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Entry of international humanitarian aid workers into Israel

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

How can international humanitarian aid workers enter Israel? Workers in international non-governmental aid organizations operating in the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are required to obtain an Israeli visa for their activities. First, each organization must receive initial recognition from the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs. After that, the organization’s workers can apply for an appropriate permit from the Interior Ministry. Below is an explanation of the required application process by attorney Michael Decker, a partner in our firm and an expert in Israeli immigration law.

According to Israeli state data, several hundred international organizations are currently operating in the territories of Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip, engaged in providing humanitarian aid in various ways. These organizations employ workers from many countries around the world in their activities. Many of these workers come to the region for an extended period of time for the purpose of their activities, and accordingly they need an appropriate visa. From a legal standpoint, the status of these workers is quite complex, since their work is not limited to official Israeli territory, yet they are required to pass through Israel upon their arrival and again upon their departure once they have completed their activities. In addition, many of them need to pass through Israeli territory frequently during the course of their work.

Given these special circumstances, the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry established unique regulations for international humanitarian aid workers, enabling humanitarian organizations to receive official recognition from the Israeli authorities, thus granting them special status. By virtue of this special status, humanitarian aid workers can obtain an Israeli visa for a period of up to 5 years, which can even be renewed in certain cases, if the long-term need for the worker within his/her organization can be proven.

International humanitarian aid organizations

What is the process for obtaining recognition as an international humanitarian aid organization?

As noted, international aid organizations are required to receive official recognition from the Israeli authorities. New organizations must contact the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, which is responsible for registering international humanitarian aid organizations. Once an organization has been initially registered, its workers can begin applying for visas. These applications are initially reviewed by the International Relations Department, which then makes a recommendation regarding each of the organization’s workers. After that, the recommendations are sent to the Interior Ministry for review, and this ministry in turn decides whether or not to grant each worker a Type B/1 visa for up to 5 years.

What are the conditions and documents required for international aid workers to apply for a visa?

The regulations define several conditions that an organization’s workers must meet in order to receive a visa; the applicants must be 18 years of age or older and must hold a foreign passport that has been valid for at least two years prior to the application date. Additionally, the organization in which they work must officially invite them to Israel. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs must provide a recommendation for each individual worker applying for a visa.

The documents to be attached to the application include, in addition to the application form itself, two recent passport photos of the applicants; a written request by the head of the organization to receive a letter of recommendation for an employment permit; a declaration of the applicant’s intention to work in Israeli territory for 7 days in each calendar month during the visa period, and that they will only work within the scope of the inviting organization; a document describing the applicant’s role within their organization; the applicant’s resume; a photocopy of their foreign passport; and confirmation of valid medical insurance for the duration of their stay. Additional documents may be required in specific cases, and this list is subject to change according to the Interior Ministry’s regulations.

Once an application is submitted, it is first examined by the International Relations Department. If the application meets all the requirements and includes all the necessary documents, and the applicants are indeed coming to work within the framework of a humanitarian aid organization’s activities, the department sends a letter of recommendation to the Population and Immigration Authority. If an application is rejected, the head of the organization is notified in writing. In the case of an application’s rejection, it is possible to appeal the decision to a senior official in the Interior Ministry, and if the appeal is also rejected, it is possible to file an appeal in court.

Entry of international humanitarian aid workers into Israel – contact an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law

In this article we explained the regulations regarding the entry of international aid workers into Israel. If you have specific questions or need any assistance on the matter, the attorneys from our offices, located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are available to help. Our firm specializes in the field of Israeli immigration law and provides individuals and organizations with legal representation and assistance in applying for legal status in Israel. To contact an Israel immigration attorney from our firm, click here.

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