Our global era leads to the existence of mixed couples, when Israeli citizens choose to share their life with foreign citizens they meet on their trips abroad or in Israel itself. As the relationship becomes serious, the couple is given the possibility of regulating foreign spouse legal status in Israel, allowing her/him living and working in Israel. This option is available to married couples and to common- law couples, with several alterations. It’s an essential process, and, in comparison with other countries, quite a liberal one, as the State of Israel allows common- law couples and gay couples to undergo it.
Status regulating procedure involves presentation of many official documents, sometimes unobtainable ones, and meeting with Israeli Ministry of Internal Affairs clergy, in order to examine the truthfulness and sincerity of the relationship. In addition to that, the procedure involves also an “interview” which bears critical results. Should the interview raise doubts about the sincerity of the relationship, then the application shall be denied or put on temporary hold.
In this article we wish to review and comment on the Interview Procedure, its advantages and disadvantages, and its importance as a tool for examining the sincerity of the couple.
The Interview Procedure is a certain kind of investigation the couple must undergo in order to regulate foreign spouse’s legal status. It will be held six months after submitting the initial application, presenting the personal documents of the foreign spouse and documents proving the nature of the connection/relationship between the couple. The date for the hearing is usually given to the couple when submitting these documents and application, unless some doubts or complications, requiring additional inquiry, are raised.
The interview will be carried through by an official Ministry of Interior (“MOI”) clerk, who was instructed to get as much information as possible about the type of mutual relationship between the spouses, information that proves their sincere intentions or shows that this is a false presentation. The questions presented are supposed to be such that a couple running a fictive relationship will not be able to answer or will provide wrong answers. The interview is held in two parts, as each member of the couple is interviewed separately. Most of the questions presented as identical, but alterations, changes and elaborations are possible. The details provided shall be fully recorded by the clerk, and each party shall certify, by signing it, the accuracy of his/her answers.
In most interviews, the couple will be asked to discuss their mutual relationship, since day 1 until present day. They shall be asked to elaborate on how and where they met, their first date, mutual trips (where and when), their daily routine including working places, working hours, free-time hobbies, etc. They will be asked about their future plans – children, work, private residency, and so on. There is no doubt that the questions are somewhat intrusive, going into very private details of the marital relationship. In rare cases the couple might even be asked improper questions, relating to intimate issues. Court has already ruled on that matter, saying that although it recognizes the importance of the hearing interview, the questions asked should be only legitimate ones, respecting the self-dignity and privacy of the couple. The types of questions that will be asked during the interview are as follows:
- Acquaintance and falling in love;
- Meeting spouse’s family;
- Mutual trips abroad;
- Wedding ceremony;
- Details about the other spouse (working place, education, preferences, hobbies);
- Daily routine (division of mutual tasks, working hours);
- Future plans (trips, vacations, children);
- Events occurred during last week (meals, returning home from work time, etc.);
These are only some of the many subjects which will be discussed during the interview, in accordance with MOI clerk decisions.
The interview is indeed a tool for examining a truthful sincere relationship, as the basic assumption is that only a couple who is in a real and sincere relationship will have detailed information about each other. And yet, this procedure has also many disadvantages, and its success or failure when ruling about the sincerity of the spouses can be easily criticized. For example, different answers to the same questions do not necessarily mean the couple are insincere. It is also possible that each spouse understood differently the question presented and gave a different answer. Some are more observant and attach greater importance to small details, while others are forgetful and absent minded. This is a very frequent and known fact, understood and wide spread among couples, but the MOI, when attaching such importance to the interview as a professional tool, does not consider this obvious factor.
On the other hand, since this is a detailed interview, spouses who run a fictive relationship can prepare properly and present a fictional pretense of a very sincere solid relationship. This creates serious doubts about the effectiveness of the procedure as an important tool.
The hearing (interview) procedure is a crucial stage in the process of changing foreign spouse status. It lasts an hour and is full of detailed questions. The procedure is used in many countries while checking applications of foreign citizens to change their status, and considered a very reliable tool. However, even if a couple encounters difficulties while undergoing the hearing process, this does not necessarily point out their insincerity or their false pretense. Each case must be judged separately, because MOI clerks, though trained especially for carrying through these interviews, are not necessarily objective and can easily disregard the impact of a certain personality on the answers provided by that person.
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.