Hundreds of British Sephardi Jews applied for Portuguese citizenship in the wake of Brexit, according to those processing their applications.

The 80-fold increase echoes a 20-fold rise in the number of applications for German citizenship from British Jews, reported late last year.

The Iberian dash follows a decision by Portugal and Spain – both members of the European Union – to offer citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled or killed during the Inquisition 500 years ago, in an effort to “right an historic wrong”. Unlike Spanish requirements, however, Portugal does not require applicants to speak the language.

As part of the 2013 Law of Return, Portuguese politicians assigned the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Oporto as the official processors of applications, and Oporto representatives have now revealed that 400 British Jews of Sephardi origin applied for citizenship in the two months after Britain voted to leave the EU.

Speaking to The Guardian, Oporto delegate Dr Michael Rothwell said that only five applications had been received before Brexit.

He said: “I think people are a bit nervous about this and therefore feel that having an EU passport would be an advantage even if they are not necessarily planning to move to Portugal. Having citizenship of an EU country has its benefits.”

The S&P Sephardi Community in London said it had seen a marked increase in the number of ancestral inquiries since Britain’s vote last summer, while Surrey-based teaching assistant Gillie Traeger, an applicant, said: “There’s a sense of pride in coming from this very old Jewish family in England.”