Refusal of Entry to Israel – Advice from an Immigration Lawyer

Was your entry into Israel denied? Have you invited a foreign citizen, spouse, or friend to visit Israel, but unfortunately their entry was rejected and you don’t know why? In this article, Adv. Joshua Pex will explain the possible reasons why a foreign citizen, wishing to visit Israel, might be refused entry to Israel.

The decision to deny entry is made by the Israeli immigration officials, whether at the Ben Gurion International Airport, or at one of the other Israeli border crossings. More importantly, this article will provide you with practical advice from a lawyer specializing in immigration to Israel on what you can do to overturn this negative decision, and be granted permission to enter Israel.

The State of Israel – control of border crossings

The State of Israel maintains strict control of its entry and exit points. Firstly, from a security point of view, the airline companies, airports, and border crossings maintain a high level of security to protect the passengers’ safety.

Secondly, the Entry into Israel Law has granted authority to Ministry of Interior’s officials, specifically the Immigration Authority’s employees, to grant or deny the entry of foreign citizens into Israel. This legal authority is according to the provisions of the Entry into Israel Law, and the Ministry of Interior’s procedures on this matter.

Entry to Israel for foreign citizens

In general, the citizens of foreign countries, who are exempt from obtaining an Israeli visa in advance, may arrive to one of the border crossings and obtain a tourist visa to Israel. This tourist visa, which is called a B/2 visa, is usually granted for a period of three months

. The citizens of countries required to obtain an Israeli visa in advance, must obtain this visa through Israel’s embassies abroad. Regardless of the country of origin of any foreign citizen wishing to visit Israel, in any case, the Ministry of Interior’s officials at the border crossings are the authority on whether or grant or deny entry to Israel, according to their discretion.

What are the reasons for refusal of entry to Israel?

The Ministry of Interior’s officials, working at the border crossings, may legally deny the entry of foreign citizens to Israel, according to their discretion. The only condition is that their decision is reasonable and logical under such circumstances.

Thus, for example, whenever a person wishes to enter Israel for a purpose that is not in alignment with the visa they received or wished to receive – they might be denied entry to Israel. Many refusals of entry to Israel are based on suspicion that a person entering as a tourist actually intends to work illegally in Israel.

The Ministry of Interior’s officials usually ask those entering Israel upon arrival at the passport control kiosk a number of general questions; however, if any suspicion is raised regarding the visitor’s entry to Israel, the person wishing to enter Israel is referred to further questioning.

In cases where it’s revealed that a person came to work in Israel without a work visa, or has stayed in Israel illegally in the past, or in case of suspicion that they wish to illegally settle in Israel, or if there is any security or criminal impediment – it is more than likely that this person will be denied entry to Israel.

Refusal of entry to Israel for tourists with an Israeli spouse living in Israel

Recently, we are encountering a wave of refusals of entry to Israel for tourists arriving in Israel to visit a spouse who lives in Israel. Sometimes the Ministry of Interior’s officials at the airport fear that a person’s purpose of entry is settling in Israel.

The spouses of Israeli citizens, who wish to move to Israel in order to live together, are required to regulate their status in advance by the Ministry of Interior.

Israelis who are not aware that the Ministry of Interior requires regulating such entry in advance may encounter the disappointing experience of their spouse being refused entry to Israel.

Moreover, the Ministry of Interior’s officials at the border crossings sometimes justifiably suspect that a foreign spouse, arriving for a short visit to Israel as a tourist, in fact wishes to settle in Israel and open a joint life application or family reunification with their Israeli partner.

What would raise the suspicion regarding people refused entry to Israel?

There are a number of indications which Israeli immigration officials check for before making the decision to refuse entry of visitors to Israel. First, it’s important to note that there are countries, which, despite their citizens’ exemption of the demand to obtain an Israeli visa in advance, are actually often refused entry.

These are countries whose citizens are statistically more likely to violate Israeli immigration laws, and are therefore treated with more suspicion by the Israeli immigration officers at the border crossings. Thus for example, it’s likely to assume that visitors from Eastern European countries would encounter more questions than the citizens of Western Europe, the United States, or Canada.

A long stay in the past raises the suspicion of immigration officials regarding illegal work in Israel

A foreign citizen who has worked in Israel in the past, or who frequently enters and leaves Israel with a tourist visa, may encounter suspicion that their arrival to Israel is for the purpose of work rather than a tourist visit.

The Ministry of Interior’s clerks may suspect that a person spending most of their time in Israel is actually working in Israel, and therefore is required to obtain a work visa in accordance with Israeli law.

It should be noted that staying in Israel with only a tourist visa does not permit a person to legally work in Israel. For a foreign citizen to work in Israel, it is required to obtain an Israeli work visa (type B/1) in accordance with Israeli immigration law.

In the case of any visitor declaring that they arrived to Israel as a tourist, but is unable to explain what they intend to do in Israel, where they plan to visit, and in which hotel they will be staying – these are all warning signs for the immigration officials at the border crossings, which constitute a reason to perform comprehensive questioning, and eventually might refuse entry to Israel.

More suspicious signs which increase the risk of refusal of entry to Israel

Any person flying to Israel with a one-way ticket, or anyone found to be active in organizations working against the State of Israel (BDS) or who has connections with the Palestinian Authority, or anyone who has visited countries that are hostile to Israel, would certainly be require to answer the Israeli immigration officials’ questions about this at the border crossing.

In addition, any visitor caught lying about the reason for their arrival, or withholding details during questioning, which are later revealed, may find themselves refused entry to Israel.

What happens to people who were refused entry to Israel after the immigration officials decide to deny them entry?

This issue is covered in detail in an article specifically about the process of expulsion, but in summary: Once it’s been decided to refuse a foreign citizen entry to Israel, the Israeli immigration officials act to remove such person from the country as soon as possible.

If this takes place at a land border crossing, the person refused entry is easily removed to where they came from. However, most cases of refusal of entry to Israel take place at the Ben Gurion International Airport.

A person who was refused entry to Israel at the Airport would usually stay for a certain amount of time at a detention facility for people denied entry, close to the arrivals terminal.

Despite the fact that the authorities’ goal is to get the person refused entry on a plane back to their country of origin, or to the country from which they arrived, as soon as possible – in practice, due to technical constraints, usually those refused entry to Israel must wait some time and therefore are taken to a detainment facility until deportation.

Those refused entry to Israel are detained in this facility until the authorities find an available seat for them on an outbound flight. Sometimes the duration of detainment in the facility lasts a few hours; however, it might also take a few days, or even a week. The experience of detainment in the facility is unpleasant, to say the least.

What can I do to prevent the expulsion of people refused entry to Israel?

Most of the people who are refused entry to Israel at the various border crossings know an Israeli citizen or resident, who is waiting for them on the Israeli side of the border crossings. After their visiting friend is delayed at the border crossings, they fear there’s been an issue concerning the foreign citizen’s entry to Israel.

At this point, the Israeli person can inquire with the Ministry of Interior’s officials and request permission of entry for their friend, or request an Israeli visa granted subject to the deposit of a bank guarantee to ensure that the foreign citizen departs from Israel at the date set in the visa.

The Ministry of Interior’s officials, who work there, might refuse to speak to the friend of the person refused entry, or whose entry is delayed. Therefore, even at this early stage, it is recommended to find a lawyer specializing in refusal of entry to Israel and receive legal advice.

Urgent petition to the Appeals Court against a decision to refuse entry to Israel

If the decision to refuse entry to Israel has already been made, you can file an urgent petition with the Appeals Court to prevent expulsion from Israel and conduct a legal hearing concerning the approval of entry to Israel.

We recommend to contact an Israeli immigration lawyer specializing in refusal of entry to Israel, in order to estimate the chances of any legal action to reverse the Ministry of Interior’s decision.

The decision of whether to file a petition for an interim injunction with the Appeals Court, or that the people refused entry to Israel should return to their countries of origin, and later on request the cancellation of the refusal to enter, must be made urgently due to time constraints.

Can a person apply for an Israeli visa after being refused entry and returning to their country of origin?

A foreign citizen refused entry to Israel at an Israeli border crossing is usually prohibited from returning to Israel for a certain period of time, which might amount up to 10 years. A person who was refused entry to Israel is required to regulate their entry back to Israel with the Borders and Passage Department at the Ministry of Interior before arriving in Israel.

To begin an Israeli visa application process after being refused entry to Israel, it’s recommended to consult an Israeli immigration lawyer and receive legal assistance.

Contact us – Israeli immigration lawyer

Our Israeli immigration lawyers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv assist in cases where people are refused entry to Israel, or cases of immigration to Israel in general. Please contact us if you have been denied entry or have any questions about refusal of entry to Israel, or Israeli immigration law.