Looking for more information on moving to Israel from Russia? We are here to help. In this article you can find the most frequently asked questions on Russian immigration to Israel and expert answers on the subject by Israeli immigration lawyer, Joshua Pex.
Our law office specializes in Israeli immigration issues and can help you overcome any difficulty you may be experiencing with your immigration to Israel process.
What is the history behind Russian immigration to Israel?
There is a long history of Russians immigrating to Israel. The very first “Aliyah” which would eventually establish the settlement in Palestine began in the 1880s, in the wake of anti-Jewish crackdowns in Russia, known as Pogroms. In this period, over two million people, most of whom Jewish, left Russia for the United States and what would eventually become the modern state of Israel.
Since then, there have been multiple waves of Russian Jewish migration to Israel, with the largest taking place during the 1990s. As the Soviet Union collapsed, nearly a million Jewish immigrants have arrived in Israel over the course of a decade. Israeli society now contains former Russians at every level of its economic, political, and professional structure.
What about the current Aliyah wave?
The Jewish agency reports that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, February 24th, 2022, nearly 40,000 Russians have arrived in Israel, more than double the number of Ukrainian immigrants and refugees. Some left Russia to avoid being drafted, others predicting a deterioration of the economic situation due to sanctions and isolation. Others yet left due to the increasingly autocratic regime stamping out political opposition and freedom of expression. Thousands of Russian émigrés are expected to arrive in Israel over the following months, as Russia enters into more desperate stages of the “special operation” and more Russian citizens are in danger of being drafted.
It is estimated that about 600,000 Russians are eligible to immigrate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship. Many of them are not Jewish but rather descendants of Jews, who may lose their right to immigrate to Israel if the “grandchild clause” of the Law of Return is scrapped.
Who can immigrate to Israel from Russia?
Per Israeli laws, citizenship in Israel is generally granted for those who meet one of these criteria:
- Children born to Israeli parents, whether in Israel or outside of Israel
- Jews, children, or grandchildren of Jews are eligible to make Aliya under the Law of Return
- Permanent residents of Israel eligible for naturalization
- Family members of Israelis – spouse or partner of Israelis and their minor children, or elderly lone parent, or parents of Israeli soldier.
Russians who want to make Aliyah must provide proof of Jewish ancestry (at least one grandparent should be Jewish). While most of the immigrants from Russia to Israel are Jews, some only have Jewish ancestry within the last three generation.
While aliyah for Russians is possible, the process, however, is complicated.
In July 2022, the Russian government ordered the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, the Sochnut, to stop its operations in Russia. Russia’s Justice Ministry demanded closure based on allegations that the Agency violated some Russian laws.
Can I gain entry into Israel if my spouse has Israeli citizenship?
In October 2022, the Interior Minister of Israel ordered the immigration authority to allow entry to couples even if only one of the spouses has Israeli citizenship, in order to allow mixed Israeli – Russian couples to get out of the danger of war, or being drafted to the army by force.
Per this law, Russian partners can gain entry into Israel if they can show evidence of their marriage being official even if their marriage is not registered in Israel. The new law helps couples fleeing Russia to come to Israel without facing lengthy administrative hurdles.
Who is in charge of immigration from Russia to Israel?
Nativ, officially known as “Lishkat Hakesher” or The Liaison Bureau , is an Israeli government agency and department within the Prime Minister’s Office. The agency is responsible for overseeing and approving all immigration to Israel from the former USSR.
Nativ was established in 1952, shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, and is headquartered in Jerusalem. Since its inception, Nativ has been responsible for processing and approving applications for immigration to Israel, as well as lobbying for the right of immigration to Israel when USSR Jews were locked behind the Iron Curtain. In addition to processing applications, Nativ also provides a wide range of support services to new immigrants, including assistance with finding housing and employment and helping to integrate into Israeli society.
Nativ is an important part of Israel’s immigration process for those immigrants from post-Soviet Union countries and plays a vital role in offering safe immigration to Israel.
What are the benefits of moving to Israel from Russia?
The Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is tasked with helping immigrants from around the world to make Israel their home.
The ministry provides a range of services to help immigrants with everything from finding a place to live and learning Hebrew, to getting a job. The ministry’s programs are especially beneficial for immigrants from Russia.
Many Russian immigrants arrive in Israel with little money and few possessions. The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption provides these immigrants with financial assistance and other support to help them get settled in Israel.
In lieu of the recent influx of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, the Israeli government approved funding of NIS 90 million that will cover:
- additional housing solutions,
- employment assimilation, and
- other integration services.
The Center for Integration, for instance, offers advice, professional guidance, counseling, and employment assistance to scientists who immigrate to Israel. The services are offered to returning resident scientists, new-immigrant scientists, and those who are yet to qualify for aliyah.
The Ministry of Aliyah also offers financial support for new immigrants. These are the amounts of assistance for families where the head of the family is 55 years of age or below.
Image source: Ministry of Aliyah and Integration
There are also a number of tax benefits that the Ministry of Aliyah offers:
- Tax exemption of 10 years and exemption from reporting income earned outside Israel.
- Income-tax credits run into thousands of shekels for new olims. They receive 3 credit points for the first 1.5 years after aliyah, 2 credit points the next year, and 1 credit point in the third year. Each credit point equals NIS 2,676.
- A 20-year exemption from tax from income earned through foreign currency deposit.
- A 10-year exemption on overseas pensions.
- Assistance and support for setting up a business.
The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption also runs programs specifically for Russian-speaking immigrants. These programs help immigrants learn about Israeli culture and traditions, and adjust to life in their new country. These services have helped thousands of Russian immigrants make a new life in Israel.
For instance, Ben-Gurion University (BGU) is running an “Aliyah to Academia” program for Russian-speaking immigrants between the ages of 17 and 27 looking to pursue natural science and engineering bachelor’s degree. This program is supported by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption as well as the Ministry of Education.
Apart from scholarship assistance, immigrants receive counseling, mentorship, special courses in Hebrew, and other integration services.
Immigrant children and their parents also receive a number of integration services such as summer camps and workshops to familiarize them with the Israeli school system.
Russian immigration to Israel: What documents are required?
Generally, those looking to make Aliyah will need these original/authenticated documents:
- A valid passport with at least one year of remaining validity.
- Religious/civil documents that prove your Jewish origin. These can include:
- Any documents showing that your grandparent(s) \ parent(s) are Jewish
- Jewish marriage certificate (ketubah in Hebrew)
- Memberships in synagogues or Jewish organizations
- Bar mitzvah certificate,
- Proof of burial of grandparents/parents in a Jewish cemetery,
- A completed and signed Aliyah application form and an endorsement letter from a Jewish organization or a Rabbi.
- A certificate that shows you do not have any criminal record.
- Two recent passport-style photographs.
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate, if applicable.
- Divorce decree, if applicable.
- Spouse’s death certificate, if applicable.
- Evidence of financial means, such as bank statements or a letter from an employer confirming employment and salary.
For those who formerly were residents of the Soviet Union but are currently not residing in Russia, these documents are necessary:
- Foreign passports with at least one year validity for each member of the family
- Color passport photographs
- Marriage certificates
- Employment records
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Education certificates.
- Parents’ marriage license.
- Documents and certifications of grandparents.
- Military records.
- Certificates of conduct.
If you are seeking asylum based on persecution due to the ongoing war, you will need to make a formal application. This should include proof of persecution based on the applicable grounds of race, political beliefs, citizenship, origin, religion, or sexual preference.
You will need to enclose any document in support such as an arrest, filing of a complaint, preventative measures, or an interview conducted by Russian authorities, etc.
Can Russians also qualify for asylum in Israel?
It is possible for Russians who are being persecuted in Russia for opposing the regime or the war to request asylum in Israel, if they are in Israel and meet the criteria of the International convention for refugees and Israeli immigration policy.
It is also possible to seek asylum if you or a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance are being persecuted based on religion, ethnic origin, political views, etc. But, you will need to prove the fact that you or your loved ones are being persecuted for any of these reasons in Russia to qualify for asylum in Israel.
Our law office has an in-depth understanding of what it takes to secure an Israeli visa for Russians. We can fight the case for you if you are stopped from entering the country at the Israeli border and prevent your deportation to Russia.
How can our law office help you with immigration from Russia to Israel?
If you are looking to emigrate from Russia to Israel, we can help you with all aspects of the immigration process, from finding and filing the paperwork to getting your visa or passport.
We know the ins and outs of the process, and we can help make it as smooth and easy as possible for you.
We understand that immigrating to Israel from Russia during the war, or anytime for that matter, can be a daunting task, but we are here to help. We will work with you every step of the way to make sure that everything is taken care of. We will assist you in obtaining the relevant documents whether you are seeking asylum or looking to make aliyah. These include the documents that prove your Jewish origins, endorsement from the relevant authority, and other important documents.
We want to make sure that your transition is as seamless as possible. Our focus is to ensure you are able to start your new life in Israel as quickly and easily as possible and also learn more about the Russian community in Israel.
If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you with immigration from Russia to Israel, please contact us today. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have and to get started on helping you with your immigration process.