Opening a co-habitation file and arranging a visa in Israel for Members of the Same Sex:
How can same-sex couples live together in Israel when one of the spouses is a foreign citizen? A recent ruling at the Supreme Court of Israel has brought about a change in the state’s attitude toward same-sex couples, and has clarified and facilitated the procedure for obtaining citizenship for gay couples. In this article, attorney Tal Ofir – an expert in the field of immigration to Israel – will explain where the law currently stands, and clarify how to obtain legal status and a visa in Israel for same-sex couples.
The law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex and Brosh specialize in the field of immigration law. Our firm has extensive experience in helping same sex couples take control of their legal status, representing them before the Population Authority, the Ministry of the Interior, and all other administrative and judicial bodies.
The Current Legal Situation: Same-Sex Couples in Israel
The LGBT community in Israel has worked hard to promote and fight for the full equality of rights for members of their community. This struggle has been very successful and has led to the possibility for same-sex couples to register as married at the Ministry of the Interior. According to data from the Population and Immigration Authority (as published on the Walla! Website), thousands of LGBT couples in Israel are registered as married. However, despite the valiant efforts of the community and the progress that has been made, the rights of same-sex couples are still not the same as those of heterosexual couples.
The law requires marriage within the borders of Israel to be conducted according to religious law, which creates many complications for same-sex couples. For married couples where one of the spouses is a citizen of a foreign country, there is a lengthy process at the end of which the foreign member is able to apply and receive citizenship. For same-sex couples, the legal situation and process is even more complex. Interior Ministry procedures were created at a time when few same-sex couples were able to get married. As a result, the procedure for same sex couples is the same that is applicable to non-married heterosexual couples.
Cohabitation Files and Visa in Israel for same-sex couples
As we noted, the procedure to obtain citizenship for common-law couples where one of the members is a citizen of a foreign country is longer when compared to the procedure applicable for married couples. The Supreme Court ruled on this subject when a claim was brought by the Gay Fathers Association, ruling that there is and there should be substantive equality for same-sex couples in this context. The ruling stated that instead of applying the procedure of married couples to same-sex couples, the procedure for same sex couples should be shortened so that it is equal in length to that of heterosexual couples.
At the stage of opening the cohabitation file at the Ministry of the Interior, the couple must schedule an appointment in person if they are living in Israel. The couple will be required to present various documents and to answer background questions. Additionally, they will be required to present evidence of cohabitation, which will be investigated. Lastly, the sincerity of the relationship between them and the lack of legal impediments or restrictions regarding the foreign spouse’s stay in Israel will also be reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior.
Waiver of Foreign Citizenship
A significant difference between the procedure applicable to married couples and to the procedure applicable to common law couples (as well as same-sex couples), is that under the Citizenship Law in the latter case, at the end of the process, the common law foreign couple or members of the same sex will be forced to give up their citizenship in order to obtain Israeli citizenship. In the case of married heterosexual couples, this is not the case; foreign spouses don’t have to surrender their foreign citizenships at the end of the process. It should be noted that the law still authorizes the Minister of the Interior to exempt foreign spouses from renouncing their citizenship, if he sees a valid reason to do so. This is not done automatically, and requires a special request to be considered. It is possible that when future cases on this subject come to court, a claim for discrimination will be made.
Contact an Israeli Immigration Lawyer
As demonstrated, the procedure for arranging a visa in Israel and legal status for partners of the same sex is a complex procedure. The procedure required compliance with established legal norms, and a commitment to the bureaucratic process required by the Ministry of the Interior. Our firm has extensive experience in immigration law and when it comes to representing couples in proceedings related to their legal status before all level of state authorities. If you require help and guidance in arranging your status or the status of your loved ones, we will be happy to be at your service in an uncompromising and professional manner.