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Legal status in Israel for a foreign spouse – 5 tips from an Israeli immigration lawyer

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

If a foreign citizen is married or in a serious relationship with an Israeli citizen or permanent resident, Israeli immigration laws allow them to receive a “friendship visa” that will lead to legal status in Israel. However, it’s important to follow the legal guidelines during the application process. In this article, attorney Joshua Pex, an Israeli immigration lawyer with more than 10 years of experience in this field, will give you the top 5 Israeli immigration tips for foreign spouses.

The gradual process for granting status to foreign spouses is managed by the Israeli Ministry of Interior (Misrad Hapnim). Israeli citizenship for the foreign spouse is granted in stages, over the course of between 5 – 7 years. More than 3,000 couples start this process every year. Unfortunately, not every couple who embarks on the path to Israeli citizenship completes this process successfully. However, following the Israeli immigration tips below will greatly increase your chances of obtaining citizenship for your spouse, so read carefully and take notice!

The most important but difficult tip – stay together

It is an unfortunate fact of life that not every relationship is permanent. People break up even after deciding to embark on a process of gaining citizenship in a foreign land. Actually, being in the gradual process together is an especially stressful time for partners. Our law office has been dealing with immigration to Israel for over a decade and we’ve seen many couples that start the process end up separating without completing it. Getting a divorce or separating will stop the gradual process. You can read more about the requirements by which the foreign spouse may be able to stay in Israel, even after the process ends, in this article on our website. So our first Israeli immigration tip is to persevere and stay together.

Be well organized – Israeli immigration clerks appreciate orderly documents

Israeli immigration tipsYou may be a naturally well organized person – good for you! But for the many or even majority of clients who are not that organized in their everyday life, this is the time to start. In some cases it’s a good idea to delegate this work to the better organized spouse.

Before you even apply for a friendship visa to obtain status in Israel, you must have all the documents in order. This may include notarized translation of documents from abroad, authenticating them with an apostille stamp, and collecting all the evidence that shows the authenticity of the relationship. All this requires preparing a well-organized file. Remember that the clerks at the Israeli Ministry of Interior like files that are well-organized and easy to handle. So if you want to succeed it’s better to submit a well organized application.

Get to know each other and memorize the information

During the course of the gradual process, you will have to undergo several interviews. You are going to sit in front of a clerk of the Ministry of Interior and answer personal questions about one another. After a few questions for both spouses, the couple is separated, and asked series of questions regarding the other person.

What kind of questions? Date of birth, names of family members, what you did last week, where did you first meet? How many rooms do you have in your house, what do you do in your free time, what is your favorite movie, and other questions of the sort.

You need to really know each other very well in order to avoid mistakes and contradictions. This is not something that anybody else can help you with, but if you don’t think you can answer such questions correctly – this is the time to start to get to know each other in order to successfully pass the interview at the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

Be patient and polite when dealing with Interior Ministry employees, but know your rights!

The fourth tip for completing the gradual process successfully is to be polite and pleasant dealing with the Israeli Ministry of Interior workers. But at the same time, you should know your rights and be ready to defend them. This bureaucratic process will often leave you frustrated, making you feel as though the clerks at the Ministry of Interior have it out for you. Remember that MoI employees are usually just doing their job.

But sometimes the requests made of you don’t make sense or are outright impossible. In these cases it’s important to know your legal rights, and stand up for yourself. So it’s important to be patient and to try to comply with what you’ve been asked, but at the same time to be firm and to know what the law actually says.

Get professional help as necessary – help by an Israeli immigration lawyer

The fifth of the Israeli immigration tips, and possibly most important for completing the gradual process successfully, is to use professional help if needed. As stated above, about 3000 couples go through this process every year in Israel. Most of them don’t require the aid of a lawyer.

But in certain cases, it is unlikely the the process will be successful without qualified help. For example,  if the foreign spouse previously applied for refugee status in Israel or illegally stayed in the country, either of the partners being married to a different person and unable to dissolve the marriage or even issues of a criminal background. If any of these issues are true for you, we recommend contacting lawyer from the beginning.

Problems may also arise during the course of the process, and may be solved with the professional help of a lawyer who has experience in immigration to Israel. Sometimes people don’t hire a lawyer and try to do things on their own and things become even more difficult. If you don’t need a lawyer and you can go through the process on your own obviously this is the best option and will save you money, but if you are really in need of a lawyer, it’s also very important to use professional help when you need it.

Contact our Israeli immigration specialists

Our law office has a great deal of experience in immigration to Israel. If you require aid or advice with any aspect of the immigration process, contact us to schedule a meeting in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

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