Return visa to Israel for a permanent resident
An Israeli resident (not a citizen) with a foreign citizenship must obtain a return visa in order to leave and re-enter Israel’s borders. Most permanent residents are either minorities who were born in Israel, olim who are not interested in citizenship, or foreign spouses of Israelis.
Our law firm for issues of immigration to Israel specializes in the field of visas, entrance to Israel and emigration from Israel to other countries. In this article, attorney Michael Decker will explain when a visa is needed for a resident returning to Israel, and what is required to obtain such a visa.
What is the difference between citizenship and permanent residence?
As long as a person resides in Israel, the difference between citizenship and permanent residence is mainly that Israeli citizens also hold an Israeli passport. Both citizens and permanent residents have an ID card, and are eligible for the same social benefits, including National Insurance, membership in a health maintenance organization, guaranteed minimal income and more. The main difference is that residents are not eligible to vote or to be elected to the Knesset. The process of obtaining legal status for a foreign partner of a resident or citizen is slightly different, but similar in terms of the basic requirements.
The difference becomes more prominent when people move to a different country and establish their center of life there. Israeli citizenship is permanent – even if they were born outside of Israel and never stepped foot in Israel, citizens are Israeli for all intents and purposes, except for very specific cases of renouncing citizenship or canceling it. At any point in their lives, they can come to Israel with a foreign passport or a laissez-passer, renew their passport, and become residents of Israel, even receiving the benefits of a returning citizen.
On the other hand, a permanent resident is someone who has a visa for permanent residence in Israel. Their ability to enter and leave Israel is more limited, because they need a laissez-passer or a foreign passport to leave for another country. If such a resident moves to a foreign country, even if they do not obtain citizenship there, their residence visa in Israel expires after a few years, and they are then considered a foreign citizen.
Who are permanent residents?
Residents who are not citizens in Israel mainly belong to one of three categories – foreign spouses of Israelis, minorities, and olim who do not wish to forfeit their previous citizenship, especially if they come from countries that do not allow dual citizenship.
Spouses of Israeli residents are not necessarily eligible to obtain citizenship based on the relationship, but rather receive permanent residence status. Partners of Israelis who come from countries that do not allow dual citizenship can also settle for Israeli residence and not citizenship.
But the vast majority of residents are members of the Arab sector or other minorities who are mostly not interested in obtaining citizenship or are unable to do so. Take, for example, residents of East Jerusalem, who for many years forfeited their right to receive Israeli citizenship. Even today, when many young people from East Jerusalem are interested in obtaining citizenship, the procedure is complicated and takes many years.
Who needs a returning resident visa?
This visa is required for a permanent resident with foreign citizenship or a laissez-passer who wishes to leave Israel or return to it. The return visa must be renewed every three years so that the visa holder and their family (partner and children) will be able to pass freely through Israel’s border checkpoints.
It is in fact similar to an inter-visa held by skilled workers who can leave Israel and return to it, except that a permanent resident’s visa does not require justification by special circumstances, since the right to travel abroad and return to Israel is reserved for them.
How do you renew or obtain a return visa?
You must fill out an application form for an entrance visa. After filling out the form you must arrive with the documents, including a foreign passport that is valid for six months or a laissez-passer, to the nearest Population Authority office, or the nearest Israeli representation for those located abroad. After the official confirms that the residence of the applicant is still valid and that there is nothing preventing issuance of a visa for exit and entrance to Israel, the visa will be issued.
Contact an immigration attorney for assistance
If you need help in obtaining a return visa or any other visa in Israel, call us for assistance. Our experts on immigration and entrance to Israel will be glad to be at your service.