How Do You Obtain Israeli Citizenship for a Foreign Spouse? (Legal Information)
The process of obtaining Israeli citizenship for a foreign spouse may be long and complicated, fraught with many bureaucratic obstacles. Our law office deals regularly with requests to arrange the Israeli legal status of foreign citizens who are married or in a romantic relationship with Israeli partners and who wish to live together with their spouses in Israel. Our extensive experience in this field has taught us that prior knowledge and legal assistance may serve as a key to successfully completing the process. This article reviews the various stages of the process and the legal obstacles that may arise, as well as the solutions for these obstacles.
The lawyers at our firm, which has branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specialize in immigration to Israel. We have extensive proven experience in representing couples and families in the process of arranging their Israeli legal status vis-à-vis the authorities and courts. We help clients and provide them with legal assistance throughout all the stages of arranging Israeli legal status for foreign spouses, as well as for the minor children of these foreign spouses.
How Do You Manage the Prolonged Procedure for Obtaining Israeli Citizenship for a Foreign Spouse?
Israeli immigration policy does not automatically grant Israeli citizens and residents the right to live in Israel with a foreign spouse. The Citizenship Law (a.k.a. the Nationality Law) and the Entry Into Israel Law do allow mixed couples to arrange their Israeli legal status, but this involves a prolonged process that usually takes several years to complete. In reality, this is not an easy task for the tens of thousands of mixed couples living in Israel, who are not always aware of the requirements.
These couples often meet overseas, or during a visit or stay of the foreign spouse in Israel. When a couple checks whether their legal situation allows them to live together in Israel, they discover that they must apply at the Israeli Ministry of Interior and go through a process that may take about five years to complete, on average. Many couples are not able to complete the process successfully on their own, either because they have difficulty meeting the requirements of the Population and Immigration Authority or because they give up before the process is complete.
We have assisted, and continues to assist, many mixed couples in finding their way through the complicated bureaucracy required by the authorities in Israel and completing the complex process of arranging the foreign spouse’s legal status vis-à-vis the Interior Ministry. You should know that obtaining Israeli citizenship for a foreign spouse is not an impossible task. Proper legal assistance with the application from the start may make the process reasonably easy to manage.
In addition, knowing about the stages of the process in advance may help the couple understand what they will be dealing with and prepare accordingly. Below are the stages of the process, which include filing a joint-life application for the foreign spouse, undergoing an interview that examines the sincerity of the romantic relationship, undergoing a graduated procedure to arrange the Israeli legal status of the foreign spouse, and, finally, receiving Israeli citizenship.
For Whom Is the Procedure for Arranging Legal Status in Israel Relevant?
As a rule, anyone who is interested in obtaining Israeli citizenship for a foreign partner is required to undergo a procedure to arrange their legal status. The regulations on this matter apply both to formally married mixed couples and to couples who are in a common-law marriage, as well as same-sex couples. In cases where the foreign spouse has minor children living with them whom they wish to naturalize, as well, the children will be included in the process of arranging the legal status of their parent.
Exceptions are, for example, cases in which the foreign spouse is a Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. However, in cases where the foreign spouse has no other connection to Israel besides being married to an Israeli, they will generally have to undergo the full procedure to obtain Israeli citizenship.
How Do You File a Joint-Life Application?
The first stage in the process of arranging Israeli legal status is to file an application with the Ministry of Interior. To do this, couples staying in Israel must physically arrive at their local Population Authority offices and submit a request. If the foreign spouse lives overseas and the Israeli spouse lives in Israel, the foreign spouse will need to be invited in advance and receive a permit to enter Israel. If both spouses are living abroad, the process will begin vis-à-vis Israel’s Diplomatic Mission (the Israeli embassy or consulate) that is closest to where the couple is staying.
The regulations on the matter stipulate that the couple must submit various documents when filing the application. These documents include the application forms, the Israeli spouse’s ID card and the foreign spouse’s foreign passport, a letter signed by both spouses describing their romantic relationship, documents belonging to the foreign spouse (including a birth certificate; a police clearance certificate (PCC) / good conduct certificate; an up-to-date certificate attesting to their marital status and, if their family name has changed, a name-change certificate), and documents proving the couple’s relationship.
Proof of the relationship may be joint bank accounts, letters from friends and family attesting to the romantic relationship, certificates proving that the couple lives together, etc. The list of documents that must be submitted may change depending on the circumstances. It often happens that a request is delayed due to missing documents or additional documents that are required by the officials at the Population and Immigration Authority handling the case. Therefore, it is important to be prepared in advance and collect all the required documents before presenting them with the application. For more information about the list of required documents, see another article on our website.
What Is the Relationship Sincerity Interview?
When filing a join-life application in Israel, subject to submitting all the required documents, the foreign spouse will be given a permit to stay in Israel valid for six months. After that, the spouses will undergo an interview that will examine the sincerity of their relationship. During the interview, the Population Authority officials will examine whether the relationship is indeed genuine. The spouses may be asked harsh and intimate questions about their relationship, and the interviewers will try to find contradictions between the answers of both spouses. It is important to be well-prepared for the interview. A detailed explanation about this can be found in a guide published on our website.
The Graduated Procedure for Obtaining Israeli Citizenship for Foreign Spouses
As explained above, the graduated procedure may take several years to complete. As part of the process, the spouses will undergo periodic interviews to ensure that the relationship between them continues and that their joint center of life is still in Israel. In the intermediate period after filing the join-life application, the foreign spouse will be given a temporary stay permit valid for one year, as well as a temporary ID card. After that, the temporary stay visa will be extended yearly.
The ending of the graduated procedure depends on the type of relationship between the spouses. For married couples, the average period for completing the procedure is approximately four years. For couples in a common-law marriage, the average period is longer, and may reach approximately six years. The exact length of time also depends on the circumstances. At the end of the period, the foreign spouse will be eligible to receive permanent residency or Israeli citizenship. For more information about the graduated procedure, see our comprehensive article on the topic.
Israeli Citizenship for Foreign Spouses—Contact a Law Firm Specializing in Immigration to Israel
Above we explained about the stages of receiving Israeli citizenship for foreign spouses in Israel. For any advice or assistance you may need on the matter, you are welcome to contact a lawyer from our firm who specializes in immigration to Israel. We have lawyers who specialize in the field of arranging the legal status of foreign spouses living together with Israelis, and in the naturalization of couples and families in Israel.