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Immigration of grandchildren to Israel under the Law of Return – what can be done about delayed processing of applications?

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

The continued eligibility for Jewish grandchildren to immigrate to Israel based on the Law of Return is uncertain in light of a serious initiative to change the Law of Return, promoted by the current government. This may cause a delay or even refusal of immigration applications. One of the possible legal solutions is to submit a no-reply petition to the court, which involves a demand from the parties handling the immigration application at the Ministry of the Interior to speed up the processing and provide its reply to the application. The possible barrier to the Immigration of grandchildren to Israel will be explained in this article by attorney Joshua Pex, a partner in our firm and an expert in immigration law and immigration to Israel.

The Law of Return has formed the status quo for many decades in terms of the right of Jews and Jewish descendants to immigrate to Israel. Recently, initiatives to change this status quo have been enthusiastically promoted. There are increasing voices calling for an amendment to the Law of Return and the repeal of section 4(a) of the Law, known as the “Grandchild Clause.” This clause recognizes the right of grandchildren of Jews, who are not Jews themselves, to immigrate to Israel and receive Israeli citizenship. Based on this clause, thousands of new immigrants come to Israel every year, many of whom serve in the IDF, assimilate into Israeli society and even undergo conversion procedures.

While the latest legislative initiative may not pass, the mere raising of the initiative and the broad support it receives in the Knesset jeopardize applications to immigrate to Israel that have recently been submitted by Jewish grandchildren, as well as future applications filed in the near future. There is a concern that the law will be amended in expedited procedures, without allowing time to adjust for those who wish to immigrate under the law in its current form. There is also a concern that the Ministry of the Interior will introduce a policy of delaying the processing of existing applications for citizenship, against the background of the uncertainty of the legal situation. The question is what can be done in order to avoid situations in which the applications of those who relied on the law in its current version are not approved. Below we would like to explain both the initiative to amend the law and a possible legal solution to the problem, which concerns the submission of a `petition to the court designed to speed up the reply and processing of applications.

Immigration of grandchildren to Israel

What is the Grandchild Clause and what are the initiatives that are currently being promoted?

The Law of Return in its current form grants the right to immigrate to Israel to family members of Jews, and states that Jewish children and grandchildren are entitled to immigrate to Israel and their right is equal to the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel. Exceptions to this rule are cases where the grandchildren (or children) were Jewish and went through a voluntary conversion process. The rationales underlying the Grandchild Clause include, among other things, the desire to prevent inequality between foreign Jewish families and mixed families (composed of Jews and members of other religions) and to promote family reunification in Israel.

Until recently, there was a broad consensus that the law should not be changed in view of the rationales above. However, this state of affairs has changed, and there is currently a serious initiative to change the law being promoted, which is widely supported by the Knesset and the government. If this initiative passes, the Grandchild Clause will probably be repealed, or at the very least, the right of Jewish grandchildren to immigrate to Israel will be greatly reduced, contrary to the current legal situation. To the extent that this legislative change actually occurs, it is very possible that petitions will be filed against the initiative to the High Court of Justice based on the potential violation of constitutional rights that may result from this legislative change. Moreover, the fact that the initiative is currently pending may delay the processing at the Ministry of the Interior of applications that have already been submitted by grandchildren to immigrate to Israel, as well as applications that will be submitted in the near future.

What is a No-Reply Petition and how can it help this problem?

It often happens that the authorities in Israel, including the Population and Immigration Authority at the Ministry of the Interior, delay the processing of inquiries and applications due to policy changes or expected legislation changes. The immigration of grandchildren of Jews to Israel is certainly one of those cases in which this may apply in view of the initiatives mentioned above. A possible solution to prevent a future delay or refusal of Jewish grandchildren’s immigration applications is to file a no-reply petition in the Administrative Affairs Court against the authority, in cases in which the processing of immigration applications is actually delayed.

What is a no-reply petition? No-reply petitions are petitions submitted after no reply was granted by a state authority to the application, following which the petition was submitted. Following the submission of the petition, the court may compel the authority to reply within a certain period of time, and sometimes may even discuss the subject matter of the petition. It should be noted that there are cases in which the court may rule on a no-reply petition, even though the authority against which the petition was filed replied to the petition. This is possible where the court finds that under the circumstances of the case, the authority’s reply is partial or too general.

In some cases, the mere filing of the petition will lead to speeding up the authority’s processing time and providing a reply to the application, in a way that will resolve the problem and eliminate the need to discuss the petition. For example, in the petition discussed in the Administrative Affairs Court in Tel Aviv in 2021 (case number 51175-06-21) and dealt with the issue of freedom of information, the authority replied to the petition even before the court’s decision on the petition was granted. The court awarded legal costs in favor of the petitioner. Such situations also occur in cases of petitions filed against the Ministry of the Interior for delaying the processing of appeals or applications. Accordingly, a no-reply petition for failure to reply to the delay of cases of grandchildren immigrating to Israel may be a possible solution in the appropriate cases. To learn more on how to act in a particular case, it is recommended to consult a lawyer specializing in immigration law and immigration to Israel.

Immigration of grandchildren to Israel according to the Law of Return – contact a lawyer specializing in Israeli immigration law

In this article we explained the concern of a potential change in the right of grandchildren of Jews to immigrate to Israel according to the Grandchild Clause of the Law of Return, in the context of the initiatives to repeal it. We also explained a possible legal solution to the problem, in the form of filing a no-reply petition at the Administrative Affairs Court to promote the processing of the matter. If you have additional questions or need any advice or assistance regarding immigrating to Israel, please contact our office and we will be happy to help. Our firm specializes in immigration law to Israel and in representing new immigrants and those entitled to immigrate before all the legal authorities and courts in Israel, in issues such as opening an immigration case, conversion procedures, exercising the rights of new immigrants and more.

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