MIGRATING AND BECOMING A CITIZEN OF ISRAEL
In spite of Israel’s free and democratic status, immigration into the country is quite difficult as there are no laws favoring the immigration and settlement of non-Israelis in the country.
There are however two laws – known as the 1950 Law of Return and the 1952 Law of Entry into Israel – that govern the entry and residence of foreigners in Israel. Another law known as the 1952 Citizenship Law governs the process of obtaining citizenship in the country.
A process known as the Aliyah process which is accessible by Zakaey Shyut – i.e. people of Jewish descent qualified by the Law of Return – and is necessary for obtaining citizenship in the country . Clause 4A(a) of the law states that:
“The child, grandchild, or spouse of a Jew under the law of Return as well as an Ole under the Citizenship law and any other law is entitled to the rights of such Jew or Ole with an exception to Jews who willingly change their religion.”
In essence, immigration and residence rights are only granted to those qualified by the laws stated above. Based on the Law of Return, qualified persons have a list of alternatives to select from. These alternatives include:
Obtaining a B/1 Work Visa for a duration of certain number of years.
Obtaining a temporary resident permit under Aliyah.
The second alternative qualifies those involved for social/human rights that include access to health facilities. With assistance from relevant Jewish Agencies as well as various offices at Israel’s Ministry of Interior, qualified persons are also entitled to establishing Aliyah by providing documented proof of Jewish descend. In essence, those usually qualified to install Aliyah and obtain citizenship in Israel are majorly Zakaey Shyut and the Jews.
Citizenship is Exempted in the Law of Return
The Citizenship Law and not the Law of Return governs the qualifications for obtaining citizenship in Israel. The Clauses of the Citizenship Law states what identifies an Israeli citizen, who qualifies to become an Israeli citizen and the process involved in obtaining citizenship in Israel.
Therefore, under the Law of Return, one becomes eligible for citizenship under two conditions namely:
Eligibility by birth, provided the person involved is not a citizen of another country.
Eligibility by residence, provided persons involved resided in Israel before the creation of the nation.
Under the Citizenship Law, Clause 5 states the requirements unqualified persons must meet to obtain an Israeli citizenship. They include:
Prior understanding of Israel’s Lingua Franca.
Attainment of permanent residence status by residing in the country for up to 60% of the five-year period before the request for citizenship.
Consenting to forfeiting citizenships of other countries.
Given that the Law of Entry features very rare cases of permanent residence qualifications, Clause 5 therefore makes citizenship quite difficult in Israel. As a result, only spouses and marital partners of Israelis, as well as aged single parents of Israeli citizens are usually considered for citizenship in Israel. In very rare cases, people are sometimes granted permanent residency on humanitarian grounds.
Lastly, the Minister of Interior is responsible for attending to citizenship requests and can reject or grant citizenship at his discretion. He may also choose to bestow citizenship on people of remarkable value to the country on religious, humanitarian and athletic grounds as he pleases.