Does Israel Have an Immigration Policy?
Practicing immigration law to Israel for more than 10 years, I sometimes get asked or hear the saying “Israel has not immigration policy!”. Is this true?
The answer to this question is complicated, as it is both yes and no. It is a common misconception that the Israeli government has a specific committee or Institute that sits down and determines the immigration policy of Israel. It doesn’t happen this way. However, on the other hand, Israel does have a general policy (based on the fact that Israel is defined as Jewish and Democratic) and just like any other area of law, the reality often changes and influences the law.
The Guidelines for Immigration to Israel – Jewish and Democratic
Israel was created in 1948 to be the homeland of the Jewish people. With this we have the Law of Return. The Law of Return makes it easier for someone who is a Jew, child of a Jew, or grandchild of a Jew to immigrate to Israel with their spouse or partner and children.
On the other hand, if you are not Jewish, and want to immigrate to Israel as someone who is married to an Israeli, or attempting to establish residency in Israel based on any other visa or immigration program, it will be much more complicated. This process will be longer, more expensive, and increasingly more bureaucratic.
Ministry of Interior procedures on immigration, not laws passed by the Knesset
There are very few laws when it comes to immigration to Israel. The majority of the immigration programs to Israel are based on procedures which are published by the Interior Minister. This is because the Israeli government is made up of many different parties that have varying ideas and passing laws is always difficult.
The Ministry of Interior has a great deal of authority and power to make regulations regarding immigration to Israel. Though there are few laws, there are many procedures that the Ministry of Interior has created and these procedures are extremely influential when it comes to immigration to Israel. Secondly, when the government doesn’t succeed to pass laws, the court system becomes stronger. Questions on immigration to Israel are solved by the Immigration Tribunals, as well as cases being brought to the District Court and the Supreme Court. Many important decisions are then made by the Judiciary, not the Legislature, regarding everything that has to do with immigration to Israel.
Politicians, Citizens, and Immigration
Politicians in Israel are aware of how the public perceives foreign immigration to the country, and use this awareness. In Europe, the United States, and Israel there are notions from many people to keep immigrants out. The public as well as various political parties believe that immigrants are taking jobs from citizens and could be dangerous. This leads to immigration remaining a very sensitive issue and continuously hard to solidify laws and clear policy. Due to this, cases continue to rise in the courts and can remain open for many years awaiting a decision to be made. An example of this is a case that was pending for over fifteen years, regarding the validity of converts to Judaism in Israel to make Aliyah and receive Israeli citizenship. Although this case was pending for an extremely long time, the Supreme Court eventually made this decision, because the government lacks the unity and ability to make these kinds of hard decisions regarding immigration.
If you have any questions about immigration to Israel, do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance. With our expertise, we have been able to help many people fulfill their dream of starting a life in Israel.