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Legal status for a foreign spouse when the Israeli partner has a criminal record

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Alexander P Gutterman

EU PASSPORT ! Big news! Thanks to Michael Decker and the other good people at the law office, as well as to the virtue of my ancestors, the cruelty of the Inquisition, reparations issued in the Iberian Peninsula, and etc, I am delighted to be on track for Portuguese and European Union Citizenship! A truly incredible development and one which brings me deep joy.

If an Israeli has a criminal record, that doesn’t mean they can’t arrange legal status for their foreign spouse. It is a truism that love does not recognize borders; there are always couples who want to institutionalize their relationship despite problems experienced by one of the partners. Such problems may include the criminal record of Israeli spouse.

Interior Ministry regulations on arranging legal status for foreign spouses allow investigation of the Israeli partner’s criminal record. What can be done to help the couple in such cases? Attorney Michael Decker, a specialist in immigration to Israel, explains herein.

Our law offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specialize in Israeli immigration law; arranging Israeli legal status in the Interior Ministry for couples in which one partner is a foreign citizen, including cases in which the Israeli partner has a criminal record. Our office has extensive experience in representing such couples before the Population and Immigration Authority at the Interior Ministry, as well as before administrative and judicial courts.

General explanation of the joint-life application

An Israeli in a relationship with a foreign citizen who wants to settle in Israel must arrange legal status for their foreign partner. This is true both for married couples and for couples in common-law marriages. As part of the process of obtaining such status, the couple must file a joint-life application with the Interior Ministry. When submitting the application, the applicants must present various documents, explained in detail in this article.

Criminal record of Israeli spouseDuring the process both spouses will be identified, and the evidence they have presented will undergo a preliminary check. In addition, a check will be performed to make sure that there is no legal or security impediment or restriction on granting their request and allowing them to start the gradual process towards legal status. This includes checking to see whether either of the partners, the Israeli or the foreign citizen, has a criminal record. Below we focus on the case where the Israeli partner has a criminal record, but in a separate article on our site, you can find information on the case where it is the foreign partner who has the criminal record.

The Interior Ministry’s authority to refuse an application on the grounds of criminal record

Even someone who has a criminal record, and even a convicted criminal, has a natural, fundamental right to married life. In principle, this should be no different if the spouse is a foreign citizen. However, the relevant Interior Ministry regulations allow the Interior Ministry, when a joint-life application is filed, to turn to external bodies (such as the police or the security services) and obtain information on the criminal record of the Israeli spouse. It also has authority to refuse an application in exceptional cases, such as incarceration or arrest of the Israeli spouse.

What can be done if the Interior Ministry has refused a joint-life application?

As noted, Interior Ministry regulations themselves indicate that only in exceptional cases will a joint-life application be rejected on the grounds that the Israeli spouse has a criminal record. On the other hand, the regulations do not specify a list of crimes that are cause for refusal, implying that an application can be rejected for any type of crime. Past experience shows that applications were often refused for crimes linked to the marriage relationship. For instance; Interior Ministry officials rejected joint-life applications due to evidence that the Israeli spouse was involved human trafficking.

The Entrance to Israel Act incorporates the possibility of appealing a decision to reject a joint-life application. If the internal appeal is rejected, the couple can initiate an appeal to the Appeals Court. The appeal must be submitted in writing, within 30 days of the rejection decision. Therefore it is recommended to act as rapidly as possible; making use of the counseling and representation services of an attorney specializing in immigration law. Note that the Appeals Court decision can also be appealed to the Administrative Affairs Court.

Past cases show that the courts thoroughly evaluate the seriousness of the evidence on which the Interior Ministry bases its refusal to approve applications. When the evidence indicates that the cases are already expired or lack any real linkage to the current situation, the tendency is to intervene in the refusal decision and change it. This is in light of the above rule, stating that only in exceptional cases will an application be refused on the grounds that the Israeli spouse has a criminal record. This also takes into account a couple’s natural right to institutionalize their joint life.

Contact an attorney specializing in immigration to Israel

If you want to begin the process of obtaining legal status in Israel, or have encountered obstacles with the authorities in this matter, contact us and we can help you. Our office has extensive experience in representing couples before the Interior Ministry and the various courts, including arranging legal status for a foreign spouse of an Israeli with a criminal record.

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