Rights of new immigrants – Legal information
The decision to emigrate to another country is always difficult, no less so when making aliyah to Israel. Olim (new immigrants to Israel) struggle with the Hebrew language, Israeli mentality, and the extensive bureaucracy they face in trying to arrange their legal status. However, the State of Israel encourages Jews to immigrate, and makes every effort to ensure a smooth absorption for immigrants. Accordingly, olim as entitled to many rights, including monetary benefits, Hebrew-language studies, assistance in finding employment, tax benefits, scholarships, and a subsidy for apartment rental.
Unfortunately, olim are not always aware of the rights and benefits they can receive. In this article, an Israeli immigration law expert explains olim benefits and what kind of assistance olim may need in taking advantage of their rights.
The law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex and Brosh, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specialize in Israeli immigration law. Attorneys from our office offer legal advice and assistance on issues such as obtaining Israeli legal status, the process of Aliyah, taking advantage of olim rights, and more.
Aliyah to Israel in 2020
In 2020, almost twice as many immigrants made Aliyah as in the preceding years. There are many reasons for this; for one, the Corona crisis, which is causing uncertainty worldwide, has convinced many diaspora Jews and those eligible to return to Israel that this is a good time to make Aliyah. In addition, the recent increase in anti-Semitic and terrorist incidents raises fears among diaspora Jews. Despite the challenges Israel faces, it is still considered an island of relative stability and security in these times.
Sadly, not all new immigrants undergo successful absorption in Israel. This stems not only from general integration difficulties, but also from inadequate familiarity with the many rights accruing to olim, as well as the means of taking advantage of these rights. Language difficulties and lack of knowledge of local laws do not make this any easier. In this article, we will describe the central rights guaranteed to olim, rights which our office assists clients to actualize.
Financial assistance for olim
Olim are provided with many forms of financial assistance. The best known of these is the “absorption basket”, which is granted to olim on their arrival to Israel. In essence, this benefit consists of payments from the government throughout the first period of residency in the country. The absorption basket is intended to help out olim until they can find work and a place to live and begin establishing themselves in Israel.
The absorption basket comprises a living allowance for 6 months, designed to be in tandem with Hebrew studies in ulpan. Olim are entitled to up to 500 hours of Hebrew language classes. The studies can be spread out over about 5 months (for daytime classes) or about 10 months (for evening classes, which enable students to work during the day). The most effective way to actualize this right is to arrange legal oleh status before arriving in Israel. This is done via Israeli representatives abroad (embassies and consuls).
What if you are entitled to the absorption basket but did not start the Aliyah process before arriving in Israel? Actualizing this right depends on residing in Israel for up to 24 consecutive months; or a cumulative total of 24 months over 3 years from the initial date of Aliyah. It is important to know that if you leave Israel while receiving the absorption basket payments, the payments cease. They are resumed only if you return to Israel within a year of your initial Aliyah. Resumption of the payments is not automatic; it requires filing a request with the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry.
Besides the absorption basket, there are a variety of other payments and rights to which olim are entitled. These include a guaranteed minimal income and a living allowance for olim who cannot support themselves by employment.
Understanding that many olim are required to pay taxes in their country of origin, especially in the initial period after arriving in Israel, the government grants various tax benefits to olim. Olim are entitled to an “acclimation year”, including exemptions and benefits related to investments abroad. An additional article on our site explains the acclimation year in detail and how to take advantage of an oleh’s rights during that year.
Likewise, olim receive tax exemptions and discounts on the purchase of vehicles, as well as on importing personal articles. The law even grants tax exemption points to olim, differing depending on how long the oleh has resided in Israel. Tax exemption points are granted for up to 3.5 years.
However, new immigrants are also required to report bank accounts and assets both in Israel and in their country of origin. Israeli tax authorities track foreign bank accounts (in the U.S., for example, as reported several years ago on the web site Globus). To make sure that you comply with the above reporting requirements, it is recommended to consult with an attorney specializing in taxes and commercial law.
Assistance with living accomodations
During their first years in Israel, olim are eligible for a rent subsidy. Moreover, an oleh who purchases a home is eligible for financial assistance and a discount in taxes on the purchase. Likewise, regulations provide olim with a discount of up to 90% on municipal property taxes (arnona). This discount must be arranged through the property tax department of the municipality where the oleh resides. If an oleh is refused this discount, or given a discount which is less than the one to which they are entitled, such a decision can be appealed – first to the local authority, and in some cases even to the regional administration of the Interior Ministry and the Administrative Affairs Court. For detailed information on filing an appeal regarding municipal property taxes, see this article on our website.
Pension and rights for olim over the age of 60
Many Aliyah applicants decide to move to Israel at an advanced age. This is particularly true now, as the Corona crisis has caused Israelis to bring elderly relatives from abroad who would otherwise be forced into Isolation. Note that even if an oleh is not eligible for an old-age pension from National Insurance, they may be entitled to receive a special pension granted to olim of retirement age.
Even if an oleh is not eligible for an Israeli pension, they are likely eligible for various benefits from the National Insurance system (Bituach Leumi). For example: weekly hours of assistance from National Insurance, assistance from welfare services for dental treatments, a grant for the cost of heating, and more. There are even special grants for Holocaust survivors (including for those who made Aliyah at an older age), administered by the municipality where they live. All these benefits for the elderly are in addition to the above benefits to which all olim are entitled..
Rights and benefits for children and lone soldiers
Families who make Aliyah with children are entitled to a child subsidy provided by National Insurance. They are also entitled to educational assistance for children who are olim. The Olim Student Branch of the Education Ministry runs a program called “Olim children learning” (known by the acronym “Yael” in Hebrew). The program addresses the needs of elementary school aged Olim, offering remedial assistance in language enrichment, study skills, etc.
There are a variety of additional benefits and entitlements reserved for lone soldiers (those who immigrated without their family while of age to serve in the IDF). First, lone soldiers are entitled to a monthly monetary grant from the IDF. There’s an additional monthly grant from the Ministry of Absorption for lone soldiers who have made Aliyah less than 5 years ago. For Ethiopian Olim, said grant is up to 15 years from the date of their immigration.
In addition, there is entitlement to a subsidy of rent expenses and housing maintenance paid by the IDF. The Ministry of Construction and Housing also offers participation in rent expenses, in addition to the assistance by the IDF. Apart from all these, there are unique benefits for lone soldiers; such as a long annual vacation for a family visit abroad, referral to adoptive families around the country (who host lone soldiers on vacations), and so on.
Additional rights and benefits
In addition to the rights described above, olim have access to many additional benefits, such as; health insurance and reduced fees to the health funds; scholarships; professional training; and assistance in finding employment. The latter is provided via the employment centers of the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry, scattered throughout the country. Note that if someone starts the Aliyah process while still in the country of origin, they can apply for many of the above benefits before arriving in the country. If you encounter any difficulties in determining your eligibility for a certain benefit, or in obtaining it, it is recommended to consult with an attorney specializing in immigration law, with experience helping olim actualize their rights.
Legal assistance and counseling regarding making Aliyah and taking advantage of olim rights
If you have a question or if you need assistance in actualizing your rights as a new immigrant, you can contact the law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh, specializing in Israeli immigration law. The attorneys in our office have extensive experience in providing olim with legal representation before the various government authorities and courts regarding realization of their rights. You can contact an attorney from our office via the telephone numbers or email address below.