Status for Foreign Spouses of Palestinian Residents in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories
Legal background regarding foreign spouses of Palestinians in the West Bank
Palestinian citizens / residents living in the West Bank who start a relationship / family with foreign nationals face certain complications. Since the area is under the control of the State of Israel, inviting a foreigner as a visitor or resident requires the approval of the Israeli authorities.
Border-crossing to the West Bank
The State of Israel controls the relevant borders which must be crossed in order to enter the West Bank area. The borders inside Israel which access the West Bank (areas C, B, and A), are controlled by checkpoints (which are operated by the IDF).
These checkpoints are not international borders, and it is not necessary to hold an official travel document (such as a passport, or a laissez-passer), in order to pass through them. Israelis can enter and exit through these checkpoints with minimal difficulty. However, Palestinians cannot enter Israel without a permit, and their free travel is limited within the West Bank (areas A, B, and C).
The designated international border crossing for Palestinians entering and exiting into the West Bank is the Allenby Bridge (area C) which is between Jordan and Israel.
Israeli authorities grant a visa which is limited for the West Bank to visitors who wish to visit Palestinians in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories (or to settle in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories).
Despite the legal limitations noted above, checkpoint operators often do not enforce restrictions on non-Palestinian foreigners. Foreigner citizens who do not hold a Palestinian ID are usually able to enter and exit through the checkpoints, which exist mainly for security purposes, and to make sure that Palestinian citizens do not enter Israeli Territories, even if they are granted a visa which is limited for the West Bank / Palestinian Territories.
More about the Allenby Bridge border crossing for foreign visitors who would like to visit the West Bank:
Approval for Tourist Visa to the West Bank
A B-2 visa, limited for a period of up to 27 months, can be obtained from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (“COGAT”). When a Palestinian citizen wants to invite a spouse from a different country to the West Bank, they must apply according to the “invitation of foreigners to the Palestinian Territories” procedure, then request an extension of the visitor permit.
Approval to enter Israel for a period of up to 27 months
After the spouse arrives in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories they must submit an application for family unification. The request must be submitted to the COGAT while the B-2 tourist visa is valid (i.e, within 27 months).
The Israeli Authorities need to determine that the relationship between the Palestinian and the foreign spouse is real and authentic. For this purpose, and based on experience with similar cases which deal with Israelis inviting foreign spouses, the following documents are recommended to be presented before the COGAT:
- Foreign spouse’s passport (valid for at least 6 months, preferably more)
- Palestinian’s ID card;
- Updated and valid background check for the foreign spouse + Apostille authentication;
- Birth certificate for the foreign spouse + Apostille;
- Marriage certificate between the Palestinian citizen and the foreign spouse + Apostille;
- Photos of the Palestinian citizen and the foreign spouse together;
- Letters from family confirming the relationship;
- Letters of recommendation from friends confirming the relationship;
- Proof that the Palestinian citizen and the spouse will be living together (such as a rental agreement which includes both names);
- Family status document for the foreign spouse. The document proves that they were eligible to be married (single, widowed, or divorced) prior to the date of the marriage. This document also requires an Apostille;
- Pay slips or other proof regarding source of income for the Palestinian citizen;
- Letter of explanation on how the Palestinian and the foreign spouse met and fell in love.
All documents which are not in Hebrew or Arabic or English should be officially translated via a notary.
Challenges faced by Foreign Spouses of Palestinians Living in the west Bank:
Many recent applications to the Palestinian Authority for residency or citizenship for foreign spouses have been frozen by the Israeli authorities. In addition, long term visas for foreign spouses of Palestinians in family unification cases have been denied.
This modus operandi is being challenged in Supreme Court case HCJ 6103/17, Josefin Herbach and Abed Salaymah v. the State of Israel.
Further information regarding the above-mentioned cases:
Summary – Family Unification for Foreign Spouses of Palestinians in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories:
Our Law Offices have a unique expertise with regards to legalizing the status of foreign spouses in Israel, and also in the West Bank.
Even though there are real challenges regarding establishing a permanent legal status for foreign spouses of Palestinians living in the West Bank / Palestinian Territories, the explanations provided in this article at least provide a temporary solution for couples who would like to establish a family unit in the West Bank / Palestinian Authority.
You can contact our Law Offices for further questions and/or clarifications on the matter.