The state of Israel is created, first of all, on a national basis. The Law on Citizenship and the Law on Return (Repatriation) are the main regulatory acts that govern the acquisition of Israeli citizenship. They clearly define who can claim to this status that is Jews, children of Jews, grandchildren of Jews, spouses of Jews, spouses of children and, accordingly, grandchildren of Jews.
It is important to know that registering a marriage with an Israeli citizen “automatically” does not entitle the foreign spouse to Israeli citizenship. Truly, this is customary in most developed countries, but Israel is an exception.
If the new family choose Israel as their permanent place of residence, the Israeli spouse will need to submit a special application for granting status to a foreign spouse in the Israeli Ministry of Interior (Misrad HaPnim). The application is submitted at the place of residence. Then the family will need to go through several stages of the so-called step-by-step procedure for legalizing marriage, at the end of which the foreign spouse can apply for either permanent resident status or Israeli citizenship. This procedure lasts an average of 5-7 years. The duration and quantity of stages depend on many factors. In this article, we will not give a list of documents or describe in detail the stages of the procedure, but try to discuss the most important issues to be considered for the success of the case.
Collecting documents. As it was noted before, in the case of the step-by-step procedure for legalizing a spouse, a lot depends on the input data. They include whether the marriage was registered before or the civil spouses apply for this procedure, whether the foreigner resides in Israel and what his status is, whether the couple has children, joint or from previous relationships, how long the couple has been together and much more. A general list of documents for starting a case can be found on the website of the Ministry of Interior, where you can also request a telephone consultation. Carefully study the list and make sure that all the required documents can be collected in a fairly short time. Pay attention to certificates with a limited validity period (criminal record) or those that can be obtained only before marriage (a certificate of the marital status of a spouse before marriage in most ex-USSR countries is issued only before a new marriage).
Please note that all documents issued by institutions of a foreign state must be translated into Hebrew and certified with the seal “Apostille” from a certified notary. We recommend that you immediately make at least two notarized copies of all documents.
Marriage usually precedes the opening of a case under the step-by-step procedure for legalization at the Ministry of Interior. A citizen of Israel and a citizen of another country may be married only outside of Israel. It usually happens in the country of which the foreign spouse is currently a citizen. Cyprus, Czech Republic, Bulgaria are also very popular. Denmark and Spain are spread for same-sex marriages. In some cases, if one of the spouses has restrictions on crossing state borders, it is possible to marry in Paraguay (the presence of only one of the spouses is allowed) or in El Salvador (both spouses may be absent, the marriage is done through proxies). The last two options are relevant for couples when an Israeli citizen has an injunction to leave or a foreign partner is already in Israel, for example, on a tourist visa or generally illegally.
An Israeli citizen should contact the regional office of the Ministry of Interior at the place of residence and make an appointment to submit documents. Usually a meeting is scheduled after 3-4 months or more. The entire period from the moment when the Israeli spouse filed a call request (invitation) of the spouse until the appointment, the foreign spouse will not be able to enter Israel.
The experience of civil lawyers also shows that it is also important in which department of the Ministry of Interior the spouses open the case. Sometimes internal instructions, requirements for a package of documents, terms for issuing visas and other issues in the work of regional representations of the Ministry of Interior differ significantly. In our practice, we often face the situation that couples with practically the same introductory data, passing legalization procedures in different cities of Israel, receive different results.
According to the updated instructions of the Ministry of Interior (new rules have been in force since 2014), after registering a marriage abroad, a foreign spouse cannot enter Israel before the procedure for legalizing marriage starts. Yes, unfortunately, young spouses have to spend several months apart. Surely, they can arrive on a tourist visa or visa-free regime, but with a return ticket. If a foreign spouse enters the country, hiding his marriage with an Israeli, he will be deported when the situation is clarified at the border. This is an overcome obstacle. But it will significantly delay the further reunification of the spouses. The entry permit may be issued in a few months or, in some cases, not earlier than in a year. Moreover, such a violation may complicate the very procedure of legalization in the future.
In legal practice, there are several solutions due to which spouses do not have to part. But their implementation should take place under the strict patronage of a competent civil lawyer. Before undertaking anything, consult with your lawyer.
The State of Israel appreciates the right of its citizen to start a family. Even if an Israeli partner is in the country illegally, the couple can declare cohabitation under the same roof and conduct a joint household (“yaduim be-tsibur") and begin to go through the step-by-step procedure for legalization. Of course, you cannot do without the help of a lawyer in such a situation. Besides, it is not always possible for a foreigner to leave the country of permanent residence (in this case, Israel) for an indefinite period. Not every couple is ready to part for paperwork and other procedural issues. But as the experience of the Patkin & Partners Law Office shows, there is also the opportunity to formalize relations with a partner without even registering their marriage or leaving Israel.
Let us imagine a situation when a foreign spouse, being in the process of obtaining citizenship, can’t get on well with an Israeli spouse, but there is a new relationship with another Israeli citizen. In this situation, there are no procedures prescribed by law for the transition from one case to another. However, there is a requirement that if a foreigner divorces with an Israeli, he must notify the Ministry of Interior for closing his case on the step-by-step procedure for obtaining citizenship. Then the foreigner has 30 days to leave the country.
The lawyer’s task is to develop a staged scheme in which it will be possible to close one case and open another without deportation and the need for a foreigner to leave. Our experience shows that precise coordination and timeliness of actions for the success of such a case is very critical.
If the foreign spouse has children from a previous relationship (not Jews), the so-called “accompanying minors" (“ktinimnilvim"), they also go through the step-by-step procedure in parallel with the parent. It is a very important point: do not leave children in another country “until you settle down here." Come to Israel right away with them. Otherwise, the Ministry of Interior has reason to believe that your children can live without their parent and refuse a residence permit for them.
As we noted above, if the spouses break up before the completion of the step-by-step procedure, the foreigner (and his children, who also pass the procedure) have 30 days to leave the country. The same procedure applies in the event of the death of an Israeli spouse.
But if a person moved to Israel, spent several years here, found a job or started his business, made friends, learned the language, etc., deportation means that he will need to start all over again in another country. In this case, the lawyer can help to prepare a special argument so that the Ministry of Interior will permit to individually complete the procedure and obtain citizenship. Of course, the presence or absence of common children with an Israeli is a significant factor for success in this case.
The employees of Misrad HaPnim have unprecedented rights to clarify the circumstances of the family life of spouses who go through the step-by-step procedure. They can ask about anything, request additional certificates, letters of recommendation, demand to present any convincing evidence in their opinion that the marriage is not fictitious. It might be one of the most complicated components of the process. The main thing that is required from the married couple in this situation is patience, precise coordination and careful preparation for interviews. What exactly is included in the preparation for an interview at the Ministry of Interior? It depends on the circumstances of the particular family. And by consulting a civil lawyer, you can avoid many common mistakes.
The situations sometimes arise when the Ministry of Interior closes the case of the step-by-step procedure for legalization. The circumstances can be different, starting from the long stay of one of the spouses abroad to the presence of administrative violations by one of them. But appealing such a refusal is possible and necessary. Undoubtedly, you can effectively refight the decisions of the migration service only with the assistance of an experienced lawyer who specializes in issues of the Ministry of Interior and citizenship.
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