What You Need to Know about Visa-Free Countries to Israel
What does the term visa-free countries to Israel mean? There are almost 100 countries whose citizens do not need visas to enter Israel. Ostensibly, a citizen of this country can freely enter Israel for three months on a B-2 Israeli tourist visa without worrying about obtaining a visa to Israel in advance. However, in practice things are more complicated.
In this article Advocate Joshua Pex, a lawyer at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm, will explain what the Israeli visa exemption program actually means and how entering into Israel might still be difficult for citizens of visa-free countries.
What Is a Visa-Free Country?
Citizens of countries that do not require visas to visit each other (for the most part, visa-exemption arrangements are mutual) can visit the other country without going through an application process for a visa in advance. Some visa-free countries with regard to Israel are visa exempt due to voting for the establishment of Israel in the UN vote of 1948. Others have friendly diplomatic or trade relationships with Israel. Others have no particular relationship with Israel but are members of the European Union, which has a visa-free policy with regard to travel to Israel.
Does This Mean That the Citizen of Any Visa-Free Country Can Visit Israel Freely at Any Time?
Not quite. Or even, not at all. In some ways, citizens of countries which require visas to visit Israel in advance are at an advantage here in comparison to citizens of visa-free countries. On the one hand, they have to pay the visa application fee and go through a long process with the Israeli Consulate in their home country. On the other hand, once they have passed the process and received their visa, it is highly unlikely that Israeli border control officers will deny entry or deport them, unless they act suspiciously at the border crossing into Israel.
On the other hand, a tourist from a visa-free country who just took a flight to visit Israel can (and possibly will) be held and deported by border control officials if they are suspicious. The Israeli border control authorities have very broad discretion and little need to justify their decision unless tasked to do so in court.
What Are the Concerns that May Prevent a Citizen of a Visa-Free Country from Entering Israel?
There are two main issues the Israeli border control authorities are focused on: security concerns and illegal immigration. The security concerns are obvious: Is the person entering Israel with the intent of causing harm? Recent legislation has broadened the definition of harm to ostensible intent to malign, defame, or cooperate in some way with organizations hostile to Israel.
However, suspicion of illegal immigration is a more frequent issue for those who are denied entry to Israel. In this case, the border control authorities believe that the person intends to enter Israel as a tourist, then stay in Israel and work illegally without acquiring a work visa. There are certain formal and informal criteria involved in evaluating the ostensible intent to stay and work in Israel.
What Are the Criteria the Israeli Border Control Authorities Consider When They Suspect That a Person Intends to Illegally Immigrate to or Work in Israel?
The formal criteria are rather obvious. Has the person been deported or denied entrance to Israel in the past? Does this person have enough money to provide for their stay in Israel? Do they have a place to reside in or is someone waiting for them in Israel and is willing to vouch for them? Do they have a home and place of employment back in their country of origin (or a steady financial situation)? In short, have they shown a good number of reasons why they would not just “fall off the grid” and work or stay illegally in Israel?
Sadly, the informal criteria are also obvious. The poorer the country of origin, and the poorer (younger) the person, the more likely they are to be suspected of intending to illegally work in Israel. A young person from Ukraine, Russia, or Georgia is far more likely to be viewed with suspicion than an elderly man from the United States, regardless of their respective documents and reasons for visiting Israel.
How Do I Make Sure I Am Allowed to Enter Israel?
Demonstrate that life in your home country is good and valuable. Bring along documents indicating that you own or rent a home, have a place of employment, as well as documents indicating your financial situation is good. On the Israeli side, present documents confirming you have a place to stay and enough money to support yourself in Israel. For example, if you are a part of a tour group, a respectable tour group operator will handle the “visa” applications for the entire group, even from a visa-free country.
If you are visiting on your own, have documents from and a way to contact the people you are planning to stay with. If necessary, they may be asked to vouch for you and provide a bank guarantee that will be forfeited should you illegally stay in Israel past the expiration date of your visa.
Appealing a Deportation Order
If your documents have failed to convince the border control authorities of your sincerity, you will be deported from Israel back to your state of origin. The process can be appealed, either urgently on the spot before the person is deported or after the deportation to the country of origin.
The Israeli law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh has a few branches throughout the country, including Jerusalem and Petach Tikvah, which is in the greater Tel Aviv area. We have a great deal of experience in the appeals process and in dealing with the Israeli Ministry of Interior and the border control authorities.
Please contact us for more information regarding Israeli visas and immigration procedures.