Naturalization of permanent residents in Israel
What does the naturalization of permanent residents in Israel involve? Permanent residents who wish to acquire Israeli citizenship must apply to the Population and Immigration Authority. Applicants must meet the basic requirements, which include continuous stay in Israel, settling or intending to settle in Israel, speaking Hebrew and waiving any additional citizenship. Some cases may allow for exemptions from some of the above conditions. This article deals with the naturalization process for permanent residents, explained by attorney Joshua Pex, a partner in our firm and an expert in Israeli immigration law.
What is the difference between a permanent resident and an Israeli citizen?
In the State of Israel, as in most countries of the world, the status of permanent residents is not the same as that of citizens. However, it should be noted that permanent residents of Israel benefit from most of the same rights granted to citizens of the country. Some examples of this are that permanent residents are entitled to hold an Israeli identity card, benefit from social rights provided by the National Insurance Institute according to law (unemployment benefits, income security stipend, etc.) and are even entitled to vote in municipal elections. In contrast, permanent residents are not entitled to vote in Knesset elections and are unable to obtain an Israeli passport. The most significant difference is that according to law, permanent residency in Israel may expire, while the status of a citizen is permanent (except in rare cases of citizenship revocation or renunciation).
Permanent residents who wish to become Israeli citizens may apply for naturalization as long as they meet the required conditions,. The procedure requires applying to the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry and attaching documents and evidence supporting the application. This procedure may be complicated in terms of bureaucracy, so we recommend seeking help from an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law. Below we explain the main components of the procedure.
In what cases are permanent residents entitled to Israeli citizenship?
As a rule, permanent residents who wish to be naturalized must meet all of the following conditions: (1) be physically present in Israel at the time of applying; (2) stay in Israel continuously for 3 out of the 5 years preceding the date of the application; (3) be eligible for a permanent residence permit in Israel; (4) settle or have the intent to settle in Israel; (5) have the ability to speak Hebrew; and (6) waive their additional citizenship. If they have minor children, they will also be required to waive their foreign citizenship. In addition to the above, there may not be any criminal or security issue impeding the naturalization procedure.
In what cases can an exemption be obtained from the above conditions?
In general, it is possible to receive exemptions in certain cases from some of the mandatory conditions for naturalization mentioned above. For example, permanent residents who served in the IDF, or in another recognized service (such as the police or national service), will be exempt from all of the above conditions, except for the condition of settling or intending to settle in Israel. This exemption also applies to permanent residents who have lost a son or a daughter during their child’s service in the IDF or in another recognized service. In addition, applicants over the age of 60, or who lived in the Land of Israel during the British Mandate on the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel – are exempt from the requirement to know Hebrew. There may be additional exemptions in individual cases.
What does the naturalization process for permanent residents entail?
To apply for naturalization, applicants must go in person to the Population and Immigration Authority office nearest to their place of residence (either alone or accompanied by a representative on their behalf). During the meeting with the Authority’s officials, applicants must present an identity card and a foreign passport, and hand in the application form. Applicants must attach evidence indicating that their life was centered in Israel in the 3 years prior to applying. This evidence can be, among other things, documents from their workplace (such as pay stubs), confirmation of ownership of a bank account in Israel, evidence of residence in Israel (such as a rental contract), documentation of medical treatments received in Israel and academic certificates from Israeli educational institutions. This list is of course not exhaustive, and the relevant documents depend on the circumstances of each case.
In addition, the application form must be accompanied by a declaration by the permanent residents who wish to be naturalized, as well as a statement waiving additional citizenship (or citizenships, if they hold more than one). An application fee must be paid, which, as of 2022, stands at 175 ILS. After applying, the applicants will have to prove that they have indeed renounced their additional foreign citizenship (or citizenships). To actually receive citizenship, applicants will need to declare loyalty to the State of Israel (text of the declaration: “I declare that I will be a citizen loyal to the State of Israel”).
Naturalization of permanent residents – contact an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law
In this article we explained the conditions for permanent residents in Israel to be naturalized. If you have any additional questions on the subject, you can contact us, and one of our attorneys specializing in Israeli immigration law will be happy to provide you with comprehensive and professional service. Our firm, with offices located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in Israeli immigration law and in guiding foreign citizens and their families through procedures to obtain legal status in Israel and representing them before the authorities and courts at all levels.