nationality before October 2nd , 2019 but you have doubts on how you should continue with your processing, or you simply do not have any news from the Notary Public or Spanish administration, we invite you to read the following Legal Practice Guide based on FAQS. These questions are based on questions raised by clients and other people who have contacted us requesting information on the status of their nationality records. However, even if your case is very similar to any of those listed in the following file, it is always advisable to contact us directly to offer you personalized legal advice.




Q. I submitted my application before October 2nd, 2019 but some documents were missing. Am I allowed to provide them even once the term of the law has expired?

A. If you filed your application before such date, in principle, you are; however, such correction depends on the document missing. For example:


1. I do not count with the supporting documents of having passed Instituto Cervantes’ tests.

A. More than likely you have not been able to take in time the DELE exam of accreditation of Spanish language proficiency or the CCSE exam of socio-cultural and constitutional knowledge of Spain. The number of applications has exceeded the capacity of many centres. In some cities, such as Bogotá, applicants are being cited to take these exams in June 2020. In such cases, a Circular from the Dirección General de los Registros y del Notariado (DGRN) dated September 6th, 2019, on the deadline for submitting the application for the granting of Spanish nationality to Sephardim with origins in Spain, establishes that said documents may be provided by the applicant within 1 year, but he/she must accompany to his nationality application the document proving that he/she has registered to take the exams.  Do you already have the appointment to perform the exams? Have you enclosed proof of your appointment to your application? Also remember that once you take the tests you have a period of three months to bring forward the results.


2. I am missing the certificate to be issued by the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE).

A. The aforementioned Circular dated September 6th, 2019 provides that, in order to be able to prove being a Sephardic Jew and, thus, continue with the processing of an application submitted in time, a document issued by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain must be attached to it accrediting that the referred certificate has been requested and that it is pending. However, experience has taught us that FCJE is unpredictable, both in its applied criteria and in the response deadlines. It is possible that after waiting for several months to receive an answer, the certificate be finally denied. If such denial causes you legal defencelessness or is the direct cause of a subsequent denial of nationality, you may be entitled to claim for the damage caused to you. If this is your case, contact us for further information about these procedures.


3. I still have to present some of my personal documents, or they do not meet the legal requirements of being in force, translated, legalized and/or apostilled at the country of origin.

A. In this case we have to see if the documents could have been provided prior to the expiration of the legal term, or if any impediment existed and for that reason they could not be submitted. In some countries, such as Mexico, the issuance of a receipt issued by the Spanish consular administration is required so that the applicant can comply with the legal requirement to obtain a federal certificate of criminal records. Many consulates cannot cope with the number of requests received and have had to create waiting lists that reach several months. In general, the Circular dated September 6, 2019 allows the extension of the deadline for submitting these documents but only in the event that such impossibility is duly justified at the time of submitting the application. Therefore, if there are missing documents to be incorporated to your file, you should try to justify this circumstance immediately. Can you justify such extreme? If so, you will have a period of three months to present them, a term that can be extended up to one year if the impossibility persists. Of course, you must prove such circumstance, again, when you appear before the Notary Public.


4. I still have to prove my special connection with Spain. Can I do that later on?

A. Art. 2.3 B) of Law 12/2015 sets forth that the Notary is the person who must assess the documentary evidence related to the applicant's special relationship with Spain, based on the documents provided and the applicant's own statement, declaring whether or not, in his opinion, the legal requirements are met. It may be the case that the special relationship with Spain is determined in the notarial appearance itself, for example, the applicant is a legal resident in Spain, or his father, mother or children have Spanish nationality and they are present at the act. Even if the applicant provides in his appearance new supporting documents on these circumstances that could not be provided at the time, the Notary should take them into account.


Q. I selected the Notary on the platform, before taking the CCSE y DELE exams and now I cannot upload the results.

A. If you have not accredited your special link-up with Spain through the electronic submission of these certificates’ codes, the Notary may consider that your file is not complete and will not call you. You must contact the Notary chosen. He may accept the presentation of this documentation by ordinary means or provide a way to upload them electronically. If you have problems with these procedures, do not hesitate to contact us.


Q. During this time, can I keep submitting more documentation to the FCJE in order to prove my Sephardic origin? 

A. If you have made a certification request on the FCJE electronic platform, you will see that it becomes blocked and no more documents can be provided; however, you can send messages through the corresponding panel. So far, when the FCJE considered that the Sephardic origin had not been sufficiently accredited, it communicated such extreme to the interested party by opening a new window and requesting further supporting documentation. Thus, this would be the time to introduce that documentation. 


Q. How much time do I have to bring forward these new documents?

A. The deadline to incorporate the certificate from FCJE to your application expires on October 1st, 2020. This term could be extended if problems or delays in the issuance of certificates by the FCJE persist. The internal rules and deadlines by which the FCJE is governed in order to issue certificates are unknown. 


Q. If the FCJE refuses to issue the certificate, what period do I have to choose a Notary? 

A. There is no specific deadline. The Circular dated September 6th, 2019 does not fix a specific term. In theory, with the denial of the FCJE the extension of the deadline to provide documents would end and you should immediately choose a Notary.


Q. The FCJE has denied me the requested certificates and its support. Can I appeal such decision?

A. The FCJE is an organization that officially represents some Spanish Jewish communities before national and international official institutions, to whom the legislator has granted a preponderant (although not exclusive) role regarding the capacity to prove the Sephardic origin of the Spanish nationality applicants pursuant to Law 12/2015. This faculty falls within the powers recognized to this Federation by the Cooperation Agreement formalised between the State and the Federation and approved by Law 25/1992, of November 10th. The FCJE is not a public law entity, but a religious entity inscribed (under number 015888) in the Register of Religious Entities of the Ministry of Justice. Its activity is limited to its purposes and it is governed by its own statutes. The refusal of this entity to certify the Sephardic origin of a person or to support their application for nationality is not appealable. We must remember that the Law recognizes other alternative means of proving the Sephardic ancestry of applicants outside the certificates issued by the FCJE. If you cannot prove your Sephardic origin through this Federation, there are other ways to do so. Do not hesitate to contact us.


Q. The FCJE has certified my Sephardic Origin. What am I supposed to do now?

A. You have to pay the cost of the certificate’s issuing at the web page of FCJE, attach it to your nationality application and select a Notary Public.


Q. Some of my documents have expired or are about to expire and I still don’t have the notoriety certificate.

A. Your documentation must be in force at the time of appearing before the Notary. If your passport or your criminal records certificate have expired, you must renew them beforehand. Applicants from those countries where the procedures for obtaining this type of certificates are complex, such as Mexico or USA, must take this into account.


Q. I have not chosen Notary Public yet because I still have to obtain other documents, I do not know when I will able to obtain them nor can I justify such delay. 

A. The Council of Notaries’ platform explains that, once your application for nationality has begun, you will have 4 months to choose a Notary. Once this term has expired without having done so, your application will be removed from the web portal. We understand that this is equally applicable in case that the lack of specific documents cannot be exactly justified.


Q. Why should I select a Notary through the electronic platform of the Ministry of Justice and not do it randomly?

A. The free selection of a Notary is a basic principle contemplated, in general, in Art. 126 of the Notarial Regulation. Instruction of September 29th, 2015, from the DGRN, on the application of Law 12/2015, recognises the applicant’s right to choose Notary, when it sets forth that the General Council of Notaries shall give course (to the application) and appoint a competent Notary to examine the documentation provided taking into account the preferences of the interested party in the event that he/she has expressed them in the application. 


Q. I want to select a Notary from my location, or a Notary recommended by my Lawyer, but I cannot find him in the electronic platform listing.

A. Although it has not transcended, the truth is that the number of notoriety certificates that each Notary can grant to applicants of Spanish nationality is limited. The monthly quota of each Notary has been recently extended to 50 applications for nationality. If a particular Notary does not appear in the list of the electronic platform, it is because his/her monthly quota of applicants has probably been used up. Try repeating the search at the beginning of the following month when the system is reset to 0 or contact us to designate a specific Notary.


Q. We chose a Notary Public several weeks ago, but we have not received any news from him. 

A. The fact that the Notary has not contacted you can mean several things. Notaries attend a large number of applications of this sort and you may be on a waiting list. However, if too much time has elapsed without hearing from the Notary, it is most likely that he considers that your application is not sufficiently substantiated in order to proceed with the granting of the notoriety certificate. You should try to contact the Notary to find out about such extreme. If you have any queries, do not hesitate to contact us and we will try to help you.

Q. Which are my options in the event that the appointed Notary refuses to grant the notoriety certificate? 

A. Notorious certificates are intended to verify and determine facts that are evident (or notorious) and upon which rights and other legitimate personal or patrimonial situations with legal significance may be based and declared. Art. 2. 3 of Law 12/2015 in its second paragraph, states that “once appeared the interested party and examined all the supporting documents provided, the Notary shall consider whether or not he deems proved the condition of Sephardim with Spanish origin as well as the applicant's special relationship with Spain; he shall declare the compliance or non-compliance with the requirements set forth in article 1 by means of a certificate ”.

Guideline 1.4.3 letter A of the Circular from the DGRN dated September 29th, 2015, regarding the documents proving the Sephardic origin regulated in art. 1.2 of the law, provides that such “probative documents shall be assessed as a whole by the Notary authorizing the certificate”. The filing of any of the documents mentioned is not mandatory, and they are not the only ones that may be presented as "any other circumstance that reliably demonstrates your status as Sephardim originating in Spain may have probative character." This criterion of the free evaluation of evidence by the acting Notary implies the possibility that one notary does not consider that the ancestry or Sephardic condition of an applicant is notorious, but another one does consider it so. The free choice of Notary is a right that assists the applicant. If a Notary does not deem your application sufficiently founded, nothing prevents you from trying again with another one. We advise you to properly complete your file with all necessary documentation. In any case, you should know that against the refusal of the notary appointed to issue the certificate, you may appeal to the General Directorate of Registries and Notaries in accordance with the notarial legislation.


Q. Can I freely change the selected Notary? 

A. As we have already said, the law guarantees the free election of Notary. The fact that we are dealing with an electronic processing procedure does not modify this. Therefore, there are formulas that enable you to change Notary once it has been selected. It that is your case, do not hesitate to contact us.


Q. Should I personally appear before the Notary or may I delegate to another person?

A. Each applicant must appear personally before the Notary chosen. Only in the case of minors or applicants with their legal capacity modified can the personal appearance be replaced by the one made through the legal guardian or representative. The applicant must assert under his responsibility before the authorizing Notary, the certainty of the facts on which his own application for nationality is based.


Q. I already chose a Notary and the platform does not let me upload more documents now. Thus, I still have to attach some missing documents. Will I be able to present them later on?

A. With respect to the possibility of presenting certain documents once the law is not in force, you must keep in mind the answer to the first question asked in this document. However, in general, nothing prevents you from providing the Notary with other documents than those included in the electronic application, mainly if they are prior to the end of the effective date of the law and / or could not be uploaded to the platform due to being it blocked or for other justified reasons. In this regard, guideline 1.4 of Instruction of September 29th, 2015 sets forth that “in general, the documentation referred to in the following sections must be sent electronically together with the application that will be addressed to the Directorate General of Registries and of the Notary ”, but it does not establish that the documentation must be provided exclusively by this means.


Q. My family has already completed the files and we have been summoned to appear before the Notary. However, Spain’s consular authorities have denied us the visa to travel to Spain. What can we do?

A. The mere granting of the certificates justifies the authorization to enter Spain. You must prove your status as applicants for Spanish nationality and display before the Spanish consulate the favourable decision of the Notary prior to the processing of the certificates. If he has not done so, you shall ask your Notary to issue a notarized certificate of invitation that will be used to obtain your visas and that you must show before the immigration authorities upon arrival in Spain. 


Q. How much will the notarial certificate cost? Is there something I can do to reduce its price?

A. Notaries apply a tariff fixed by the government in 1989.  In theory, all Spanish notaries shall charge the same fees for identical tasks/works. However, sometimes, in practice, we encounter differences since tariffs can be interpretable.

You should keep in mind that the cost of the certificate will depend on the number of pages it has. Some documents, such as the passport, do not have to be attached in full; the Notary will identify the document, verify its titular and, thus, only the main page will be enclosed. Some documents that are not fundamental can also be omitted or simplified in order to reduce the total extension of the notarial certificate and, therefore, its price.


Q. I made the nationality application through a lawyer or other person in my country of origin and we have not had any news from him.

A. If you do not obtain the requested assistance you may have been victims of any of the numerous supposed “professionals” who have appeared. If you have any doubts about the real situation of your file or about the competence of your advisor, demand that you be allowed to access to your nationality record and try to contact someone to advise you on its status and how you should proceed. Reports on family names, genealogic studies or lineage studies that accompany your application are strictly personal documents of your property, being the manager or lawyer who has processed the applications obliged to deliver them if requested to do so.


Q. More than a year have passed since we appeared before the Notary and we have not heard from him/her again.

A. Once the notoriety certificate has been granted, the Notary shall submit the same together with the attached documentation to the DGRN who, in turn, will request favourable reports from other ministries, and resolve within the term of twelve (12) months. The granting or denial of nationality shall be motivated. If more than a year has elapsed without receiving notification of the resolution it shall be understood that your application has been dismissed due to administrative silence. If that is your case, you should contact us in order to exercise the legal actions that allow you to appeal such denial through administrative proceedings or, where appropriate, judicial proceedings.


Alejandro de Vicente de Rojas. Abogado

Larrauri & Marti Abogados

Obtaining spanish nationality for jewish descendants


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