Justice Minister sells Spain to US Jews

Spain's Justice Minister told American Jewish groups on Wednesday why the European country is offering citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, an event he has labelled "the biggest mistake in Spanish history".

Justice Minister sells Spain to US Jews
Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon. File photo: Quique Garcia/AFP

Alberto Ruiz Gallardón was invited to New York by the American Jewish Committee to provide details on Spain's new citizenship law aimed at the descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Even though Jewish associations initially estimated that as many as 3.5 million people would apply for Spanish citizenship, Gallardón told the New York Times he anticipated the number would be much lower: around 150,000.

"This law is a real historic reparation of, I dare say, the biggest mistake in Spanish history," said Gallardón , who described the legislation as his most important yet.

Though estimates vary, historians believe at least 200,000 Jews lived in Spain before the expulsion of 1492.

Many who refused to convert to Christianity or leave were burned at the stake.

Most of their descendants are now thought to live in Israel, although New York on its own holds the second largest group of Sephardis, which in Hebrew means Spanish.

Gallardón, whose grandfather was a Spanish ambassador in Romania who helped Sephardic Jews escape from the Nazis, has been attempting to pass the legislation for years.

He told members of the American Jewish Committee there "was no other case in history where expelled groups had maintained the culture and language for so long and so far", giving an example of how he’d encountered Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

When asked whether he thought the prospect of thousands of new jobseekers flooding into Spain would be met with disapproval by the 26 percent of unemployed Spaniards, he disagreed.

"Even if 150,000 Sephardic Jews apply for citizenship it doesn't mean they are coming," Gallardón argued.

"The certainty of knowing this is a huge historical mistake is a feeling shared not only by this government but the whole of society."

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The little-known process you have to do when you become a Spanish citizen

Foreigners who've continuously resided in Spain for ten years have the option of applying for Spanish citizenship. But what happens when your get you new Spanish DNI number? How do you change all your documents over to your new nationality?

The little-known process you have to do when you become a Spanish citizen

Here’s how to request the change of your Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) for your new Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI), if you have obtained Spanish nationality. 

The process of becoming a Spanish national is lengthy and you will have to pass two exams to get it – the DELE (Diploma of Spanish as a foreign language) test and the CCSE citizenship test, testing your knowledge of Spain’s Constitution, its society and its cultural heritage.

READ ALSO – Quiz: Can you pass the Spanish citizenship test?

But what about when you’ve passed both tests, you’ve gained your Spanish nationality and you’re finally holding that Spanish national identity card, the DNI in your hand?

In order for your DNI to really take effect, you’ll have to change your NIE for your new DNI number. To do this, you will have to carry out a series of procedures to update all the official paperwork and verify your identity. 

READ ALSO – Step by step: how to apply for Spanish nationality

How to make the exchange 

To carry out this procedure, you must notify the Social Security office, so they can change your number and your nationality. This procedure can be carried out electronically using your Digital Certificate or [email protected] here

Via the above link to the Social Security office, you must fill out the Modelo TA.1 form to make the exchange. You will need to fill out all your personal details, as well as include copies of your old NIE and your new DNI.  

Certificate of proof

You will also need to apply for a Certificado de Concordancia at the foreign office of your nearest National Police station. When you are making a cita previa or prior appointment to do this, you should choose the option (Certificados de Residencia, de no Residencia y de Concordancia).

This certificate is used to prove that you are the same person who now has a Spanish DNI. You can use it at various official places such as the tax office, Town Hall, the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) office, banks and any other administrative offices.

You can now inform other authorities of your exchange, including the tax office or Agencia Tributaria as well as your local Town Hall or Ayuntamiento. You will also need to request a new padrón certificate, stating your new nationality.

Other official offices you should inform of the change include your bank, your notary if you bought a property using your NIE, and the DGT office, if you need to change your driving licence too.  

READ ALSO: What are the reasons for losing Spanish residency or nationality and can I get it back?