Asylum Seeker in Israel – Important Information
Asylum seeker in Israel clients often turn to our office for assistance in arranging legal status. We help them translate and submit the required documents, prepare for an interview with the RSD (Refugee Status Determination) unit, and challenge the unit’s decisions in the relevant courts. On our website, we explain the legal background of asylum applications in Israel and provide answers to questions regarding the employment of refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. In this article, Advocate Irena Vasilyeva will summarize the most important things an asylum seeker needs to know.
Most asylum seekers in Israel do not receive refugee status
According to the Refugee Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, a refugee is defined as a person who has been forced to leave his country due to “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
A person who has left their country because of civil war, poor economic situation, or the wish to improve their quality of life by working in a developed country, is not entitled to refugee status. Even those who are persecuted in their own country, whether by a private person or the authorities, for reasons not detailed above, are unfortunately not considered refugees under the laws of Israel and in view of international conventions.
Even those who are indeed persecuted for reasons specified in the Convention, find the Israeli immigration authorities in no rush to grant them official refugee status. Most refugees do not have documents proving that they are persecuted on political, ethnic, or religious grounds. They do not possess evidence they’ve been arrested, threatened or harmed for these reasons. And even if they have all the required documents, the Israeli immigration authority is usually unwilling to provide a A-5 visa (temporary resident visa which also functions as a work permit) for a refugee. The vast majority of asylum seekers in Israel will only receive a “blue paper”.
What is a “blue” or “white” paper?
Among asylum seekers (especially those from the former Soviet Union) there is a widespread use of terms related to document colors. Immigration experts may find this confusing, since this is not a translation of some term that exists among the immigration authorities. Multiple Israeli certificates are colored blue, and paper is naturally white by default.
Regardless, a “white paper” is a document confirming that the holder sought asylum in Israel and was scheduled an interview with the RSD. The sole purpose of this permit is to prevent immediate arrest and deportation. The “white paper” shows that the owner of the document seeks legal asylum. Their status will be arranged after the interview.
Anyone who passes the initial interview and is not expelled immediately receives a “blue paper”. This is a temporary residence permit issued to an asylum seeker in Israel. This visa is valid until the applicant undergoes a comprehensive interview in the RSD unit and a decision is made. In Ministry of the Interior jargon, this is a “a visitor’s temporary permit of residence under section 2(a)(5) of the Entry into Israel Law.” The blue paper is also known as the “2a5 permit”.
There is no such thing as a “refugee visa” that can be obtained before entering the country
Any person who announces before entering Israel or at the port of entry that they wish to apply for refugee status in Israel, will most likely be automatically deported. Asylum seeker in Israel status is not sought in advance, like a work visa or the right to make Aliyah. A refugee enters Israel legally as a tourist, or (in the past) crosses the border ilegally through the border with Egypt. Only upon having entered the country, do they apply for asylum status as detailed above.
What are the restrictions that apply to an asylum seeker in Israel?
It is important to note that holders of “a visitor’s temporary permit of residence” are not allowed to re-enter Israel after leaving it, and their families cannot visit them. Once the holder of a “blue paper” leaves the country, for any reason, they cannot return. Israeli immigration authorities issue an automatic entry restriction order that is updated on the border control’s computerized system. If the asylum seeker tries to return to Israel, their entry will be refused. In addition, as long as the asylum seeker remains in Israel, the entrance to Israel of first-degree family members will be denied.
If border control officials of the Ministry of the Interior learn that more distant relatives are connected to an asylum seeker, their entry into Israel may also be refused. Even after the asylum seeker has left the country, the stigma lingers. If the border controller has information about their relationship with another visitor, said visitor will be treated with suspicion.
A request for asylum will greatly complicate any attempt to obtain legal status in Israel in the future. If you, a friend or a spouse wish to make Aliyah, or receive legal status based on marriage to an Israeli citizen, or being a descendant to a Righteous Among Nations, such a request would make the process far more difficult, especially if you need to travel abroad before submitting a request to change your status.
The Right to Work for Blue Paper Holders (an Asylum Seeker in Israel who has a 2a5 permit)
As detailed in the article on the subject of employing refugees in Israel, the Population and Migration Authority is trying to obfuscate the existing situation. Their website contains a procedure detailing which asylum seekers can and cannot be employed. But Ministry of the Interior publications create the mistaken impression that Israeli employers are forbidden to employ all asylum seekers.
What is the legal situation regarding Israeli work visas for refugees in reality?
It is forbidden to employ an asylum seeker in Israel whose temporary residence permit has the words “not allowed to work” on it. It is forbidden to employ asylum seekers who are required to stay at the Holot facility. On the other hand, it is permissible to employ asylum seekers whose permits have the words “does not constitute a work permit“. However, if the license has a geographical restriction – “You cannot live or work in these cities” – this asylum seeker in Israel may not be employed said locations.
How long does it take to make a decision about an asylum request?
With the increase in the number of asylum seekers, immigration authorities try to come to a decision as quickly as possible. Only a decade ago, the examination of the request could take several years. In 2018, receiving the results after the comprehensive interview can take several months or even weeks, depending on RSD’s workload. Most requests are denied, few are sent for re-examination.
What should I do if my application for asylum in Israel has been refused?
With the help of a lawyer who specializes in asylum applications in Israel, the RSD’s decision can be challenged. The application may be referred to reconsideration. An appeal may be submitted to the appeals court, or the application may be referred to the court after the reconsideration has been rejected. If the Appeals Court finds that the decision of the RSD unit is reasonable, this decision may be appealed to the District Court.
Finally, the decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court. In contrast to the appeal to the Appeals Court and the District Court, this right is not granted on request. In order to appeal to the Supreme Court, it is necessary to prove that the decisions of the RSD and the previous courts have been exceptionally unreasonable.
What about a humanitarian visa for an asylum seeker?
Russian speakers tend to mix up asylum applications and visa applications for humanitarian reasons. On the one hand, this is understandable – saving someone from persecution is very humanitarian. However, it is important to note that these are entirely separate tracks for legal status in Israel. Seeking asylum for reasons of persecution in the country of origin is not a visa for humanitarian reasons.
An example of a good reason for receiving status for humanitarian reasons – someone who was in a graduated process after marriage with an Israeli citizen, but the procedure was stopped due to a divorce, domestic violence, or the death of the spouse. In such a case, a residence permit for humanitarian reasons may be justified. It is also possible to receive status as a mother of a minor Israeli citizen who has no other family.
Refugees / asylum seekers in Israel are ineligible for humanitarian visas, even (especially) if they have been rejected by the RSD. Those who need medical treatment in Israel can apply for an extension of a tourist visa after entering Israel.
Immigration to Israel lawyers
Our law firm specializes in Israeli immigration and helping asylum seekers in Israel. Contact our law office in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem if you or a friend wishes to apply for asylum in Israel. We will be happy to provide legal information and assistance regarding refugee applications and appeal against decisions of the Ministry of the Interior.