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Foreign spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Ways to obtain legal status a Friendship Visa in Israel for foreign spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents

The following article is written by Michael Decker, an Israeli attorney specializing in immigration to Israel in our law offices. In it, he surveys the possible ways to obtain legal status for foreign spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

Procedures for obtaining legal status for foreign spouses in Israel:

A foreign citizen who is a partner of an Israeli citizen or permanent resident can obtain legal status under regulation no. 5.2.0009. This regulation governs the legalization of the status of a foreign partner living in a common-law marriage with an Israeli citizen or permanent resident. The regulation includes same-sex couples. An Israeli citizen can obtain a marriage visa for a foreign husband or wife under regulation no. 5.2.0008, which covers obtaining legal status for a foreign spouse who is legally married to an Israeli citizen.

An additional regulation, no. 5.1.0001, covers obtaining a marriage visa for the foreign spouse of a permanent resident. The process under this regulation takes more time than the process for the spouse of an Israeli citizen (the foreign spouse first receives a B/1 work permit for 27 months, then a 5/A temporary residency permit for 4 years). At the end of the progressive process, the foreign spouse obtains the status of permanent resident (rather than citizenship).

Legal changes related to foreign partners cohabiting with permanent residents:

Previously, the regulation for legal status of foreign common-law spouses did not apply to permanent residents. For a very long time, permanent residents did not have the right to confer legal status in Israel to their spouses without a duly verified marriage certificate. However, attorneys Joshua Pex and Michael Decker, from our law offices, changed this situation with a procedural appeal against a ruling by the Appellate Committee for foreigners (which existed before the establishment of the Appeals Tribunal).

In procedural appeal 25821-03-10, Salima Jackson v. the Ministry of the Interior, it was ruled that permanent residents must also be allowed to obtain legal status for their spouses, even without a duly verified marriage certificate (that is, even for common-law foreign spouses of Israeli residents).

The current legal situation concerning single-sex married couples:

The regulation regarding friendship visas for foreign common-law spouses of Israeli citizens or permanent residents applies to same-sex couples.

Foreign spousesIn this regard, one must remember that if a same-sex couple are legally married outside of Israel, and hold a marriage certificate with an apostille stamp, or in accordance with Supreme Court ruling 5075-15, Gay Dads Association v. The Minister of the Interior, the length of the progressive process will be comparable to that described for obtaining a spousal visa for the foreign spouse of an Israeli citizen. Accordingly, a same-sex spouse of an Israeli citizen will receive a B/1 work visa for six months, then temporary resident status 5/A for 4 years, and finally will be able to become a naturalized citizen according to Section 5 of the Citizenship Act, 5712 – 1952.

There is clearly discrimination against same-sex married couples, as opposed to heterosexual married couples; a foreign same-sex spouse married to an Israeli citizen will need to obtain citizenship according to Section 5 of the Citizenship Act (which requires giving up any other citizenship, something which not every citizen of a first-world country is willing to do). In contrast, a foreign heterosexual spouse married to an Israeli citizen can obtain citizenship under Section 7 of that law (and can therefore hold on to other citizenships).

Is it possible to start a common-law marriage application when the couple is in Israel?

It is possible to open a common-law marriage file when both partners are residing in Israel, or via an official invitation when the foreign spouse is not in Israel.

The Population Authority prefers the foreign spouse to have an official invitation, and often refuses entry to Israel if a foreign spouse tries to enter the country without an invitation (if the Population Authority discovers the couple’s relationship).

If both partners are already in Israel, according to Supreme Court ruling 3648/97, Stamka et al v. Minister of the Interior et al, the Population Authority is forbidden to require the foreign partner to leave the country.

More on the subject in the following video:

General documents required to obtain legal status for a foreign spouse in Israel:

The documents required for most of the above processes and regulations are as follows:

  1. A valid passport for the foreign spouse (valid for at least 2 years)
  2. Photocopy of the Israeli spouse’s Israeli identity card
  3. Full common-life documents as required and verified by an attorney (it is recommended that an experienced attorneys’ office prepare the relevant forms)
  4. A certificate confirming the lack of a criminal record for the foreign spouse
  5. The couple’s marriage certificate (if relevant)
  6. Birth certificate of the foreign spouse
  7. Photographs of the couple together, taken on different occasions
  8. Letters from acquaintances and family testifying to the couple’s common center of life + a copy of the Israeli identity card of each acquaintance or relative who writes a letter
  9. Proof of a common center of life (such a rental contract, bank account, registration of the foreign spouse on bills for municipal taxes, electricity, water, gas, etc.)
  10. Proof that both partners were unmarried before their marriage or relationship as a couple (single, widowed, or divorced)
  11. Salary slips from the last three months
  12. A letter explaining how the couple met.

Note that all official documents require an apostille stamp, and need to be translated into Hebrew via a notary who speaks the relevant language.

Summary – Contact an attorney who specializes in emigration to Israel:

Our law office specializes in immigration and legal status in Israel. At any given time, we represent hundreds of couples who seek to obtain legal status for foreign spouses with the Population Authority. We will be happy to answer any questions or provide clarification regarding the above issues.

To make an appointment with an expert immigration lawyer, you are invited to contact us.

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