Residency and Citizenship

Jews, children of Jews and grandchildren of Jews are entitled to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship in a short and rapid procedure under the Law of Return, and it is further possible to receive assistance to that end from the Jewish Agency and later from the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption. However, rather often, potential immigrants encounter difficulties in proving their Jewishness or the Judaism of their parents or in getting recognition for the conversion they have undergone. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are further forced to deal with interviews at the Nativ Liaison Bureau – a body that has been highly criticized for more often preventing immigration than encouraging it.

It is important to note that there are people who see themselves as Jews or as members of a Jewish family, but the Law of Return does not apply to them, wherefore they can immigrate to Israel by virtue of the Citizenship Act or the Entry into Israel Act. This is the case, for example, with regard to great-grandchildren of Jews and to the immigration of the Falashmura. In such cases it is important to understand in advance the conditions that apply to these immigrants in order to avoid loss of rights. This is also the case with regard to children from a previous marriage of spouses that are married to Jews who wish to immigrate (together with the spouse and the child from the spouse’s previous marriage) – the “aliya” in such a case is not “automatic”.

The procedures and policy of the Ministry of the Interior regarding these cases, and even the implementation of the Law of Return, undergo frequent changes. It also often happens that the procedures are not duly applied by the relevant clerks and civil servants, in a way which is detrimental to immigrants’ rights. It is therefore very important to receive legal counsel before submitting any request, and not to consider a refusal as such as irreversible, but to act as soon as possible in order to change the decision.