Why Is Now the Time to Make Aliyah?
The unexpected global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has created many changes in our daily lives and our plans for the future. Many countries were completely unprepared for such a blow, and suffered heavy losses in their battle against the epidemic. Other countries, including Israel, managed to withstand the crisis and are already beginning to return to a normal life.
This proves that Israel is a country that protects the interests of its citizens and values their life and health above all else. For this reason, many individuals who are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return are now applying for Israeli citizenship.
Who Are We?
Our law firm assists clients in going through the Aliyah procedure quickly and effectively. We have helped thousands of eligible immigrants and their families to receive Israeli citizenship. Aliyah and immigration to Israel are the core specializations of our firm. We are always ready to protect the rights of our clients vis-à-vis the Ministry of Interior and the courts.
The Advantages of Israeli Citizenship
Israeli citizenship grants many new opportunities – including the right to visit 159 countries around the world without a visa, get full medical treatment that is among the best in the world, tax benefits, and many other benefits that citizens of other countries do not have.
Eligibility to Citizenship Due to Jus Sanguinis (“Right of Blood”) and Jus Soli (“Right of Soil”)
Israel is not open to the immigration of anyone who wishes to come. Its immigration policy is unique and does not exist in any other country. Most countries allow their citizenship to be passed on through jus sanguinis or jus soli. Jus sanguinis grants citizenship to children whose parents are citizens, regardless of where the children were born. Jus soli grants citizenship according to the child’s country of birth, even if the child’s parents are not citizens of that country. Many countries base their citizenship laws on a combination of these two principles, so citizenship may be obtained through the parents’ citizenship or the place of birth, depending on the circumstances. Israeli citizens may receive their citizenship based on their country of birth or their parents’ citizenship, in certain cases. But, in addition, Israel has a special law which enables to receive citizenship based on religious affiliation. Thus, Jews, children of Jews, and grandchildren of Jews are eligible to Israeli citizenship regardless of their place of birth or their parents’ citizenship. The law which stipulates this is known as the Law of Return.
Israeli Citizenship Under the Law of Return and the Citizenship Law (a.k.a. the Nationality Law)
As mentioned above, children and grandchildren of Jews, and their families (spouses and minor children), are eligible to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. This law is unique not only because it allows receiving citizenship based on religious affiliation, but also because foreign citizens who receive citizenship after making Aliyah under this law receive certain benefits when immigrating to Israel, which individuals who become citizens under the Nationality Law (such as spouses who were not originally Israeli citizens) do not receive.
The Nationality Law stipulates the general regulations for receiving citizenship, based on jus sanguinis and jus soli.
Since this article is about receiving Israeli citizenship based on the Law of Return, we will focus on this law.
The Definition of a Jew in the Law of Return
The Law of Return defines a Jew as anyone who was born to a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism and continues to identify as a Jew.
Importantly, the term Jew in this context refers mainly to nationality. There is no Israeli nationality in Israel. On identifying documents, nationality refers to the holder’s ethnic origins, not citizenship. In contrast to many other nations, the Jewish nationality passes down from the mother, not the father.
Therefore, the Law of Return takes us back, in a way, to historic times, when the term Jew referred both to a person’s nationality and religion as inseparable identities.
The Child of a Jew, the Grandchild of a Jew and Their Family
The Israeli legislature took into account the dark aspects of the Jewish history; when Jews were forced to settle around the world and, for the purpose of self-preservation, assimilated among the residents of other countries. This is why the Law of Return also allows the children and grandchildren of Jews to receive citizenship. The purpose of this is to ensure that family members of Jews will be able to return to their roots and rekindle their Jewish beliefs.
Conversion to Judaism and the Law of Return
As mentioned above, the Law of Return also allows individuals who were not born Jewish to receive citizenship, providing that they undergo the procedure for Giyur – conversion to Judaism. For the conversion to be recognized, and for the Ger (covert) to receive citizenship based on the Law of Return, they must meet the criteria stipulated in the law and in judicial practice.
Applying for Citizenship under the Law of Return
To apply for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, you must prove your Jewish identity.
There are two ways to apply: The first way is through the Israeli consulate in your country, and the second way is directly at the Israeli Ministry of Interior offices. The first way is better if you are not in a rush to move to Israel. However, if you wish to receive eligibility to make Aliyah but are not planning to settle in Israel, the second way is better for you.
Immigrants from the Soviet Union must present documents proving that their nationality is “Jewish”. Olim (Jewish immigrants) from European countries and from the USA must present a letter from their Rabbi which attests to their Jewish roots.
In addition to the documents that prove the applicant’s Jewish identity, the applicant must present the following documents:
- An apostilized birth certificate (if the certificate was issued in a country that was part of the Soviet Union before 1991, there is no need for apostilization).
- A separate apostilized criminal record certificate for each of the applicant’s first and last names, if they ever changed their name. If the applicant has several citizenships, or if they have lived for more than six months in a country of which they are not a citizen, they must present apostilized criminal record certificates from each of the countries.
- An apostilized population registry extract / marital status extract
When applying, you may be asked to present additional documents.
Unexpected Obstacles in the Aliyah Process
Unfortunately, the State of Israel does not automatically approve applications for Aliyah. For example, if the applicant has a criminal background, their application may be denied. But this does not mean that you will not be able to receive Israeli citizenship. With a well-prepared appeal against the denial, your application may be reexamined.
Another obstacle that may come up in the Aliyah process is the Interior Ministry officials’ belief that the applicant belongs to a non-Jewish religion. As explained above, eligible immigrants under the Law of Return are: Jews who have not converted to another religion, the children of Jews, the grandchildren of Jews, and their families. In other words, the law does not require Jewish children, the grandchildren of Jews, and their families to believe in the Jewish faith. However, State representatives often misinterpret the law, and as soon as the grandchild of a Jew mentions that they believe in Christianity, their application is immediately denied.
In this case, as well, the right attitude, and support of the applicant’s point of view, will help to overcome this obstacle and receive the desired citizenship.
The Help of an Immigration Law Firm
No one knows what tomorrow may bring us, as we clearly saw with COVID-19. But Israel is exactly the place where every citizen can feel safe. If you have Jewish roots, this is the time to consider Aliyah and Israeli citizenship. It may protect your future and the future of your family.
If you have any questions that are related to Aliyah, or if you need assistance in receiving Israeli citizenship, we will be happy to help.