Revoking citizenship obtained under false pretenses
Revocation of Israeli citizenship obtained under false pretenses is an authority granted to the Minister of the Interior by the Citizenship Law. The law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh specialize in obtaining legal status in Israel. In previous articles we have discussed renouncing Israeli citizenship voluntarily. In this article, attorney Michael Decker explains the legal process of revoking Israeli citizenship that was obtained under false pretenses – in the words of the law, “on the basis of presenting false information”.
Revision no. 9 to the Citizenship Act – the authority of the Interior Minister to revoke citizenship
In 2008 the Israeli Knesset approved the Citizenship Act Proposal (Revision no. 9) (Authority to revoke citizenship), 2007, effectively replacing section 11 of the Citizen Act. Until that time, Section 11 of the Citizenship Act granted the Interior Minister the authority to revoke the Israeli citizenship. This authority was granted, inter alia, if they obtained their citizenship under false pretenses. Said false pretenses could be ascertained by the Interior Ministry’s inner workings, without having to obtain a court order.
Section 11 of the Citizenship Act, in its current version, enables the Interior Minister to revoke the citizenship of an Israeli citizen if it is proved to the Interior Minister’s satisfaction, that the citizenship was acquired under false pretenses. However, this applies only within three years of acquiring the citizenship. Once three years have passed, the Interior Minister must apply to the Court of Administrative Affairs (District court) to cancel an Israeli citizenship.
Thus we see that, regarding acquisition of citizenship under false pretenses, the amount of time that the person has held the citizenship is crucially important. If that period is less than three years, the citizen’s citizenship can be revoked without requiring the decision of the Court of Administrative Affairs. After three years, however, only the Court of Administrative Affairs can revoke a citizen’s citizenship.
Expiration date of citizenship after revocation
After three years have passed and pursuant to Section 11(f) of the Citizenship Act, the revocation of the citizen’s citizenship, if revoked by a court’s ruling, takes effect only after the end of the period during which the ruling could be appealed.
One can understand from this that if the citizen appeals the Administrative Affairs Court’s decision before the Supreme Court, sitting in its capacity as a court of administrative appeals, the actual revocation of citizenship could be delayed until the Supreme Court’s final ruling.
Examples of obtaining Israeli citizenship under false pretenses
Various cases can be result in “obtaining citizenship under false pretenses”. For example, if the citizen allegedly falsified papers proving that he is Jewish, on the basis of which he made aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return, 1950, the Interior Minister can revoke the citizenship of that person within three years. If more than three years have passed since the citizenship was obtained, the Interior Minister is authorized to request a court to revoke the citizenship.
Likewise, if a couple (of which one is a foreign citizen and the other an Israeli citizen) falsified evidence of a relationship (engaging in a fictitious marriage) in order for the foreign spouse to obtain Israeli citizenship, under Section 7 of the Citizenship Act, and via the relevant protocol for foreign spouses married to Israeli citizens, number 5.5.0008, the Interior Minister may revoke that person’s citizenship within three years. As noted above, if more than three years have passed since the citizenship was obtained, the Interior Minister can request that a court revoke the foreign spouse’s citizenship.
It is also important to note that sometimes a couple may honestly separate after the foreign spouse obtains the desired Israeli citizenship. In this case, it is not legal to revoke the citizenship that was acquired through marriage to an Israeli citizen.
However, he Interior Ministry often undertakes to revoke the spouse’s citizenship regardless of the law. It is recommended to hire a lawyer experienced in immigration to Israel in any such cases of attempted revocation.
The challenges of cancelling a revocation of citizenship allegedly obtained under false pretenses, after many years:
There are many cases in which it is unclear that there is legal justification for revoking Israeli citizenship obtained on the basis of false information allegedly provided by the citizen (or by the citizen’s parents, grandparents, etc.). Thus, for example, one must take into account that many times, this false information is discovered only many years after the person obtained citizenship. After so many years, children, grandchildren, etc. are born in Israel, who serve in the Army and marry other Israeli citizens (sometimes in rabbinical court).
They, naturally, had no interest in presenting false information (even in cases involving actual forging of documents proving the Jewishness by which that extended family are now fully Israeli citizens, recognized as Jews to both the Interior Ministry and the rabbinate). However, it would not occur to anyone to revoke the citizenship of a native-born Israeli, as long as he or she does not have any other citizenship, and had no idea of the scam perpetrated by the parent or grandparent.
Acquiring Israeli citizenship via an error
There are also cases in which Israeli citizenship was obtained in error. Thus, for example, during Operation Solomon, when Ethiopian Jews were brought from remote villages in Ethiopia, there was a lack of official documentation in Ethiopia (including official birth certificates). Many families considered to be Jewish included non-Jewish and non-biological, family members (per Jewish Agency information).
These non-Jewish children were raised by the Jewish families, and Jewish Agency representatives registered them as the biological children of these families when the families made aliyah. After making aliyah to Israel, those children served in the army, etc. Such cases raise the question of whether obtaining citizenship through an error could be compared to obtaining citizenship under false pretenses.
Israeli citizenship obtained without providing full information to the Interior Ministry
Additional cases involve situations in which the citizenship questionnaire is not clear enough, or when the citizen is not asked certain questions at all before approving his status as a citizen. In this case it cannot be proved that the person lied on his request, but nevertheless the full required information was not provided, whether the applicant was aware of this or not.
Thus, for example, someone may have been convicted of a crime in his country of origin but was not asked about this when he applied for Israeli citizenship at the Israeli consulate in his country of origin. One of the restrictions for aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return is a criminal background which could constitute a public danger. Thus, if such a person had volunteered such information, his application to make aliyah would likely have been rejected. However, it would be difficult to say that he actively presented false information, thereby obtaining his Israeli citizenship under false pretenses.
Making Aliyah after conversion to a different religion
Another kind of case arises because of a discrepancy between Jewish law and the Law of Return. According to Jewish law, a Jew remains Jewish even if he converts to another religion, which differs from the definition of a Jew in the Law of Return, which states that a Jew who has converted is no longer Jewish for purposes of the Law of Return.
Therefore, a situation may arise in which a person comes with a rabbi’s letter certifying that he was Jewish, but at the same time he was baptized in a church when he was a minor, celebrates Christian holidays, and attends church periodically. In such a case, it would be difficult to rule that this person knowingly, with intention to cheat, presented false information to the State of Israel (when he declared himself a Jew, on the basis of an official letter from a Jewish religious authority who stated that he was Jewish).
Contact an attorney specializing in immigration to Israel and revocation of Israeli citizenship
An Israeli citizen who wakes up one day to find himself in danger of losing his citizenship is certainly in one of the most uncomfortable situations imaginable. Someone in this situation would not want to risk standing alone against the complex bureaucratic system of the large and powerful state, and would be strongly advised to consult with an attorney who has expertise and experience in the field of immigration to Israel, particularly regarding revocation of Israeli citizenship. Make an appointment with an immigration lawyer in Petach Tikvah or Jerusalem or arranged a remote consultation from abroad – we will be happy to assist you.