Changing status of a foreign spouse – issues and difficulties


In our global era, we are witnessing many cases of Israelis choosing to share their lives with foreign spouses, due to travels all over the world and the many foreign visitors arriving in Israel. As time progresses and the relationship develops, it is possible to settle the status of the foreign spouse in Israel, and enable the couple to relocate in Israel. This is true for both married couples and common-law couples (not legally married), although the procedures are slightly different.

The procedure requires submitting documents, sometimes impossible to get, and involves interviews at the Israeli Ministry of Interior (“MOI”) in order to examine the nature of the bond between the spouses or common-in-laws. The Israeli procedure is obligatory, and quite liberal in comparison with other countries, as it enables regulating the status of common-in-laws and gay couples, but, on the other hand, it involves some difficulties and can certainly use some improvements.

Difficulties and problems

The procedure is handled at the local Israeli MOI office, allocated according to the resident address of the couple. It is conducted by a MOI official, who will examine the nature of the relationship between the spouses / common-in-laws, and then either approve or refuse the request for status change. Close knowledge and observations of the way the procedure is being handled reveal difficulties and arise some questions, which the MOI should act to correct, such as:

MOI Official, in charge of the procedure

The MOI official examining the application plays a crucial role, acting as a one-person tribunal for the couple. If she/he decides to determine that the relationship is “untrue,” the couple will face a much more complicated procedure that involves submitting an appeal and maybe even an administrative appeal. Furthermore, when approaching any governmental institution, the applicant is entitled to legal support / presentation, but the MOI has rendered it into a symbolic one, as the lawyer is kindly instructed not to interfere during the interview determining the nature of the relationship.

When reviewing these interviews, it is clearly evident that the MOI officials have no training or guidance for carrying on such an interview, and most probably have not the required experience and knowledge for determining the fate of the couple.

List of Documents

When submitting the application, it must be supported by documentation proving the sincerity of the applicants, and documents relating to the Israeli spouse. This is a partial list of the requested documents:

  1. Certificate of good standing.
  2. Personal status documentation, including birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, personal status certificate.
  3. Photos of the couple (together).
  4. Declarations of family members and friends.
  5. Correspondence, emails and letters which they have sent to one another.
  6. Detailed list of phone calls.
  7. Rental Agreement.
  8. Mutual bank account printout.
  9. Etc.

Some of these documents can be obtained, and some are impossible or involve a huge effort. For example, Certificate of good standing and personal status certificates usually require returning to country of origin, where these can be issued. In addition, in many countries personal status summarized certificate and documents reflecting personal status are not issued at all. Israeli MOI disregards that fact and the couple has to find creative ways for obtaining these documents (approaching the embassy, etc.)

Furthermore, there is a long list of documents required for proving the sincere attentions of the couple, which is inadequate to our modern era. For example: letters, correspondence and emails – the couple lives together, shares everything, and it is only natural that they do not write letters or emails to one another. Some couples do not like or do not have many occasions to take mutual pictures, and so on.

Some of the documents required cannot be obtained at all: unlike couples that met in Israel, new arrivals do not have salary slips, and cannot open mutual bank account since the foreign spouse does not have an Israeli Identification Card. These and many other circumstances present many difficulties to the couple up to the point that they might even give up and abandon the procedure in its midst.

Forced Separation

In some cases, the Israeli spouse must issue an invitation letter to his / her spouse, enabling his or her entrance to Israel. This means that the couple must separate for an unknown period of time, depends on bureaucracy at the foreign spouse’s country of origin and the Israeli authorities. In our opinion, such an influence on the procedure, deriving from being born in a specific place is unfair, unjust, and although we understand the need to follow regulations, there must be way of facilitating the procedure and overcoming that obstacle (for example: a temporary entrance visa, to be issued at the consulate).

Long wait for an interview

In order to start the procedure with the Israeli MOI, the couple must arrive for an interview, open an appeal and submit documents. For reasons not related to the procedure itself, setting up the interview is not an easy task. In many cases the interview is scheduled for one or even two months after submission of application. During this waiting period, the foreign spouse, even though staying here legally, is not allowed to work and therefore cannot support herself / himself.

When regulating the status of a married couple, the working visa is sometimes awarded at the beginning of the process. This is not the case when the applicants are common-law couples. Common-law couples must submit an application and then undergo an interview before receiving a working visa. The procedure in their case is a very long tiresome one, the foreign spouse might wait up till half a year, and might be driven into working illegally.


In this article we have tried covering the main difficulties and obstacles involved in regulating foreign spouse of Israeli citizens’ status. There are numerous difficulties, and the couple might feel lost facing the Israeli MOI, which apparently makes every possible effort to discourage them. The procedure for regulating foreign spouse status was created in order to enable their mutual life in Israel, based on proving the sincerity of their relationship. Many cases and appeals handled, in Israeli court, reveal the fact that many couples did not complete the procedure, although they were honest and sincere. In our opinion, the present procedure, list of required documents and the official jurisdiction handling it should undergo a fundamental meaningful change, in order to improve and render the procedure a more efficient one.

All said in this article does not constitute a legal opinion nor does it serve as replacing proper individual consultation. Responsibility for using or practicing the specifications of this article shall be entirely ruled on the reader.

The above information was provided by Dotan Cohen Law Office.

Dotan Cohen Law Office specializes in immigration and relocation law. The office provides legal counsel in immigration to international and local companies as well as individuals. The office provides legal counsel in immigration law to the following countries: Israel, Canada, Israel, United States, and Australia