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Stateless Persons in Israel

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

In this article Advocate Joshua Pex, an Israeli immigration lawyer from our law firm, will explain the provenance of stateless persons in Israel. What international laws apply to them? How does the state of Israel handle the phenomenon of stateless persons residing in its territory? Our law firm, with branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, assists clients in all aspects of legal status in Israel vis-a-vis the Ministry of Interior and the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority.

Who Is a Stateless Person?  

Statelessness is a worldwide phenomenon, which is considered a global problem. Modern reality is based on the assumption that every person in the world holds a nationality of some nation state. The citizenship of a particular country creates a system of rights and obligations for the citizen vis-a-vis his country. In addition, the framework of citizenship allows the citizen to maintain contact with other states. Without citizenship a person has no passport and is almost considered to have no identity. A stateless person is unable to live a normal life in the modern world.

How Is Citizenship Acquired?

Citizenship is acquired in different ways, but as a rule, every infant born in his or her country must register as a citizen in the registry of the population in which he or she was born. Alternately, the newborn receives the citizenship of his or her parents. A person may later acquire different citizenship by marriage, through family ties, naturalization in a foreign country, or by other means. For example, in Israel, the newborn becomes a citizen of the state of Israel if at least one of his parents is Israeli.

How Does a Person Become Stateless?

Being stateless is exactly what it sounds like — people who do not hold the citizenship of any country. A person can find himself without citizenship because he was born to parents who have no citizenship or if he lost his citizenship for various reasons. Wars, global migrations, refugees, and asylum seekers fleeing their country leave people without citizenship. Also disintegration of states have increased the number of stateless persons around the world. For example, at the time of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, tens of thousands of former citizens found themselves stateless because the Soviet Union ceased to exist, but they did not receive citizenship of another state.

Being without a passport, stateless people cannot legally travel between states. They have trouble fitting into the modern nation state framework. The United Nations views the phenomenon of stateless persons as a negative one, which should be curtailed, but official UN data indicates that there are some ten million people who are now defined, as of 2017, as stateless. A person without citizenship or a passport will find himself lost in the modern world, so the UN is working to reduce the phenomenon of stateless persons.

Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

The International Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons was ratified in 1954 with the aim of reducing the number of stateless persons in the world following WWII. Israel has signed the convention. The state parties to the convention undertake to treat stateless persons in a fair manner and to allow them to work in standard conditions within their territory. In addition, the signatories to the convention undertake to grant social and educational rights to stateless persons in their territory.

The conduct of the state of Israel toward stateless persons was not carried out according to the standards of the convention. Therefore, following court decisions, the Ministry of Interior published the procedure for the treatment of stateless persons in Israel.

What Is the Course of Action for Stateless Persons in Israel?

In 2012, the Population and Immigration Authority issued a “Procedure for the Treatment of Persons Who Claim to Be Lacking in Citizenship” as a continuation of the previous procedure published in 2007, which referred to the filing of an application for a status-of-residency arrangement for persons in Israel who are currently detained.

It should be noted that the procedure of the Ministry of Interior refers to two situations for the treatment of a person claiming to be stateless. First, a status seeker who is physically in Israel must be present in the Population Authority bureau. Second, a status seeker who is in Israel and is in legal custody, i.e., a detention center of the Israeli immigration authority.

It should be noted that throughout the process, a stateless person seeking legal status in Israel is required to fully cooperate with the authorities in order to ascertain his identity, even if that proves impossible.

What to Bring to the Population Authority Office

What is the process a stateless person must go through at the Israeli Ministry of Interior office (Misrad HaPanim) in order to receive legal status in Israel?

1. The personal presence of the applicant (stateless person) is compulsory.
2. A passport or identity card of the country of origin or the country of birth, or any place where the applicant previously lived, even if the passport is not valid.
3. Foreign passports, expired passports, and travel documents through which the applicant entered Israel.
4. Three recent visual images (passport photos) are required for the application.
5. Applicant’s birth certificate.
6. Completed questionnaire form.
7. A curriculum vitae in which the applicant for status in Israel specifies his entire relationship to the countries in which he or his family has previously lived, including: place of birth, previous places of employment (if any), previous studies (if any), addresses, known acquaintances, etc.
8. Any official document issued from the country in which the applicant has previously resided.
9. A letter detailing his claim that he is not a citizen of the country of origin or of the country of birth or any place where the applicant has previously resided, details of how he entered Israel, whether he had received an entry visa, work place in Israel, contact details in Israel, etc.
10. Details of previous procedures in the Population Authority and all relevant documents must be attached.
11. Any document relating to another country.

The Procedure for Obtaining Legal Status in Israel as a Stateless Person

Obtaining legal status in Israel for stateless persons is a complex legal procedure that requires thorough examination by the state authorities. The process includes past criminal examinations, previously rejected applications, previous deportations, identity checks, and more. In addition, an interview will be arranged for the applicant for status in Israel according to a procedure for conducting interviews in which the applicant will be asked about the documents he submitted at the beginning of the procedure.

Completion of the Procedure

An applicant for status in Israel who claims to be stateless is required to submit all documents to prove his claims, undergo a comprehensive interview with Ministry of Interior officials, and then wait for a final decision by the head of the visas and foreigners department at the Population Authority headquarters.

If the head of the department decides that the applicant must be granted a valid residence permit in Israel, the applicant will receive a B/1 visa in Israel, and the decision will be updated at the relevant office. The stateless person can now legally stay in Israel and work for a living. A B/1 visitor’s license will be granted for a period of one year, after which an additional examination will be conducted.

After at least 10 years in which the applicant resides in Israel with a B/1 visa, or if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces that the applicant cannot be returned to any country, the applicant may apply for temporary residency (an Israeli A/5 visa) status in the state of Israel, provided he fully and actively cooperated with the procedure thus far.

Temporary Residence 

When the application is accepted, the applicant will be registered as a temporary resident in Israel (A/5), and this license may be renewed for one year at a time. Temporary residency grants the stateless person a temporary Israeli identity card and the possibility of receiving social security, health insurance, and social benefits.

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Obtaining legal status in Israel for a stateless person is a long and arduous bureaucratic process, but it is important that the applicant for the status cooperates with state authorities throughout the process, based on the legal advice of an expert lawyer. Obviously a stateless person who seeks status in Israel must be actively cooperative with the authorities and refrain from prohibited criminal activity or activity threatening Israeli security, which will harm their application for legal status in Israel. A person in the territory of the state of Israel who proves that he lacks citizenship and does not receive the citizenship of another state during the process will eventually receive legal status in Israel and the possibility to live and work here.

Our law firm specializes in immigration to Israel with an expertise in handling applications with the Ministry of Interior.

Contact us for legal advice regarding status for stateless people or legal advice regarding applications to the Population and Immigration Authority.

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