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Arranging the Legal Status of the Foreign Spouse of an Israeli – The Graduated Procedure – An Actual Case

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Our law firm deals with immigration to Israel and Aliyah. One of the most important steps in obtaining legal status in Israel for the foreign spouses of Israelis is the Ministry of Interior’s graduated procedure. Advocate Irena Rosenberg from out office will explain how love, faith, hope, and the assistance of experienced lawyers helped to overcome the Ministry of Interior’s bureaucracy, the distance, and the difficulties.

This article describes the unbelievable story of a completely normal couple. Their story is ordinary, since, like any other couple in the world, all they asked for was to live happily together. However, they are also extraordinary – since they lived in different continents, spoke different languages, and the age difference between them was significant.

ההליך המדורג

“Sérgio” and “Azul”

Sérgio (the names are made up, of course, to protect the privacy of the couple) had been divorced for many years. In addition, his beloved wife during the decade before he met Azul suffered from a serious illness and passed away. To help him deal with this stressful situation, Sérgio’s friends invited him to come with them on a trip to warm distant lands. His friends came with their wives, and when they reached the sunny islands, Sérgio felt lonelier than ever. He decided to meet new friends through the Internet – with no intention of developing a romantic relationship, but, rather, finding someone interesting to talk to.

Within a few days, after a long correspondence, he met a beautiful woman named Azul and, not long after that, he decided that he wished to spend the rest of his life with her. At that moment, Sérgio did not care that they lived in different countries, spoke different languages, and had their own lives in their separate countries. All he cared about at the time was how alive he felt and how he enjoyed every moment with her.

Inviting the Woman to Israel

But the time came to face the unhappy reality: he could not remain with her and she could not go with him. Sérgio returned home to Israel, to his dismal day-to-day life, and Azul was left with wonderful memories from their relationship at the island, which, while still sunny, seemed gloomier to her as well, without Sérgio. They called and wrote to each other virtually. The lack of a common language did not affect their feelings of love for each other; however, they really missed being together physically. And then, Sérgio invited his beloved Azul to come to Israel, if only for a short visit to hug each other and be close.

Refusal of the Foreign Woman’s Entry into Israel at the Ben-Gurion Airport

The couple paid jointly for the flight ticket and excitedly awaited their upcoming meeting, but their plan was destined to fail. Azul flew to Israel, but the passport officials at the Ben-Gurion airport called her into a side room for an interview after her exhausting trip. Azul explained that she had come to meet her lover and return to her country, but the officials were unable to understand her, since they spoke her language only at a very basic level. (Readers of this article should remember that, if they encounter a similar situation, the Ministry of Interior’s regulations stipulate that the interview must be conducted in the interviewee’s mother tongue. Not following this rule violates the rights of the interviewee.) The officials yelled at Azul and threatened to deny her entry into Israel.

The Ministry of Interior officials at the Ben-Gurion Airport contacted Sérgio and asked him about Azul. He politely answered all their questions and asked to be allowed to meet with her, but was refused. (If you decide to invite a spouse to Israel, whether you are married to them or just live together, you must contact the Israeli Ministry of Interior in advance and get an entry permit.) Despite Sérgio’s efforts, Azul was denied entry into Israel and sadly returned home.

The Graduated Procedure for Obtaining Legal Status in Israel

Sérgio did not give up. He comforted Azul and promised her that he would find a solution. He contacted our law firm. During the meeting, representatives of our firm explained what the procedure would be for inviting Azul to Israel via the Interior Ministry’s graduated procedure, and what documents would be required.

Graduated procedure

The Graduated Procedure Consists of the Following Steps:

  • Scheduling an appointment at the inviter’s local Population Authority offices.
  • Arriving at the meeting and submitting all the required documents (see below).
  • Scheduling an interview. (This is not always necessary, but when it is, the Israeli citizen will be interviewed at his local Population Authority offices, and his spouse will be interviewed at the Israeli consulate in her country.)
  • The Ministry of Interior will reach a decision, based on the submitted documents and the interview. If the Ministry decides to allow entry, the happy couple may unite in Israel. However, sometimes the Ministry requires depositing a bank guarantee before the Ministry allows entry. If this is the case, the couple may only unite in Israel after the guarantee is payed.
  • If the Ministry decides to deny entry, the couple may submit an internal appeal: At this stage, the Israeli spouse may appeal the Ministry’s decision within 21 days from the date of the decision (the date on which the decision letter was physically received, not the date when it was sent by the Ministry).
  • Unfortunately, the couple’s problems don’t end here. If the internal appeal is refused by the Interior Ministry, the Israeli citizen may take the case to the court of appeals within 30 days from the date of the decision.
  • If going to the court of appeals does not help either, the couple may turn to the district court, within 45 days from the date of the court of appeals’ decision.
  • If none of the above helps, the couple may turn to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) and request appealing the district court’s decision. Luckily, most couples receive an entry permit before reaching this stage.

What Documents Are Required to Open a File at The Ministry of Interior?

  • The Israeli spouse’s ID card.
  • The foreign spouse’s passport, which must be valid for at least two years.
  • Passport pictures of the couple.
  • A letter written by the couple, in which they explain the history and duration of their relationship, their life together, and their plans for the future.

Documents that Include the Couple’s Personal Details and Their Right to a Relationship:

  • The couple’s marriage certificate. (If they are in a common-law marriage, a marriage certificate is not required.)
  • The foreign spouse’s birth certificate, translated into Hebrew by a notary public. If the certificate was issued after 1991, it must also be apostilized.
  • The foreign spouse’s name-change certificate, if they had previously changed their first or last name.
  • The foreign spouse’s criminal record check, issued by the relevant authorities in their country. If the foreign spouse had changed their family name, a separate “lack of a criminal record” certificate will be required under each name. In addition, the Israeli spouse’s police criminal certificate will also be required, since this may affect the Ministry of Interior’s decision.
  • The foreign spouse’s family status certificate (if such a certificate may be obtained in their country).
  • If the foreign spouse is divorced, both the marriage certificate and the divorce certificate must be presented.
  • All documents starting from this marriage certificate must be apostilized and translated into Hebrew by a notary.

Documents Proving That the Couple Is Living Together:

  • An apartment rental/purchase agreement and payment receipts (including bank statements).
  • A declaration by the foreign spouse concerning whether and how many children they have from a previous marriage.
  • Service bills from the past half year – electricity, gas, phone, water, property tax (arnona), television or cable television fees, etc.
  • An employment certificate and pay slips from the past year.
  • Bank documents that prove the couple’s economic situation over the past year.
  • Car ownership documents, including a driver’s license and insurance.
  • Evidence of communication between the spouses: shared photos, letters, electronic communication, SMS messages, etc.
  • A certificate from the Israeli spouse’s health maintenance organization (HMO).
  • A National Insurance certificate showing the Israeli spouse’s eligibility to benefits, if applicable.
  • Letters signed by the couple’s friends and relatives, attesting that their relationship is genuine. The letters must be submitted together with copies of the signers’ ID cards and their phone numbers.
  • Visa payment at the Ministry of Interior.

Continuation of the Romantic-Bureaucratic History – The Interior Ministry’s Refusal of the Request

To continue the story we began with – after the meeting at the Ministry of Interior offices, Sérgio doubted that his request would be accepted, since the Interior Ministry officials had doubts about whether the relationship was genuine, due to the significant age difference between the spouses, the lack of a common language, and the relatively short relationship history. But Sérgio still wished to meet with Azul and was willing to fight for her. He even signed up to courses for learning her language.

The day of the interview arrived, and Sérgio was very worried – the Interior Ministry representative’s attitude was dry and cynical. During the interview, Sérgio looked hopefully at our representative, who had accompanied him to the Interior Ministry hearing, but the regulations forbid lawyers to intervene in interviews unless the interviewer asks an illegitimate question (for example, intimate questions).

A few weeks after the interview, Sérgio was told in a short lifeless response to his internal appeal that Azul would not be allowed to enter Israel.

Appealing to the Court of Appeals under the Entry into Israel Law

Although Sérgio felt hopeless by this stage, his love for Azul and our firm’s support did not allow him to give up. And there was indeed reason for hope – the court of appeals believed in the love of this couple and accepted our firm’s undeniable claims. Sérgio finally received the approval to invite Azul to Israel and, after only a week, he hugged her at the entrance to the airport.

Contact Immigration and Aliyah Experts in Israel for Legal Assistance

No matter your age, what language you speak, and what hardships you face in life due to Interior Ministry officials – love, faith, hope, and, most importantly, fighting for your right to love will prevail! Our firm will be happy to help unite loving souls! Contact us to schedule a meeting and receive help during the graduated procedure for inviting a spouse to Israel.

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