Surprise inspections by Interior Ministry officials to ascertain the sincerity of a couple’s relationship
Can Interior Ministry officials legally conduct surprise inspections to ascertain the sincerity of a couple’s relationship? Many are unaware of that fact that during the procedure of applying to obtain Israeli legal status for foreign spouses of Israeli citizens, Interior Ministry officials are authorized to ascertain the sincerity of a couple’s relationship, including by conducting home visits. Refusing a home visit may result in various sanctions, including termination of the application for legal status. This article presents a detailed explanation on the subject by attorney Joshua Pex, a partner in our firm and an expert in Israeli immigration law.
Obtaining legal status in Israel – a general explanation
There is quite a bit of bureaucracy involved in the procedures for obtaining legal status in Israel for married couples or couples married by common-law under the Citizenship Law, where one of the spouses is Israeli and the other is foreign (including same-sex couples). The Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry, entrusted with handling procedures on behalf of the Minister of Interior, has extensive powers to examine applications for legal status in Israel. The Authority uses various measures to examine couples’ relationships, in order to ascertain that an application is indeed sincere and is not an unfounded application, or an attempt to abuse the procedures offered by the Authority.
For this purpose, Population and Immigration Authority officials are authorized to conduct surprise inspections to check the sincerity of a couple’s relationship. Although this authority is not exercised in all cases, it is important to be aware of its existence and prepare accordingly. Below we explain these inspections and the consequences associated with refusing to cooperate with one.
Evaluating the sincerity of a couple’s relationship
As part of the gradual procedure to obtain legal status in Israel for foreign spouses of Israeli citizens, the spouses are interviewed to ascertain the sincerity of their relationship. These interviews may include personal questions about them and their relationship. During this time, in order to continue the process, the couple is required to sign documents declaring their commitment before the Population and Immigration Authority.
These documents lay out, among other things, the conditions that the process entails, including authorizing the Authority to conduct home visits to ascertain that there is indeed a sincere relationship between the couple, as declared by them. Unfortunately, many couples do not thoroughly examine the content of the documents they sign, so not everyone is aware that they have actually given their consent to such inspections.
What are Interior Ministry officials expected to check during a surprise inspection to evaluate the sincerity of a couple’s relationship?
During an inspection, Population and Immigration Authority officials may check whether a couple actually lives together under the same roof. The officials are likely to check for various belongings of each spouse in the house (such as toothbrushes and other personal belongings of each spouse, etc.) and ask questions to help them ascertain the sincerity of the relationship, if there is any doubt surrounding it. These inspections are, as mentioned, relatively rare, and do not happen in every case. However, they may still occur, and it is important to be aware of this.
Can a couple refuse to receive a home visit?
In general, by a couple’s fundamental right to privacy, they are entitled to refuse to receive a home visit. However, refusing to cooperate with such a visit, or refusing to let Interior Ministry officials into their home, especially when the couple were required to give their consent as a condition of the naturalization process, may introduce difficulties down the road in obtaining legal status in Israel.
In some cases, the Population and Immigration Authority may even refuse to continue the legal status application procedure. Although it is possible to appeal such a decision, it is important to avoid such serious consequences whenever possible. If necessary, and in cases of doubt as to the appropriate course of action in this matter, we strongly recommend seeking the advice and assistance of an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law.
Contact an attorney specializing in Israeli immigration law
In summary, Interior Ministry officials are authorized to conduct surprise inspections to ascertain the sincerity of a couple’s relationship as part of the process of applying for legal status. If you have any questions or need any assistance in this matter, contact our firm and we will be happy to help.
Our law firm, with offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in Israeli immigration law and in representing couples and families before the Interior Ministry, the authorities and the courts in application procedures to obtain legal status in Israel. Our attorneys will readily provide you with comprehensive and professional service on any issue. Contact us at the email address and phone numbers below.