Visa Extension in Israel for Foreign Nationals Who Are Worried About Leaving Israel Due to the Coronavirus
Despite the restrictions imposed on the entry of foreign nationals into Israel due to the Coronavirus outbreak, many foreign nationals, some of them being tourists and others foreign workers, now remain in Israel. How can they extend their stay due to the current unique circumstances? In this article we will elaborate more on the Coronavirus situation as it relates to visa extension in Israel.
The law office of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, located in Petach Tikva and Jerusalem, specializes in immigration. We have a great deal of experience in representing foreign nationals seeking to extend their stay in Israel.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread in Israel, complicated and unprecedented dilemmas must be contended with. An matter that has yet to be thoroughly discussed concerns citizens of foreign countries who are currently staying in Israel. These foreign nationals could be forced to remain in Israel until the end of the outbreak for reasons such as; an unstable situation in their country of origin (and even closed borders, as in various European countries); fear of health risks while being on the plane; needing to remain with family and acquaintances who have contracted the disease or who are in quarantine, and so on. There are many reasons why foreign nationals may wish to extend their stay in Israel during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Types of Visas
The Entry into Israel Law distinguishes between different types of visas for foreign nationals. The most common of these visas is the tourist visa, which is granted for a period of up to 3 months. It is important to differentiate between countries whose citizens are required to apply for the visa in advance (for exampl, Thailand, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and countries whose citizens are exempt from applying in advance, and are listed in the Entry into Israel Order (the list includes the Philippines, South Korea, and most European countries).
There is also the transit visa for foreign nationals who are traveling through Israel to other destinations. This visa is granted for a period of up to 5 days. Additionally, there is the work visa, which is much longer, which is intended for foreign workers. A work visa must be obtained prior to coming to Israel; it is generally not permitted for a tourist visa to be converted into a work visa.
The Coronavirus and Visa Extension in Israel
The Entry into Israel Law authorizes the Minister of Interior to extend visas according to their classification. A transit visa can be extended for up to a total of accumulative 10 years. A tourist visa (B2 visa) can be extended for up to 2 years, according to the law. However, in practice, and usually without any justification, tourists do not receive a visa for more than 3 months. A work visa can be extended for up to 5 years and, in the case of a foreign caretaker, for even longer periods.
On March 3, 2020, following the instructions of the Ministry of Health to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Israeli Minister of Interior decided to automatically extend the stay permit of asylum seekers in Israel, who hold a 2(a)5 visa, for two additional months after their visa expires. The goal is to avoid massive lines of applicants at the Population and Immigration Authority offices, which handle asylum seekers and refugees.
The Minister of Interior has full discretion, and there is a procedure governing the process for examining applications to extend tourist visas. In this regard, conditions and threshold requirements for submitting an application were established such as; possessing a foreign passport that will not expire for at least 6 months; an obligation to be physically present when the application is submitted; and attaching a letter clearly explaining the reasons for the application (with supporting documentation attached).
Process of Appealing the Ministry of Interior’s Decisions — Extension of Stay Permit in Israel
If the application to extend a tourist visa is denied, then an internal appeal against the refusal decision can be submitted to the bureau manager. If the internal appeal is also rejected, it is always possible to submit an appeal to the Appeals Tribunal. As part of the appeal, the tribunal will examine the feasibility of the decision and decide whether or not it should be changed. It is even possible to further appeal the decision before the Court for Administrative Affairs. As of the date this article was written, no judicial decisions have been made regarding the Coronavirus situation and the extension of visas in Israel for foreign nationals.
However, when examining previous cases that the courts ruled on we can see that there is a willingness to intervene in different situations. For instance, in the case of a tourist who came from Thailand for a month and stayed with an Israeli acquaintance, the Court for Administrative Affairs overturned the decision of the Ministry of Interior to refuse an extension of stay in Israel for three months. The decision was given out of concern that the tourist would put down roots in Israel. The court ruled that solutions to these concerns can be found, such as checking bank guarantees, and thus the court overturned the decision of the Ministry of Interior.
Contact a Lawyer Specializing in Immigration Law and Legal Status Regulation of Foreign Nationals
If you are a foreign national staying in Israel and are interested in extending your stay, or if you know foreign citizens who would like to do this, we are happy to help. Our office has much experience in immigration law and in regulating the legal status of foreign tourists and workers in Israel, as well as in providing representation before the various courts and legal authorities, and finding creative solutions for these issues. You can contact us through the phone numbers or email address listed below.