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Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem / other permanent residents


Michael Decker

Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem or any permanent resident in Israel grants the newly naturalized citizen certain rights and privileges. There are in fact some significant differences between the legal status of a permanent resident and a citizen. For example, residency status “expires” after 7 years of living abroad or after acquiring “permanent status” in a foreign country. Israeli citizenship, on the other hand, can’t be revoked under these circumstances.

A permanent resident who becomes an Israeli citizen is required to relinquish their other citizenship (if any), while someone who acquires citizenship by making Aliyah based on the Law of Return may keep any prior citizenship.

This article by Attorney Michael Decker will explain the advantages, disadvantages and requirements of obtaining Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem or other Israeli permanent residents.

What is the difference between a permanent resident and a citizen?

Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem / other permanent residentsIn many aspects of daily life, there is no difference between a citizen of Israel and a permanent resident. Both have an Israeli identity card, though only the citizens hold an Israeli passport that allows them to freely travel abroad and return to Israel unimpeded. A resident has the right to vote in the municipal elections (a right which many residents of East Jerusalem do not utilize). A resident is entitled to participation and compensation via Bituach Leumi (social security), public health fund membership and has the right to work in almost every profession. Permanent residents hold a foreign passport of the country in which they are citizens. Most residents of East Jerusalem hold a Jordanian passport.

Reasons for obtaining Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem:

Permanent residency expires if the resident travels abroad and settles or receives status in a foreign country. “Receiving status” abroad is clear enough – it refers to acquiring a foreign citizenship or permanent residency. “Settling” in a foreign country is a more vague term. Living abroad for seven years is often defined as “settling” there, regardless of the circumstances or exact status the resident possesses. Although the State of Israel does not always enforce this law, taking the risk is generally inadvisable. A permanent resident might travel abroad to study, work in the same country for a number of years after graduating, and return to Israel without receiving a status in the foreign country, only to discover that their status as a permanent resident has been revoked. Such a resident is left a man without country, blown like a leaf without home or shelter.

A child of an Israeli citizen, even if born outside of Israel to a mother who is not an Israeli citizen – automatically becomes a citizen. His father merely has to register his fatherhood with the state of Israel. This can be done by registering the child’s birth at the Israeli consulate within 30 days, or via a paternity test. In contrast, when a permanent resident enters a relationship with a foreign citizen while the two are outside of Israel, their child does not automatically receive permanent resident status in Israel.

Why are the residents of East Jerusalem permanent residents of Israel rather than citizens?

After the unification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War (1967), Arab residents of East Jerusalem received Israeli identity cards; but officially remained Jordanian citizens. In the first decades after 1967, residents of East Jerusalem and other minority permanent residents gave up the possibility of receiving Israeli citizenship. mainly as a protest against the occupation.

Over the years, the political and economical situation in East Jerusalem and the rest of Israel changed. Permanent residents became accustomed to Israeli control of the area, and began to cooperate with the authorities. Some of those seeking Israeli Citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem may have come to understand that their protest was ineffective. Israeli authorities were not bothered about a large number of minority residents not wishing to receive;
– full citizenship rights;
– participate in Knesset elections;
– and dictate public policy;

Municipal priorities in Jerusalem (for example) would have been very different had the population of East Jerusalem participated in municipal elections.

The handling of naturalization requests by residents of East Jerusalem is slow and cumbersome

The Population and Immigration Authority branch in East Jerusalem is unable to cope with the increased number of applications for naturalization in recent years.

Many people who try to apply for Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem according to the Ministry of the Interior’s procedure are told that the next available appointment can be scheduled several years from now. This is the main reason why we recommend contacting a lawyer in order to expedite the process.

What are the conditions for obtaining Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem?

Permanent residents of Israel are entitled to receive citizenship on the basis of section 5 of the Nationality law.

The conditions include-

– residing in Israel for at least 3 of the last 5 years;
– having “some” fluency in Hebrew;
– and renouncing any additional citizenship.

It should be noted that Jordan does not allow the residents of East Jerusalem to give up their citizenship. For years, residents of East Jerusalem could not become citizens even if they wanted to. Presently, the Ministry of Interior agrees to receive a unilateral statement (duly documented by an attorney) that the new citizen does not intend to use Jordanian citizenship.

If a permanent resident wishing to become a citizen has a Jordanian passport;
he is required to send the passport to the Jordanian embassy in Tel-Aviv;
and to present a confirmation that the passport has been sent and received.

In addition, a lack of criminal record or evidence that you don’t present a danger to Israeli security are a condition for granting Israeli citizenship.

Naturalization for other permanent residents

Israel has a number of categories of permanent residents besides residents of East Jerusalem.
Spouses of Israeli citizens receive permanent resident status at the end of the gradual process. as the stage before naturalization.
In other procedures for obtaining legal status in Israel, such as receiving status as parents to a lone soldier, permanent residency is also the last step before obtaining citizenship.

It is important to note that most of the permanent residents (except for national minorities in Israel) will not be required by the State of Israel to relinquish any other citizenship in order to be naturalized.

However, it may be that their country of origin does not allow dual citizenship.

For example, a citizen of Germany generally may not  keep their German citizenship after acquiring another citizenship.

Many who do not want to lose their current citizenship prefer to live in Israel as permanent residents.This allow them to continue to hold a foreign citizenship and passport.

Contact us:

Our office specializes in immigration to Israel and obtaining Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem. Contact the Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh law firm for legal assistance and expediting naturalization. Our office has offices in central Jerusalem and Petah Tikva. The firm’s staff speaks Hebrew, English and Arabic.

Israeli citizenship for residents of East Jerusalem

ייעוץ משפטי 03-3724722, 055-9781688 

רחוב עמל 37 פתח תקווה 4951337 ישראל,



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