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How Do You Obtain Permanent Residency in Israel?

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Many foreign citizens residing in Israel are interested in obtaining permanent resident status, since permanent residents have almost the exact same rights as Israeli citizens. Obtaining this status involves a complex bureaucratic process, which usually requires the aid of an experienced lawyer who specializes in immigration to Israel and knows how to properly manage the application. Below we explain about permanent residency in Israel and what is required when applying for this status.

Our law firm, which has branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in immigration to Israel. We assist clients in arranging their legal status in Israel with the various authorities and courts. The lawyers at our firm have extensive experience in representing foreign nationals in status-arrangement proceedings in Israel, including the status of spouses and family members of Israeli citizens, as well as asylum seekers and foreign nationals seeking legal status in Israel on humanitarian grounds.

Permanent residency in Israel

What Is Permanent Residency and How Is It Different from Citizenship?

Like in other countries, the State of Israel grants various types of legal status and residence permits. Visitors coming to Israel for a short time  usually receive a tourist visa. Visitors coming to Israel for purposes such as work or academic studies may receive a visa that allows them to stay for a longer period of time, along with supplementary permits to work here, if necessary. In contrast, if foreign citizens are interested in settling in Israel, they must acquire permanent resident status.

Permanent residents in Israel are entitled to almost as many rights as Israeli citizens. They hold an Israeli identity card and are usually allowed to stay in Israel indefinitely. They enjoy many social rights under the National Insurance Law, which include, among other things, income support and unemployment benefits.

Unlike Israeli citizens, permanent residents are not eligible to an Israeli passport. Therefore, their ability to leave Israel and come back may be limited. A prolonged stay in a foreign country may interrupt eligibility for permanent resident status in Israel. In addition, permanent residents are not eligible to participate in the Israeli elections or be elected to the Knesset.

Despite these differences, many foreign citizens, especially those who cannot obtain additional citizenship without renouncing their present citizenship, are very interested in obtaining the status of permanent resident in Israel and, to gain it, go through lengthy procedures with the Israeli authorities. These procedures may often be complex and frustrating; therefore, to make sure that they are conducted in the best manner, it is important to know the relevant rules well. Common cases of applications for permanent resident status in Israel and the procedure that they entail are discussed below.

Permanent Residency for Foreign Spouses of Israelis

Foreign citizens who are in a couple relationship with Israeli citizens may be eligible for permanent resident status in Israel. This status is granted so that the couple may live together in the country. However, obtaining this status is lengthy and takes several years. The relevant regulations (for couples who are formally married or in a common-law marriage) include a graduated procedure in which visas are granted for staying in Israel for relatively short periods of time and must be renewed every so often (usually once a year). At the end of the process, permanent residency is granted, which, in some cases, is then changed to Israeli citizenship. For more information on the graduated procedure, see the detailed guide on our firm’s website.

Palestinians and Individuals Seeking Permanent Residency On Humanitarian Grounds

Palestinian residents and foreign nationals who are interested in obtaining legal status in Israel on humanitarian grounds may also be eligible for permanent resident status in Israel. However, Israeli law is very ambiguous about such cases. The Ministry of Interior’s policy greatly restricts the possibility of arranging legal status for Palestinians and asylum seekers. Accordingly, in these cases it is especially important to seek the help of a professional experienced in immigration, in light of the above-mentioned ambiguity and the arbitrary decisions that may be made as a result.

Regarding Palestinian residents – ever since the law banning family reunification came into force in 2003, the law generally does not allow Palestinians who have a couple relationship with Israeli citizens or permanent residents to acquire citizenship or permanent residency in Israel. In these cases, a temporary residence permit is usually granted instead of permanent residency. As a result, Palestinian residents may sometimes be able to stay in Israel for decades, but they will have to extend their residence permit every year. There is much criticism about this state of affairs.

However, the law does not completely prevent the possibility of Palestinians gaining permanent resident status in Israel. For example, the law allows the Minister of Interior to grant citizenship or legal status in Israel (including permanent residency) to Palestinian residents who work to advance Israel’s security, economy, or any other important State interest. Similarly, the law makes it possible to grant citizenship and permanent residency in cases that have special importance to the State of Israel. In other words, there may be exceptions where, despite the prohibitions and ambiguity of the law, Palestinian residents may acquire permanent resident status in Israel.

Regarding foreign citizens seeking permanent residency on humanitarian grounds – the main cases in which it is possible to acquire permanent residency are the case of spouses of Israeli citizens, seeking asylum in Israel; or citizens of enemy countries. Arranging legal status and acquiring permanent residency in these cases may require a more complicated and lengthy procedure than that required of other foreign spouses. The authorities dealing with the issue may place difficulties throughout the stages of the procedure and prevent the possibility of completing it and receiving permanent residency.

However, these cases may be brought to court, and the court will often intervene. This happened, for example, in an administrative appeal brought before the Tel Aviv Court for Administrative Matters. The court accepted an appeal by an Israeli citizen and her asylum-seeking husband from Sudan, and ruled that the husband must be allowed to complete the process of arranging his permanent resident status. A major reason for the court’s decision was the importance of the right to marriage and family life.

Additional Cases in Which It Is Possible to Obtain Permanent Resident Status in Israel

In addition to the cases mentioned above, the Population Authority has regulations that enable parents of Israeli citizens and residents to become permanent residents in Israel. Most of the eligible parents are parents of Israeli soldiers or elderly or single parents. In either case, before acquiring the status of permanent resident, temporary status for several years (between 3 and 4 years) is required. There are also other situations in which it is possible to acquire permanent resident status. To understand whether you are entitled to permanent resident status in Israel, it is possible and even desirable to consult a lawyer specializing in immigration to Israel.

Contact a Lawyer Who Specializes in Immigration and in Arranging Legal Status in Israel

In conclusion, permanent resident status in Israel is possible in various cases, but usually involves a prolonged complex bureaucratic procedure. Our office is available for any questions you may have on the matter and any assistance you may need. Our firm provides professional legal assistance for couples, families, and foreign citizens in arranging legal status in Israel, based on extensive experience and many success stories.

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