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Delaying a family member’s status change following renewed review of the applicant’s citizenship

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

Delaying the status change for the family member of an Israeli citizen following renewed review of the Israeli applicant’s citizenship – is this a rare and exceptional case? Not necessarily.

Our law offices specialize in aliyah, immigration, and obtaining legal status in Israel. Lately we’ve dealt with several cases wherein the Ministry of Interior reopens eligibility checks for Israeli citizens, primarily Olim (immigrants) from the Former Soviet Union countries. These are Israeli citizens who apply for legal status for a family member, under Interior Ministry regulations regarding an elderly single parent, a parent of a lone IDF soldier, foreign spouses of Israelis, common-law couples including same-sex couples, etc. The change in legal status for the family member is often delayed until the MoI re-examines whether the Israeli applicant is eligible for citizenship himself. Clients who have dealt with this issue included those eligible for aliyah and their family members, citizens on the basis of marriage, great-grandchildren of Jews, and more.

We specialize in legal proceedings with the Interior Ministry

Delay of Israeli status change Our offices have encountered this phenomenon many times, and have successfully solved such cases after presenting administrative appeals before a variety of bodies: the Supreme Court (in its capacity to hear cases on Section 7 of the Citizenship Act, 1952); the Court of Administrative Affairs (with the authority to hear cases on Section 7 of the Citizenship Act); and the appellate courts (the judicial tribunals currently authorized to hear cases on this issue, pursuant to Entry into Israel Law).

As noted, many appeals have been made to the relevant courts on such issues – so many that the authority was transferred from the national to the regional level. Eventually it was decided to establish special legal tribunals to deal with this issue, the appellate courts.

Example of a successful case by immigration attorney Michael Decker

As an example, here is a case in which Advocate Michael Decker obtained a successful outcome for his client. The appellant, Avner Ne’eman, applied to bring his spouse to Israel from the Ukraine. The Interior Ministry rejected his application, claiming that he may have obtained his citizenship under false pretenses. The claim was made that Avner is a Messianic Jew, and Messianic Jews are not eligible to make aliyah to Israel.

Meanwhile, many years had passed, and the Interior Ministry had never revoked his status (and to this day has not taken action on this issue, since Avner Ne’eman made aliyah to Israel when he was a minor, and therefore could not have presented any false information to the Interior Ministry). Our office appealed to the regional court, in its capacity as a court for administrative appeals, on this point. In the appeal, we vigorously protested the Interior Ministry’s harassment of an innocent Israeli citizen; on the one hand, the Ministry was claiming that the citizen obtained his citizenship under false pretenses (all the while not proceeding with any measures against him on this issue, for a good reason), and on the other hand, was refusing to provide him with a public service (and essentially treating him as a second-class citizen).

Ultimately, the court allowed Avner Ne’eman’s spouse into Israel, as well as compensated the appellant.

The name of the ruling is administrative appeal (Jerusalem) 63320-11-16 Avner Ne’eman et al. v. the Population Authority.

Delay of Israeli status change – Position Paper by the Assistant Attorney General

Heavy public pressure, including remarks by Knesset members, verdicts critical of this practice and a State Comptroller on the issue was brought to bear against the Ministry of Interior. Accordingly, on 21 December 2017, the Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Dina Zilber, issued, via Dr. Omri Ben Zvi, a position paper on the issue, in which she criticized the phenomenon as practiced by the Interior Ministry.

For example, the position paper addressed the situation in which the Interior Ministry reconsiders the file of a long-term immigrant to Israel and does not have adequate information on file. In such cases, in order to check the citizenship eligibility of that long-term immigrant (presently an Israeli citizen), the Interior Ministry must request that the citizen provide documents. This implies that the Interior Ministry is examining the Israeli citizen’s application for citizenship de novo, and the position paper holds that this is not acceptable.

In addition, the paper ruled on cases where it is clear that there is no chance of revoking a citizen’s Israeli citizenship, for example after many years, when the citizen made aliyah as a minor. In such cases, barring serious opposing considerations, the position paper states that it was inappropriate from the start to delay a status change for another family member whose status depends on that person’s citizenship.

When does the Interior Ministry have the authority to delay a status change?

Even given the above, in cases where the Interior Ministry believes that it possesses clear evidence for revoking citizenship, and that there are serious opposing considerations, the current position paper permits the Interior Ministry to delay a status change for a family member of that Israeli citizen. However, the paper itself notes that the Interior Ministry has never once acted to revoke the citizenship of someone who made aliyah under the Law of Return, 1950, following alleged presentation of false information, according to the current legal process.

In addition to reading the position paper of Assistant Attorney General Ms. Dina Zilber, you can also find out more information about it from the official announcement issued on the Knesset site.

Summary – Delay of Israeli status change of family members of Israeli citizens whose status is in doubt

The Interior Ministry has reduced the number of repeat eligibility checks for immigrant Israeli citizens who have requested a status change for another family member. However, as one can see, the Interior Ministry continues to take action in this area. The Ministry’s actions occur when, in the opinion of the clerks involved, there are serious opposing considerations which require such a reevaluation (even when the Israeli citizen in question has served in the IDF and lived in Israel for many years, and even if he is deeply connected to Israel).

Our law firm specializing in immigration to Israel, it handles such cases on a regular basis. You are invited to contact our office with any question or clarification regarding delay in status change or any other problem with the Interior Ministry.

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