MADRID The Spanish government approved a draft law on Friday allowing descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country in 1492 to seek Spanish nationality without giving up their current citizenship.
Although the law must be approved by Spanish parliament before it can become the law of the land, there was little doubt that it would be passed, with the ruling conservatives holding an absolute parliamentary majority.
"This law establishes the criteria for the concession of (Spanish) nationality for the Sephardic citizens," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said during a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Around 300,000 Jews lived in Spain before the 'Reyes Catolicos', Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, ordered Jews and Muslims to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country.
The law, which was first unveiled in February, potentially allows an estimated 3.5 million Sephardic Jews whose ancestors settled in countries such as Israel, France, the United States, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina and Chile to apply for Spanish nationality.
Applicants must prove their Sephardic background through a certificate from the federation of the Jewish community in Spain or from the head of the Jewish community in which they reside, through their language or ancestry.
Spanish law does not normally allow dual citizenship except for people from neighboring Andorra or Portugal or former colonies such as the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or Latin American countries.
(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)