Someone Jewish who is interested in an Israeli passport must, first of all, receive citizenship, make Israel the center of his / her life, and then he/ she will be entitled to an Israeli passport a year later. During the first 3 months of his/ her “Aliya,” the new immigrant is allowed to enter and leave Israel using his/ her native passport, together with an attached letter from the Israeli Interior Ministry confirming that the holder of the passport and letter is undergoing the last stages of immigrating to Israel.
If the new immigrant does not declare that he/ she refuses to become an Israeli citizen, he/ she will become an Israeli citizen. Three months after the end of Aliya procedure, he/ she will be issued an Israeli Laissez Passer valid for one year. From that moment on, the new immigrant must enter and leave Israel using his/ her Israeli Laissez Passer. The Israeli Laissez Passer can be renewed each time, up to a total period of five years.
At the end of the first Aliya year, the Israeli Interior Ministry reviews and decides if the new immigrant can be issued an Israeli Passport and if he/ she made Israel the center or focus of his/ her life. This is done by examining the immigrant’s entries and departures to and from Israel. If the result shows that the new immigrant stayed outside of Israel for more than 183 days, he/ she will not receive an Israeli passport and his/ her Laissez Passer shall be renewed, as he/ she did not make Israel the center of his/ her life.
Refusal to become an Israeli citizen declaration – during the first three months of the Aliya procedure, the new immigrant can sign an ARLI declaration stating that he / she does not want to become an Israeli citizen. Having done so, the new immigrant shall become a permanent resident and not a citizen. This means that he/ she will not be allowed to vote or be elected for parliament and will not receive an Israeli passport. As already specified, only an Israeli citizen can be awarded an Israeli passport. Having an Israeli passport may have taxation implications, but that is a separate issue altogether.
There are some exceptions to the requirement that Israel becomes the center of the new immigrant’s life, including, for example, an exception for a businessperson residing abroad permanently and making a considerable investment in the Israeli economy. The businessperson can ask for an Israeli passport during the first year, regardless the fact that his/ her life is based elsewhere. Following a Decree published by the Israeli government, dated August 12, 2004 [act no. 2422] (hereinafter: “Government Decision”), titled, “Confirming Criteria for issuing passport to Israeli Citizen – Newcomer, whose base is outside Israel and its’ prolongation,” it was determined and decided that a businessman living abroad for business purposes and who makes a meaningful contribution to Israeli economy, shall receive an Israeli passport in spite of his foreign residence. Measuring the extent of the meaningful contribution requires a recommendation from the Ministry directly related to the applicant’s area of contribution.
It can take between several days to one month to receive a recommendation. In order to receive that recommendation, one must submit a detailed explanation letter specifying the actual contribution and concrete contribution data. The letter must be accompanied by recommendations from top Israeli businesspeople who know the applying businessperson and maintain business relationships with him/ her. In addition, the request must specify data and figures about applicant’s commercial activity, import and export figures, etc., past contribution to the Israeli market, and expected contribution to the Israeli market in the years to come.
Should the relevant ministry confirm the recommendation, it will then be forwarded to the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry can order the Israeli Ministry department that dealt with the immigration process of the businessperson to approve the issuance of an Israeli passport to the businessperson. This occurs in spite of the fact that he/ she has entered and departed many times, and he/ she did not make Israel the center of his/ her life. The Israeli passport will be valid for one year. Following the Government Decision, the Israeli Interior Ministry will review the case at the end of the year, and if it decides that during that trial year the candidate did preserve his/ her connections with Israel and the terms upon which receipt of the Israeli passport was based still exist, then, if the Israeli Interior Ministry approves, the passport shall be renewed again, but each renewal shall not exceed three years.
All said and explained in this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace legal advice. Responsibility for using the wordings and opinions conveyed in this article relies solely and entirely on the reader.
This article was written by Dotan Cohen Law Offices, working in the field of immigration law in the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia.