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Arranging Legal Status in Israel – May Common-Law Couples Shorten the Process By Becoming Formally Married?

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

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Can mixed (Israeli and foreign) common-law couples shorten the process of obtaining Israeli legal status for the foreign spouse by becoming formally married? The answer to how marriage can shorten the legal-status process is complex and depends on various factors, which are explained below by lawyer Michael Decker, an expert on immigration to Israel.

Our law firm, which has branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in immigration law and in representing couples who are in the process of arranging the legal status of the foreign spouse so that they may live together in Israel.

Couples in a common-law marriage often decide to become formally married at some point. For mixed couples, one of whom is Israeli and the other a foreign citizen, this may have various implications regarding the legal procedures for living together in Israel. The regulations for couples in a common-law marriage are different from those for formally married couples, and the process for arranging their legal status is longer.

marriage shorten legal-status process

The Regulations for Formally Married Couples

The main purpose of the regulations for formally married couples is to determine the conditions under which foreign spouses who marry Israelis may receive Israeli legal status and establish a family in Israel. The regulations are intended to allow the foreign spouse to obtain permanent legal status so that the Israeli spouse will not have to make the difficult choice between maintaining their relationship and living in Israel. The regulations stipulate that the married couple must file a joint-life application, along with marriage documents and proof that they are living together.

While their application is examined, the foreign spouse will receive a six-month stay visa. At this stage, a comprehensive examination will be conducted to verify that the couple’s center of life is in Israel, their relationship is sincere, and they do not pose a criminal or security concern. If the application is approved, the foreign spouse will then begin the graduated procedure, in which they will receive a visa that will be renewed once a year for a total period of four years. If, at the end of the procedure, it is decided that the couple meets the required conditions, the foreign spouse will be allowed to receive Israeli citizenship.

The Regulations for Couples in a Common-Law marriage

These regulations, too, are intended to recognize legitimate family units, but relate to romantic relationships that are informal, in which the couple lives together in the same household. This is a serious and binding relationship which is known as a common-law marriage. The regulations for such couples stipulate similar conditions as those for formally married couples, except for a few essential differences. Instead of marriage documents, the partners are required to submit many documents that attest to their joint life, including a letter written by or on behalf of the couple which describes their life together. In addition, the regulations stipulate a longer graduated procedure, which takes at least seven years. At the end of the process, the foreign partner will be allowed to receive permanent residence, and will then be eligible to request citizenship.

May Couples in a Common-law Marriage Shorten the Process of Obtaining Legal Status by Becoming Formally Married?

As stated above, the regulations for formally married couples stipulate a shorter process for obtaining legal status. The length of the procedure for married spouses is approximately four years and a half, compared to at least seven years for couples in a common-law marriage. In a judgment concerning a couple in a common-law marriage who became formally married during the process of obtaining their legal status, the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Matters ruled that becoming formally married does not automatically change the legal-status procedure. The Ministry of Interior must examine the marriage documents, which requires the couple to apply according to the regulations for formally married couples. However, it is possible to shorten the length of the procedure when special reasons exist. Therefore, the couple may request to shorten the legal-status procedure after and due to becoming formally married.

A critical factor in this context is the stage of the process and the type of visa that the foreign significant other has during that stage. Sometimes, to become married, the lovers must leave Israel. However, if their visa does not allow them to return to Israel after leaving, this may cause many problems. Therefore, it is important to refrain from any independent action before obtaining the required permits from the Ministry of Interior and examining the couple’s legal rights.

Contact an Immigration Lawyer

In summary, by becoming formally married, lovers in a committed relationship may shorten the process of legally arranging their joint life in Israel. However, this is not automatic—it requires submitting applications and examining the legal state of affairs, depending on the various stages of the process. For any questions you may have or assistance you may need, you are welcome to contact our offices. Our lawyers have extensive experience with immigration law and have represented many couples throughout the various stages of arranging their legal status in Israel.

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