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Naturalization in Israel for Permanent Residents

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

Naturalization in Israel for permanent residents; the process of obtaining Israeli Citizenship for those currently in the country as permanent residents. This complicated process is based on the Nationality Law, according to Ministry of Interior protocol. The request is submitted to the Immigration Office branch nearest to the permanent resident’s home.

Our law office – Israeli Immigration Lawyers – is experienced in obtaining citizenship in Israel for permanent residents. This article by Attorney Joshua Pex will explain what challenges arise in the process of obtaining Israeli citizenship for permanent residents and how to overcome problems in the naturalization process or with the Ministry of Interior.

Who are Israeli Permanent Residents?

Naturalization in Israel - Permanent ResidentsPermanent residents are Israeli nationals who are not citizens. They have an Israeli ID card, and are entitled to all the social rights that the state has to offer; social security, health insurance, pension funds and so on. The main difference is that permanent residents are not Israeli citizens and therefore do not have an Israeli passport. Permanent residents in Israel generally have another citizenship.

That said, there are a number of Israeli permanent residents who are not citizens of another state. Many Israeli permanent residents live in East Jerusalem and have a Jordanian passport, which is only provisionally valid. There are also new immigrants to Israel that immigrated on the basis of the Law of Return, but did not want to relinquish their former citizenship. These Olim preferred to remain the citizens of their country of origin and receiveג the status of permanent residents in Israel. Common-law foreign spouses of Israeli citizens receive the status of permanent residents. Receiving the status of permanent residence, is naturally only upon completion of the process at the Ministry of Interior.

It is important to remember that there is no significant difference between a permanent resident and an Israeli citizen in daily life. That said, permanent residents cannot vote in national elections, and there are a number of other rights granted only to citizens. Israeli citizenship is not cancelled except for in extreme circumstances. Israeli citizenship does not expire even if the Israeli citizenship settles outside of Israel. Citizenship is cancelled only if the Israeli citizen willingly renounces the citizenship, in accordance with the law’s requirements. On the other hand, permanent residence expires if the permanent resident left the country and their center of life moved abroad. The cancellation of residence is only done by the Ministry of Interior, after seven years.

Naturalization in Israel for Permanent Residents – Legal Criteria

The Citizenship Law enables permanent residents to obtain Israeli citizenship, if they meet the criteria. Firstly, the permanent resident is required to prove that their center of life has been in Israel during three of the past five year. Secondly, a permanent resident seeking to naturalize and obtain Israeli citizenship will need to persuade the Ministry of Interior clerks at that they have settled in Israel and plan on remaining in Israel. The state of Israel does not want to grant citizenship to permanent residents that will leave Israel soon after they obtain an Israeli passport. Thirdly, basic knowledge of the Hebrew language is a condition for receiving Israeli citizenship. Fourthly, giving up any other citizenship is a condition for permanent resident’s receiving Israeli citizenship. The permanent resident needs to prove that they renounced their former citizenship, if any.

Exemption from the Requirement to Renounce Former Citizenship for Permanent Residents Requesting Israeli Citizenship

An applicant for naturalization is exempt from the requirement to renounce former citizenship, or other conditions if they are:

  • Permanent residents who served in the IDF or in National Service are exempt from the requirement to renounce other citizenship and the other conditions in the citizenship law, but must prove they have settled in Israel.
  • Common law spouses of Israeli citizens (who live together but are not married) that have permanent residence status do not need to renounce their former citizenship to acquire an Israeli citizenship.
  • A fourth generation ‘Ole’ to Israel; an immigrant on the basis of the Law of Return as a great-grandchild of a Jew, who is in Israel as a temporary resident (A-5 status) is permitted to submit a request for citizenship in accordance with Ministry of Interior protocol, even if they are not a permanent resident.

Furthermore, the Citizenship Law states that the Minister of Interior has the authority to exempt a permanent resident seeking to naturalize from the law’s conditions, if the Minister finds a special reason to do so.

Israeli Citizenship for Minors who are Children of Naturalized Residents

Minors who are children of a permanent resident requesting naturalization in Israel are also entitled to receive Israeli citizenship; as long as they too are permanent residents and meet the law’s criteria. The problem arises when the child has a foreign citizenship, and in Israel as a permanent resident under the auspice of only one parent. What happens if the other parent is abroad, or objects to the child’s naturalization?

If the second parent objects to the child’s naturalization, the minor will not be able to receive Israeli citizenship until they reach the age of 18. If the second parent passes away, naturalization requires presenting a certified (and translated) death certificate. There are instances whereby the minor has no connection to the parent, or the second parent cannot be found. In these cases, their stance regarding their child’s obtaining Israeli citizenship is unknown. The procedure require submitting public certificates that testify to the legal situation. This includes sending messages to the official residence of the parent that is abroad. If the parent that is abroad does not reply to these messages, a decision will be reached without their input.

Problems for Permanent Residents in the Process of Naturalization in Israel

Over the past years, the Ministry of Interior has made the process of naturalization more difficult for permanent residents. Firstly, permanent residents seeking to naturalize, in particular residents of East Jerusalem, often times face long waiting periods before being given a date for submission of documents. Secondly, the Ministry of Interior processes applications slowly and requires numerous documents to prove a ‘center of life’ in Israel. Often it is a requirement for unnecessary documents, or documents that are hard to obtain.

Thirdly, the Ministry of Interior is likely to decline requests for naturalization of permanent residents based claims of criminal background, including instances where permanent residents lose the possibility to naturalize due to minor offenses. Fourthly, permanent residents often face difficulties in the process of proving they renounced their former citizenship, or that they want to obtain Israeli citizenship but do not want to renounce their former citizenship. Our firm has ample experience dealing with these types of requests by the Ministry of Interior. We can review your problems in the process of naturalization in Israel and provide appropriate legal advice.

Submitting the application to the Ministry of Interior’s Office – Naturalization in Israel for a Permanent Resident

Submission of an application for naturalization in Israel takes place at the Ministry of Interior’s Office; the Population and Immigration Authority branch nearest to the permanent resident’s home. The applicant must be personally present at the meeting. The applicant submits copies of the Israeli ID, foreign passports, or proof of renouncement and cancellation of the foreign citizenship. To submit the application, one must pay a fee of 175 NIS (as of 2019).

A significant element of the application is proving the applicant’s ‘center of life’ of life has been in Israel over the past years. This can be done by bringing relevant documents as evidence to the Ministry of Interior’s Office. Specifically: pay checks from employer, children’s school certificates, copies of municipal tax, water, electricity bills. The application is weighed by the citizenship department at the Population and Immigration Authority and the answer for the naturalization application is given within a few months. After the application has been submitted, further documentation may be required. Once this is done, the person applying for naturalization is summoned for an interview. Finally, if the application is approved, the permanent resident needs to schedule at a meeting at the Ministry of Interior, declare allegiance to the State of Israel and receives a certificate recognizing they are an Israeli citizen.

Obtaining Israeli Citizenship

Contact a Lawyer that is an expert on the Ministry of Interior if you have any questions about immigration to Israel, or about the procedure of naturalization in Israel for permanent residents. We will be happy to set up a meeting, to provide you with legal advice and to assist you in your situation.

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