Re-entry visa (Inter-Visa) for asylum seekers
Can asylum seekers be eligible for a re-entry visa (Inter-Visa) to Israel? An Inter-Visa is a special visa that allows foreign citizens staying in Israel for an extended period to leave the country for personal or family reasons, and still be able to re-enter the country afterwards. Although Inter-Visas are granted mainly to foreign workers, in principle it is also possible for asylum seekers to apply for an Inter-Visa and a travel document (laissez passer). This article provides an explanation by attorney Joshua Pex, a partner in our firm and an expert in Israeli immigration law.
Asylum seekers are foreign citizens who have sought refuge outside their country, usually due to emergencies such as war, humanitarian crises, etc. Often, their legal status is not officially regulated, and as a result many of them end up staying in a foreign country under a temporary status that does not allow them to leave it. The above applies to tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Israel from various countries in Africa (such as Sudan and Eritrea) and recently also Ukraine. The procedure in Israel for recognizing asylum seekers as refugees is extremely complicated, resulting in many asylum seekers finding themselves staying in Israel with little or no ability to leave, since if they decide to leave Israel, they risk being refused entry upon their return.
Asylum seekers often need to leave the country for various reasons. These reasons may be personal (such as the need to settle urgent bureaucratic matters in a foreign country), medical, family related and more. For example, there are cases in which an asylum seeker’s relative is about to undergo life-saving surgery in a foreign country and has no other family member to take care of him/her. It is very common for asylum seekers to need to take care of relatives who were left alone, since extended families often flee to several different countries and are required to remain in the country they fled to. It is important to know that in these types of humanitarian cases, it is possible to apply for a re-entry visa (known as an “Inter-visa”). The procedure for obtaining this visa is legally complex and does not always end in success. The assistance of an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law, who has experience in handling these issues, can significantly increase the chances of the application’s approval. Below we explain the regulations on the matter and the procedure required for asylum seekers to obtain a re-entry visa.
What is the regulation regarding re-entry visas for asylum seekers?
The regulations of the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry regarding the Inter-Visa generally apply to foreign workers who are legally residing in Israel. However, the regulations may also apply, with the appropriate modifications, to foreign citizens with other statuses, including that of asylum seekers. According to regulations, to apply for a re-entry visa, applicants must go in person to the office of the Population and Immigration Authority nearest to their place of residence. Once there, applicants must present the Population and Immigration official with their residence permit, passport (if they hold one), up-to-date passport photo and visa application form. Applicants must also attach a letter from their employer supporting the application, listing the dates of departure and entry to Israel, and stating the purpose of the departure. In addition, the letter must include a statement by the employer committing to continue to employ the applicant upon their return to Israel.
What happens if an applicant does not have a valid passport?
A widespread problem among asylum seekers is that they do not have valid passports, or any passport at all. Many of them came to Israel illegally or are unable to arrange their legal status with the authorities in their home country due to current political circumstances. The solution in these cases, in order for them to be able to use a re-entry visa (assuming their application is approved) is to apply for a travel document (laissez passer). This document is a substitute for a passport and enables its holder to exit and re-enter Israel. Travel documents can be applied for when applying for an Inter-Visa, or in a separate procedure. Here, too, it is necessary for applicants to go in person to an office of the Population and Immigration Authority, present a foreign passport (if they hold one) and submit an application form. In addition, there is a fee for applying, which can be paid by credit card at a reduced cost on the authority’s website, or at one of the service reception desks located in some of the Population and Immigration Authority’s offices throughout the country.
Re-entry visa (Inter-Visa) for asylum seekers – contact an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law
In this article we provided a brief explanation of the process for obtaining a re-entry visa for asylum seekers, which allows its holder to leave Israel and return to it afterwards. The process may be more complicated in practice, given the many bureaucratic difficulties that may arise along the way. It is important to act according to the regulations, and we highly recommend seeking assistance from an attorney specializing in immigration law. In any case, it is important to avoid unilateral actions, since asylum seekers who leave Israel without an Inter-Visa risk being refused entry upon their return to the country. If you have any additional questions or need assistance on the matter, an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law from our firm, with offices located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will be happy to help. You can contact us at the phone numbers and email address below.