Legal Status in Israel for Partners of Israelis
What You Need to Know
Lawyers from our law firm in Israel explain the legal process through which foreign citizens who are partners of Israelis may receive legal status in Israel. What do you need to know about the procedure to obtain legal status in Israel for partners of Israelis and opening a shared-life file at the Ministry of Interior (Misrad HaPanim) in Israel?
As we know, love has no boundaries. Therefore, it is also reasonable for Israeli immigration laws to allow foreign spouses of Israelis the right to live alongside their Israeli spouse in Israel. The law is a reflection of the realities of life. Immigration laws in most countries of the world provide the possibility of obtaining a marriage visa and legal residence permit in the country for foreigners who desire to live under one roof in the homeland of the man/woman of their choice.
Nevertheless, sometimes Western countries which promote strict immigration policies justifiably worry that this provision will be sorely abused for residence by foreigners who will become a burden on social services in the country. The state of Israel is no different on this point. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior oversees the process of granting legal status in Israel for foreign spouses of Israelis.
The Legal Right for Foreign Spouses of Israelis to Settle in Israel
The 1952 Citizenship Law stipulates that the foreign spouse of an Israeli citizen can obtain Israeli citizenship through naturalization. It should be noted that this right for naturalization for foreign spouses of Israeli citizens, which was first granted to married couples, has also been extended to include common-law couples who are in a committed relationship and run a common household. Moreover, the right to grant legal status in Israel for spouses is not only given to Israeli citizens, but also to permanent residents in Israel who are in a spousal relationship with foreign citizens.
Gradual Process Procedure to Obtain Legal Status for Foreigners Currently in a Spousal Relationship with an Israeli
The procedure for granting legal status in Israel for partners of Israelis residing in Israel is called the “gradual process.” This is because legal status in Israel is awarded gradually in three phases: 1) First the foreign citizen receives a work permit in Israel (a B/1 visa which makes it possible to legally work in the country). 2) In the second stage the foreign citizen spouse of the Israeli receives temporary residence status in Israel (an A/5 temporary resident visa in Israel). This identity card is granted each time for a limited period of usually one year. 3) In the final stage the foreign spouse receives permanent status in Israel; in other words, permanent residence or the possibility of obtaining Israeli citizenship.
What Is the Duration of the Gradual Process?
The length of the gradual process for married couples is about five years, while the length of the gradual process for couples in a common-law relationship is about seven years. It should be noted that the procedure grants the Ministry of Interior clerks the discretion to extend the length of the process if the Ministry of Interior clerks are of the opinion, according to their discretion, that there is a need to continue to examine the sincerity of the relationship. Moreover, sometimes time passes until the couple manages to open a shared-life file at the Ministry of Interior, however the time that lapsed until opening the file and obtaining a work visa will not be considered.
It should be noted that Ministry of Interior clerks have the legal authority to shorten the duration of the gradual process. This is in accordance with the Ministry of Interior procedure. At the same time, shortening the duration of the gradual process is only done in rare cases on the basis of a request under special circumstances.
Why Does the Ministry of Interior Use the Gradual Process for Granting Legal Status in Israel?
The rationale underlying the gradual process is clear and reasonable. The goal of the Ministry of Interior, the Population and Immigration Authority, is to give Ministry of Interior clerks a reasonable period of time to examine the sincerity of the couple’s spousal relationship. The state of Israel’s concern is that foreign citizens may display a false representation of a spousal relationship with an Israeli in order to obtain legal status in Israel. There are cases of very fictitious marriages, the sole aim being a legal residence permit in Israel. Ministry of Interior clerks examine the sincerity of the spousal relationship over several years, year after year; only afterwards is permanent status in Israel granted to the foreign citizen.
In What Manner Is the Sincerity of the Relationship Examined?
The primary means used by Ministry of Interior clerks for examining the marital relationship is to inspect documents submitted to the Population and Immigration Authority office where shared-life files are managed. In addition, Ministry of Interior clerks conduct a personal interview for each spouse regarding the nature and quality of the spousal relationship between them. A comparison of the couple’s answers indicates whether the spousal relationship is sincere and genuine or not. It should be noted that Ministry of Interior clerks are liable to err in their assessment of the couple’s spousal relationship and decide not to approve legal status in Israel for the foreign citizen, despite the fact that the spousal relationship is sincere and genuine. In these cases it is possible to appeal against the decision to close the shared-life file. If the appeal is not accepted, the possibility is open for the couple to turn to legal forums in order to prove that the spousal relationship between them is genuine and that they have the right to live together in Israel.
What Are the Required Documents?
The required documents for opening a shared-life file at the Ministry of Interior are documents which prove the nature and sincerity of the spousal relationship, although the emphasis is on documents which prove a shared life and common household management. Documents for proving a shared life include: a joint tenancy agreement, one bank account, a history of correspondence through letters or social networks, printouts of telephone or Skype conversations, shared photographs, receipts indicating time spent together, and letters of support from friends and family. In fact, any document which proves a spousal relationship is acceptable to submit to the Ministry of Interior.
In addition, foreign spouses are required to bring an original birth certificate from abroad legally authenticated and translated by representatives of the Israeli Consulate in their country of origin or by an apostille. They must also provide documentation confirming personal status: single, widowed, divorced; and documentation confirming their lack of a criminal record. All official documentation and records which originate outside of Israel must be legally authenticated and translated accordingly.
What Happens If Documents Are Missing?
After submission of documents for opening a shared-life file at the Ministry of Interior, if it is discovered that some documents are missing, the couple will be given a period of 45 days to replace the missing documents. If the missing documents are not submitted within this period, the file will be closed. The couple will have the opportunity to open a shared-life file only after obtaining the missing documents.
Are Legal Services from an Israeli Immigration Lawyer Necessary?
Legal services of an Israel immigration lawyer during the process of opening a case to receive legal status in Israel for partners of Israelis at the Ministry of Interior is recommended in order to assist in fulfilling the requirements for documentation, reviewing documents before submission to the Ministry of Interior, and guiding the couple in their conduct with the Ministry of Interior. A lawyer who is familiar with the process for opening a shared-life file can assist the couple in getting through the process as quickly and simply as possible. It should be noted that some declarations from the Ministry of Interior must be signed before a lawyer.
Our law firm has among its partners Israeli immigration lawyers with experience in the process of immigration to Israel, including obtaining legal status in Israel for partners of Israelis at the Ministry of Interior. We would be happy to assist couples who are interested in arranging legal status for their foreign spouse in Israel at any stage of their proceedings with the Population and Immigration Authority at the Ministry of Interior.
Please call us for more information on legal status for partners of Israelis or any question regarding status in Israel for partners of Israelis.