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Arranging Israeli legal status for a foreign spouse from a high-risk country

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

When a foreign spouse applies for legal status in Israel, one of the issues that is thoroughly considered is whether there is a criminal or security impediment to the foreign citizen’s entering Israel and settling in the country. If the foreign spouse is from a country defined as “high risk”, how does that affect the arranging of their legal status? What are these high risk countries? And how can the Israeli spouse arrange legal status for spouse from high-risk country? Attorney Michael Decker, an immigration law specialist in our office, will answer these questions for you.

Our law offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, provide their clients with comprehensive representation and legal solutions. Our office assists couples in arranging legal status for foreign spouses, including spouses coming from high risk countries.

An overall look at the process of obtaining legal status

The process of arranging legal status for foreign spouses is generally long and complicated. Interior Ministry regulations regarding legal status for married couples and common-law couples set out rigid requirements for filing a joint-life application. These include requiring the spouse to present a significant number of documents and to undergo an interview to ascertain the sincerity of the relationship. Likewise, checks are performed to ensure that granting a visa to a foreign spouse, enabling his or her legal residence in Israel, will not endanger public safety or the country’s security.

Test for a security impediment in the Interior Ministry

status for spouse from a high-risk country

In other articles, we dealt with legal impediments stemming from a criminal record of either the foreign spouse or the Israeli spouse. There is another type of impediment which is checked for during the process of arranging legal status in Israel. When the foreign spouse’s country of origin is a country considered high risk, even if it is not a hostile country, the authorities will check whether this constitutes a security impediment to providing said spouse with legal status in Israel Israel.

The Population and Immigration Authority will track and monitor the joint-life application. In addition, the Authority will ask for the opinion of the Israeli police and of security bodies (the Shin Bet and other parties) in order to rule on whether there is a security impediment to approving the application.

What are the “high risk” countries?

Population Authority regulations on legal status of foreign spouses, both married and common-law, require the opinion of security services, as noted above, for citizens of high risk countries. Yet, neither the regulations nor the law actually define which countries meet this definition. The Citizenship and Entrance to Israel Law, passed by emergency order in 2003, grants broad authority to the Interior Minister in his decision regarding a residence visa for someone who may constitute a security risk to the country. From this it follows that the definition is based on the country of origin, but relates to its citizens on a case by case basis, and does not state that they all categorically constitute a risk. For more information on citizens of Arab countries entering Israel, see this article on our website.

Court rulings discuss countries with which Israel has peace treaties and diplomatic relations, such as Egypt, in the context of rejecting applications for legal status due to fear of security risk. What is more, the above law grants the Interior Minister similar authority regarding residents of the Palestinian Authority (defined in this law as “the Area”). The law states that an Israeli residence visa can be granted to residents of the Area only according to the Interior Ministry’s judgement and under certain circumstances. One of them is a request for family unification.

Relevant court rulings

In an appeal heard by the Administrative Affairs court in Nazareth, an Egyptian citizen’s application for legal status was rejected when he requested family unification with his Israeli spouse. Note that according to the court ruling, the appellant refused to give information about his relatives, which constituted a central reason for security officials to decide that he presented a security risk, and ultimately to reject the appeal. In contrast, one can find cases in which it was ruled that an application for legal status should not be categorically rejected. Instead, a trial period should be allowed in the process of granting the residence visa. After that period, if no security risk is found, the foreign spouse will be allowed to obtain legal status and receive citizenship.

Contact an attorney specializing in immigration law and arranging legal status in Israel

The survey we presented above illustrates the difficulties that the authorities pose for foreign spouses from high risk countries who are seeking legal status in Israel. Such cases are examined with extreme thoroughness, and it is highly recommended to obtain legal consultation and assistance to protect the foreign spouse’s rights while the application is being considered. An immigration law specialist from our law offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will be happy to be at your service for any question or issue that might arise in this context. You can reach us at the telephone numbers or email address listed above.

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