This article will briefly explain the purpose of the administrative petition that was presented to the Population and Immigration Authority at the Jerusalem District Court in regards to ensuring civil rights while submitting applications for the regulation of status of spouses in Israel in general online.
Procedure for an Israeli Marriage Visa
The Israeli Citizenship Act allows for Spouses of Israeli citizens to obtain citizenship in Israel. The request should be made to the Population Authority’s Regional Bureau at the Ministry of Interior’s office, and following the request, an evaluation process will take place. During the evaluation process, the legitimacy of the relationship is evaluated, and other legitimate documents are provided by the applicant and spouse. During the process, the spouse is granted temporary residency, but this process can sometimes take a very long time and require legal help.
About the Process of Applying for Citizenship as a Spouse of an Israeli
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Jerusalem District Attorney’s office – Population and Immigration Authority regarding the inequalities that exist within the application process for status of spouses in Israel. Currently, the application can only be submitted through the online website. The application is very specific and must be completed in the exact order that it is presented to the applicant online. Everything must be done as according to the directions exactly, all at one time, and in the exact order that it is presented to the applicant.
Purpose of the Petition
The purpose of the petition is to highlight the inequalities that exist within this system, with hopes of changing the process in order to make it more fair and accessible to every individual. The biggest and main goal of the petition is to return to the established policy regarding the submission of applications for the regulation of status of spouses in Israel in general online. More specifically, it wants to allow applicants to submit applications in the bureau or online, as well as offer it in the following languages: Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, Armaic.
Further, as many applications are not answered within a reasonable amount of time, or even ignored, the other goal of this petition is to ensure that all applications are answered within a 48 hour timespan.
Section 7 of the Citizenship Law of 1952
Section 7 of the citizenship law of 1952 regulates how spouses of Israeli citizens ultimately receive the same status (excluding Palestinians under Palestinian authority) and how its regulated. The granting of permits to residence of Palestinians under Palestinian authority is currently regulated in the provisions of Section 4 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law 5722-2022, and before them in Section 3 of these same 2 laws (2003)
The implementation of these provisions and procedures were published regulating the examination of the application for citizenship or permanent residency, based on the virtue of the marriage to a spouse with Israeli citizenship. Procedure number 5.2.2008 is the “procedure for granting status to a foreign spouse married to an Israeli citizen,” and Procedure number 5.2.2001: “procedure for granting status to a foreign spouse married to a permanent resident,” common law couples, and same sex couples that are married or living together.
Inequalities within the System
There are many inequalities within this system that violate the civil rights of minority groups in Israel. Firstly, there is a fee that is required to be paid with the submission of this application, that some people are not able to afford. Since most phone calls are ignored, and in person visits are not allowed without an application previously submitted, this deters many individuals from being able to complete the application as they can not afford the fee. This only affects the civil rights of disadvantaged citizens.
Further, many disadvantaged citizens in Israel do not have access to internet, technology, computers, and etc in their home, therefore making it almost impossible to submit an application. Despite the disparities that exist amongst the classes regarding this process, it is even more heightened for Arabs.
Disparities faced by Minority Groups
The Poverty Report of 2020, published by the National Insurance Institute in 2021, shows that 38.2% of Arabs live below the poverty line, compared to 14.8% of Jews. This further shows how this process affects the civil rights of Arabs more than Jews. The depth and severity of poverty among Arabs may also be learned by the declining trend of poverty among Jews and increasing trend for Arabs according to administrative data.
Related data also shows the significant disparities regarding arabs’ access to technology, internet, and computer access: 21.7% of Jewish households are not connected to the internet, as opposed to 51.2% of Arab households, 80% of Jewish households have computers, and 60% of Arab households do, and there is a 55% gap in online government services used by the population, favoring the Jewish people. This situation was revealed with the outburst of the Corona pandemic as tens of thousands of families lost contact with the education system due to lack of access to electricity, etc.
Along with this, the application is only offered in English and Hebrew. This prevents people who do not speak either of these languages from submitting these forms, as they can only be submitted using the online application. The form may be translated, but it has to be submitted in Hebrew or English, which may also cause the applicant to upload the incorrect documents. This, again, only affects the civil rights of minority groups who do not speak Hebrew or English.
This petition was filed mid June, 2022 and will be heard by the district court, which will rule on the issue after receiving the answer from the Ministry of Interior.
It is our opinion that the State authority will need to allow applicants more options while submitting applications, in order to allow access to state services, by all members of society. Moreover, Attorney General’s Directive No. 1.2500 dated 10.10.2019, entitled “Guidelines for Formulating Digital Arrangements”, outlines a number of key principles for the transition of government ministries to provide services in part or in full. The guideline extensively addresses the obligation to ensure that the transition is tailored to the target population in need of the service, or at least for the most part, and that in all cases an appropriate, fair and reasonable response is offered to those who are unable to use the digital channel.