Immigration from USA to Israel – Legal and practical advice

In recent years, American Jewish immigration to Israel has been driven by a variety of factors. We hear potential immigrants (in Hebrew: Olim) from the USA talk about their desire to escape anti-Semitism, a growing sense of Jewish identity, and wanting to be part of the Start-Up Nation, a term used to describe Israel’s high-tech industry.

However, immigration from USA to Israel is complicated even for those entitled to make Aliyah according to the Law of Return. Those Americans without Jewish roots have options for various visa programs, based on immigration laws.

Our law office specializes in helping foreign citizens immigrate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship. In this article, advocate Joshua Pex will explain the ins and outs of immigrating to Israel from the United States.

Why are so many US Jews and descendants interested in Israeli citizenship?

Many American Jews seek the opportunity to make their home in the Jewish state, or at least obtain an Israeli passport, just in case they will need a second nationality in the future.

The Start-up Nation is a destination of choice for many American professionals, entrepreneurs, and students. Immigration from the United States to Israel has a rich and complex history that spans over several decades.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 marked a significant turning point in the history of American Jewish immigration to Israel. The newly formed state was seen as a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution and a symbol of Jewish sovereignty and self-determination.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the number of American Jews immigrating to Israel continued to grow, driven by the desire to help build up the new Zionist nation. For example, Israel’s only woman Prime Minister, so far, Golda Meir, was a Jewish immigrant from the USA.

Also a factor in Jewish American immigration was the wish to escape discrimination and anti-Semitism they faced in the United States. The civil rights movement in the United States also played a role in this wave of immigration, as many American Jews were inspired by the struggle for equality and saw Israel as a place where they could live as equals.

What are the eligibility criteria for Israeli citizenship?

The process of permanently relocating to Israel is relatively straightforward for individuals with Jewish heritage or ancestry. This is due to Israel’s Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew, regardless of their place of birth or upbringing.

The process of Jewish immigration to Israel, known as Aliyah, is handled by the Jewish Agency. American Jews interested in making Aliyah can contact their local Nefesh Be’Nefesh office for assistance and guidance.

To be eligible for Israeli citizenship, an individual must meet certain criteria. These include:

  • Being a Jew or having a Jewish parent or grandparent, or being a spouse of one of the above, as per the Law of Return
  • Being a member of an Israeli family, such as a spouse or partner, child, lone elderly parent of an Israeli citizen, or parent of an Israeli soldier
  • Being a permanent resident eligible for naturalization
  • Having had Israeli citizenship revoked in childhood and seeking to renew it

If you meet one of these criteria, you are eligible to apply for Israeli citizenship. The steps and requirements for each of these cases will vary, but the Jewish Agency can provide detailed information and assistance throughout the process.

How to immigrate to Israel as a Jew or family members of a Jew from the US?

The process of Aliyah, or Jewish immigration to Israel, is governed by The Law of Return, passed by the Israeli Knesset in 1950. This law grants the right of immigration and Israeli citizenship to any Jew, their spouse, or their direct descendants who wish to settle in Israel.

In 1970, an amendment to the law extended this right to include children and grandchildren of Jews, with the exception of those who have voluntarily changed their religion.

The process of Aliyah for American Jews can be facilitated by an organization called Nefesh B’Nefesh, which works with the Jewish Agency for Israel, or else Americans can enter Israel as tourists and apply while in Israel. To begin the process, you will need to fill out an application for and submit it, along with supporting documents.

These documents must include your Jewish marriage certificate, membership in Jewish organizations, birth certificates of you and your family members, and a certificate stating that you have no criminal record. All documents must be authenticated by an Apostille and translated by a notary public into Hebrew, if required.

Can those eligible for Aliyah receive temporary residence, instead of Citizenship?

Yes, it’s also important to note that you have the option to stay in Israel temporarily with A/1 Temporary Residence Visa. This visa will allow you to live and work in Israel while you decide whether you want to apply for Citizenship.

When is an Aliyah application refused?

It’s important to note that your citizenship application may be rejected in certain cases. For example, if you have a criminal history, have been involved in activities against the Jewish people, or pose a threat to the security of Israel, converted to a different religion, your application may be denied.

Can Americans hold dual citizenship with Israel?

Yes, as an American citizen, immigrating to Israel does not automatically revoke your US citizenship. You will have to file taxes in both countries but can hold dual citizenship.

How to immigrate to Israel from the US if your Israeli Citizenship was canceled as a minor?

If your Israeli citizenship was canceled when you were a minor, you may still be eligible to renew it and immigrate to Israel from the USA. The process for doing so will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, but in general, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Contact the nearest Israeli consulate or embassy in the US to inquire about the process for renewing your Israeli citizenship. They will be able to provide you with the necessary forms and instructions.
  2. Gather all relevant documentation, including proof of your previous Israeli citizenship, such as a canceled ID card or passport, as well as any other relevant documents, such as your birth certificate and family records.
  3. Submit the required forms and documentation to the consulate or embassy, along with any additional materials they may require, such as a police clearance certificate or a letter of recommendation.
  4. Wait for a decision on your application. The consulate or embassy will review your application and decide based on the information provided.
  5. If your application is approved, you will be issued a new Israeli ID card and passport, and you will be able to proceed with the process of moving to Israel.

It’s important to note that in some cases, the process of renewing citizenship can take some time, and additional steps may be required depending on the specific circumstances of your case, such as taking legal actions with the Ministry of Interior (Misrad Hapnim) in Israel.

How to move to Israel from the US as a minor?

If you are under the age of 18 and are moving to Israel with your parents or legal guardians, the process will be slightly different than if you are moving alone.

It is important to consider the legal guardianship aspect of moving to Israel as a minor. You will need to ensure that you have a legal guardian appointed in Israel, who will be responsible for your care and welfare while you are in the country.

If you are moving to Israel with one of your parents, you will need official permission to enter Israel and to settle in the country from the other parent. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the process of immigrating to Israel as a minor may take longer than expected, and may involve additional steps, depending on the unique situation.

Can non-Jews immigrate to Israel from the US?

Immigration of non-Jewish individuals to the country of Israel is governed by the Law of Entry to Israel and options are fairly limited. However, as a US citizen, you may still be eligible for one of one of the visa categories that allow for relocation to Israel.

One option is to apply for an A/2 Student Visa, which is granted to individuals planning to study at an academic institution in Israel. This visa is typically valid for one year, but can be renewed for up to five years.

Another option is to apply for a B/1 Expert Work Visa, which is granted to skilled foreign experts for a specific duration of time. This can be obtained through the Ministry of Interior.

If you are in a relationship with an Israeli citizen, you may be eligible for a Spousal Migration/Children Visa. In this case, if your spouse holds a visa based on work, study, clergy or volunteer in Israel, but you and your minor children reside in the US, you can apply for an A/4 visa. This process becomes even simpler if your spouse holds Israeli citizenship, as you can then apply for Israeli citizenship according to the gradual process after 5-7 years of living in Israel.

Lastly, there is a Special Investor Visa (B/5) that is only open for US citizens as part of a mutual agreement between Israel and the United States. This allows US citizens to invest in Israeli business ventures, and even live and work in Israel.

Once you are eligible for this visa, your spouse and children can obtain the B/52 and B/53 visas respectively to move to Israel with you. The visa offer also extends for select US citizen managers and experts workers in the Israeli enterprise.

USA immigration to Israel with professional legal help

The process of Aliyah, or Jewish immigration, is governed by The Law of Return and facilitated by the Jewish Agency for Israel, with the assistance of Nefesh B’nefesh. Eligibility criteria for Israeli citizenship include being a Jew or having Jewish heritage or ancestry, being a member of an Israeli family, being a permanent resident eligible for naturalization, or having had Israeli citizenship revoked in childhood.

The process of Aliyah involves filling out a Notification of Interest in Receiving Citizenship form and submitting it, along with supporting documents. It’s important to note that there is also the option of a temporary A/1 Visa while waiting for the citizenship application to be processed.

Also, the eligibility criteria for different visas may vary and it’s recommended to seek guidance from a professional immigration lawyer. Equally, our specialist will help you and your relatives to reunite in case you seek the reverse immigration from Israel to the United States and will guide you through the process.

Get started with your immigration process to Israel

To get started on your Israeli immigration process, simply complete the form available on our website or contact us directly by phone. Our team of experienced lawyers will respond to your inquiry promptly and provide the necessary guidance and support throughout the process.