Arranging the legal status of Israelis residing abroad with the IDF
Not everybody knows that relocation to another country, being born in another country or possessing multiple nationalities do not exempt Israeli citizens from mandatory military service. Many people believe that the opposite is true and if you have a foreign nationality you are not obliged to serve in the IDF. However, this is a mistake that could cost you dearly. It is imperative for Israelis residing abroad to arrange their legal status with the IDF so as to avoid the imposition of various sanctions, being arrested upon arrival in Israel, and even potential imprisonment. Attorney Michael Decker, a partner in our law firm and an expert in immigration law and military law, will explain below the relevant do’s and don’ts of this issue.
Our law office, based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in Israeli immigration law and military law. Our staff provides legal help and support on a variety of issues such as arranging legal status in Israel with the military authorities and the Ministry of Interior, representation in dealings with the law enforcement authorities and the military courts, etc.
MANDATORY Military SERVICE FOR ISRAELIS RESIDING ABROAD – DON’T SAY YOU DIDN’T KNOW!
The familiar phrase, “ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance” couldn’t be of more relevance to the issue of Israelis residing abroad and enlistment in the IDF. Israeli law obliges citizens who have reached draft age to join the army. The law makes no distinction between Israelis living in Israel and those residing abroad. This aspect is crucial, as unfortunately, many young Israelis living abroad, either due to them having been born in a foreign country or following their family relocating overseas, are not aware of the fact that failure to arrange their status with the military authorities might lead to severe implications.
In this article, we shall focus on those individuals who were born to Israeli parents abroad or who have temporarily left Israel with their families. We have dedicated a separate article to the children of immigrants living abroad, as their situation is slightly different. Below, we shall explain the difference between the three categories in terms of arranging their legal status with the military authorities. From the outset, it is important to stress that in each of these cases the law does not grant automatic exemption from recruitment. The ability to obtain an exemption from IDF service or shortened IDF service depends on the personal status and circumstances of each citizen, as well as arranging their legal status with the military authorities.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISRAELIS BORN ABROAD, THE CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS AND ISRAELIS TEMPORARILY RESIDING ABROAD?
In essence, there are 3 categories as defined by the IDF relating to minor Israeli citizens residing abroad. The first category: those born abroad, but who possess Israeli citizenship by virtue of family ties. The second one is children of immigrants: those who emigrated abroad while still under the age of 16. The third category: children of emissaries, those individuals who reside outside Israel with their parents, who have relocated there for work or as part of their service in any government, public or private entities.
In contrast to the commonly accepted yet mistaken belief, there is no automatic exemption from service for those not born in Israel. It is mandatory to arrange your legal status with the military authorities on reaching the age of 16 years and 4 months. Whoever fails to do so, will be considered a draft evader and will be liable to be arrested, face sanctions and put on criminal trial on arrival in Israel.
WHAT SHOULD ISRAELIS BORN ABROAD DO?
As we have explained, there is no automatic granting of an exemption from service. The Defense Service Law requires Israeli citizens born abroad, on reaching the age of 16 years and 4 months, to report to the nearest Israeli consulate to their place of residence. In many cases an exemption from military service will be granted for individuals born abroad who have taken the necessary action to arrange their legal status with the authorities. However, those who have not yet done so are required to contact the military authorities in order to arrange their legal status. In such cases, it is strongly recommended to gain the assistance of an attorney who is familiar with military law.
WHAT SHOULD THE CHILDREN OF EMISSARIES DO?
Those persons with the status of children of emissaries residing abroad are also required to report to the nearest Israeli consulate to their place of residence on reaching the age of 16 years and 4 months. As a rule, IDF policy in such cases should enable them to obtain postponement of their conscription in the IDF until either these children of emissaries reach the age of 20 or the end of their parent’s official stay abroad, whichever is earlier.
LEGAL ASSISTANCE FROM AN ATTORNEY SPECIALIZING IN IMMIGRATION LAW AND MILITARY LAW TO HELP ISRAELIS RESIDING ABROAD ARRANGE THEIR LEGAL STATUS WITH THE IDF
For any specific question or need to consult on the issue of arranging the legal status of Israelis residing abroad with the IDF, contact our law office, which specializes in military law and immigration law. Our attorneys have invaluable experience in providing legal representation for Israeli citizens living both in Israel and abroad in their dealings with the authorities. They are also adept at solving issues with the IDF conscription process and all the relevant military and civil legal authorities. You can contact an attorney at our law office either by phone or email as listed below.