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Obtaining a work/residency visa as the foreign partner of an Israeli citizen

This guide provides some information on the process of obtaining a residency/work visa for the non-Israeli partner of an Israeli citizen. In Israel, this couple is applying for a status called ידועים בציבור ("known in public") or unregistered cohabitation ("unregistered" meaning not married or legally registered; comparable to common-law relationships), which does not afford all the rights of a married couple but does allow for immigration rights. This guide is applicable to both opposite-sex and same-sex unmarried couples. Married couples go through a similar but different application process.

Be aware: these are not immigration rights under the Law of Return; there are no aliyah benefits granted to the non-Jewish partner of an Israeli. Non-Jewish spouses of Jews making aliyah fall under a different category, and qualify for citizenship, aliyah rights, etc.

This guide is written by an American, therefore some of the details may be unique to United States. Hopefully this will provide at least some guidance for people from other countries as to how to go about obtaining an Israeli visa.

All information contained in this guide is from either personal experience, or from first-hand accounts of people who have also gone through this process.

1. Before travelling to Israel, you must collect a number of documents:

REQUIRED

From the non-Israeli partner:

  • Birth certificate, official copy*
  • Certificate of good conduct/criminal background check (for US citizens: state of current residence and FBI)*
  • Certificate of non-marriage*
  • Transcripts/university and college degrees**
  • Proof of health insurance, either local or foreign

From the Israeli partner:

  • Paycheck receipts
  • Proof of residency registration at that Ministry of Interior branch

From both partners:

  • Letter from the couple detailing the history of their relationship (when they met, how they met, etc.)
  • Letter from the parents/immediate relatives of each person (English or Hebrew) attesting to the relationship***
  • Photos of the couple with friends/family, on vacation, etc.
  • Two standard passport photos of each partner
  • Apartment lease with both names on it
  • Bank account statements with both names on it
  • Bills (water/electricity/Internet/arnona) with both names on them
  • Two forms of government issued ID, including a valid passport
  • Old/expired passports
  • Proof of living expenses for up to six months

*requires Apostille or federal certification

**non-government documents need to be issued by the institution, notarized by a notary public, the notarization certified at the county courthouse, and then the certification Apostilled by the state's Secretary of State (in the US).

***these letters are to be written by the relative without help from the person submitting the application. Parents are best, but siblings are also acceptable.
 

A note of warning: the collecting and certifying of documents takes A LOT OF TIME. The US FBI background check alone takes 8-10 weeks, and mailing documents to your state's Secretary of State to have them apostilled can take another month.  Given all the bureaucracy involved, you can't start early enough.

SECONDARY

  • Correspondence between the couple if significant time was spent apart
  • Cards/letters/postcards between the couple and friends/family
  • Tickets/receipts from trips or vacations together
  • Letters from friends attesting to the relationship

The Ministry of Interior  (מסרד הפנים) can be contacted to obtain a list of what is required , though it's best to check if an updated list is available. Remember that it's better to bring too much than too little.

2. When the non-Israeli partner arrives to Israel, they should enter on a B/2/ב tourist visa which can be obtained at the border. For citizens of countries which require obtaining a visa beforehand, the Israeli partner may be able to expedite this process by contacting their local Ministry of Interior office.

3. Once both partners are in Israel, they must have a preliminary meeting with the Ministry of the Interior. This meeting can be scheduled before arrival in the county, but both partners must be present at the meeting itself. The meeting must be scheduled with the Ministry of Interior branch which serves the area where you will be living (ie. you can't apply at the Tel Aviv branch if you're living in Haifa). Also, the Israeli partner must register their residency with that same Ministry of Interior branch before the application can be submitted.

Bring with you all the documents listed above, as well as photocopies of everything. The woman at our meeting kept the photocopies and returned the originals, saying with a smile, "we have a tendency to lose things".

This preliminary meeting will mainly be paperwork, paying, and submitting your required documents. The application for a work/residency visa is 165 NIS. You can also apply for a multiple entry visa, which is another 165 NIS (prices as of 08/2010).

At this meeting you will schedule your follow-up meeting, which is usually 8-12 weeks later. Remember that, during this time, you are not legally permitted to work in Israel; however, you are allowed to work for a foreign company (eg. an American can work for an American-based company). This is why the Ministry of Interior requires that you show six months worth of living expenses at your initial meeting.

If you entered the country on a three-month B/2/ב tourist visa, it will likely expire before your second meeting. You are legally allowed to reside in the country while your application is pending even if your tourist visa expires. The Ministry of Interior will give you a receipt when you submit your application fee, showing that you have a visa application pending, which you can show to authorities if you need to prove your immigration status.

4. Your second meeting will consist of separate interviews with the Ministry of Interior. The interview is mainly detailing aspects of your relationship (how you met, major events, etc.) to prove to them that you are truly a couple. You will also need to bring photos, bills and bank statements you have received since the initial meeting, as well as any additional documentation the Ministry may have requested.

At this meeting, you may or may not receive your work/residency visa. Foreign partners coming from Western countries seem to have an easier time getting their applications approved, compared to people coming from developing countries. If you don't receive your visa at this meeting, the Ministry of Interior agent will tell you when and how you will receive the decision on your application, usually within 4-6 weeks following the second meeting.

The ultimate decision about your application is usually decided by the agent you're meeting with (you'll meet with the same agent both times), so be nice and polite and relaxed. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. Since there's no legal definition of an unregistered couple, it truly is up to the discrepancy of the Ministry of Interior agent whether or not to approve your visa application based on the interview and documentation you've brought.

If your application is successful, you will receive a B/1/ב work visa with a "partner (בן/בת זוג)" notation, which is valid for one year. After one year, you will need to submit a renewal application, which consists of evidence that the relationship has continued: a new lease with both names on it showing you are still living together; bank statements with both names on it; bills and arnona with both names on it; photos of the couple with friends and family; tickets from vacations taken together; etc. If the couple moves in the meantime, the couple's file (תיק) must be transferred to the Ministry of Interior office which serves the area where they have moved to, and the Israeli partner must register in with that branch.

After the initial renewal, the visa will not need to be renewed for another two years. At this point (three years total), the visa will convert to an A/1/א visa. At this point, the foreign partner will be able to apply for kupat cholim, register with professional associations (doctors, lawyers, etc.), and other privileges. The A/1/א visa does not need to be renewed annually, but every few years. Be aware that if the foreign partner leaves the country for any extended period of time (to study, to work, etc.), the Ministry of Interior must be notified in writing of their absence and their return. After seven years of total residency in the country, the foreign partner will receive permanent residency.

Last update on 03 August 2011 05:50:31

 Comments

  • nurpat
    nurpat 30 June 2014 21:14:52

    Hi, thank you sooo much for the help you provide to all of us!!!

    Like everybody i have some doubts about my visa, my ex girlfriend is jewish and i am from Belgium.
    We met in Tenerife and get a baby together and after a while decided to come to live in Israel. Here we asked for the friendship visa (B1 unrestricted) because we was not married and they approve it so now i've got my visa valid untill september 2014.
    The thing is that we are separated and when we ask them if they will renove my visa they respond that " to want it and just because you have a child here is not enough"... I cant believe it and can't imagine to live far away from my baby, he's only 1 1/2 years old and need me like a father!!!!
    I have now a new girlfriend from 2 weeks ago and for the first time from my separation i feel in love wih somebody and she feel the same for me, do you think it can be possible to ask again or to renove my friendship visa with a so short relationship, admitting that in 3 months aproximately when my current visa will expire it will be about 3 months together?
    I heard also that another solution can be to go few days in Egypt for example when my visa caducate and after re-enter Israel and get a new tourist visa. Is it possible also, and if yes how much time i need to be out of Israel before to re-enter?
    If you have any idea, suggestion or other solution pleae tell me, i'm really desesperate about this situation, Thank you so much!!!
    Patrick

  • nebel87
    nebel87 31 May 2014 12:43:51

    Do the airport authorities give you a hard time as soon as you enter Israel on a turist visa and you mention that the aim of your trip is to reside in Israel with an israeli partner?

  • mariemm
    mariemm 01 July 2014 10:33:37

    Hi,
    I was personally denied entry when I came to Israel like that. We had been told that we could optionally start the process beforehand to make it faster, but due to a recent policy change on the immigration authorities side, it is now MANDATORY for the border control to see that you already have a file and that you have already been invited by the Ministry of Interior to enter the country in order to finalize the process. I would not recommend coming to Israel and mentioning that you are planning on applying for such a visa if you haven't been officially summoned yet. The experience is traumatizing and the authorities can be very difficult. I went back home, completed the process, and came back after being invited. The border control agent looked into the computer, confirmed he could see the invitation related to my passport number, and gave me a tourist visa. I also had a letter from the Ministry confirming my status.

  • willmer888
    willmer888 02 November 2013 15:46:01

    I personally encourage more simplification of foreign work residency process for those citizens of friendly nations seeking work in Israel for mutual benefit. Even those of working class. Even though laborers and working class do not appeal much because of their level of education I recognize A desperate need for more foreign help.

  • tourlangosta
    tourlangosta 14 August 2013 08:05:42

    I think there is some information that is not 100% right. In my experience, after the visa B1, you get the visa A5, and it needs to be renewed every year. Some people, according country they are coming from, get the visa A5 jsut after 3 years with B1 visa, and people from western countries get the A5 visa after 1 year.

  • privekka
    privekka 30 April 2013 08:45:41

    Dear Keyheartlion,
    Thank you SO much for compiling this highly useful information for us. I\'ll be sure to get in touch if I have questions throughout my application process!
    Bless you!

  • lyngloria
    lyngloria 23 April 2013 05:29:06

    Dear Keyheartlion,

    First of all, thank you so much for all these tips above. I only found out about this partner visa things after read your article.

    I am Chinese citizen, my boyfriend is British, but he was born in Israel (Hold an Israeli passport). Now he is moving back to Israel for two years and I am planning to leave with him.

    We are trying to work out how to arrive at the same time. My questions are:

    1 Do we must contact with Ministry of Interior before we go?
    2 I can possibly get hold of a temporary short period visiting visa before I go without contacting Ministry of Interior, but I am worried if this will effect the officers in Ministry of Interior to give me the partner visa, because I didn\'t inform them before I am planning to come and apply for the partner visa. Or it actually doesn\'t really matter that much.
    3 Since my boyfriend is not there yet, and he won\'t be there until I am there. Do you think it is still possible for us to secure a meeting with Ministry of Interior before arrival. If we are only going to contact with them after arrival, how long it will take to get feedback from them to inform us when the first meeting with be?

    Understand if you can\'t tell some of this information.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    G

  • export456
    export456 07 April 2013 17:15:02

    Hi

    I would like to move to Israel for work. Could you please provide some information? How can I get employer who can sponsor me? What kind of work can I get? What are the expenses I need to pay? How can I find en employer? How long does it take to get visa? I can do any kind of work.
    Please help me in this regard.
    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Thanks in advance and best regards.

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 12 April 2013 02:59:32

    Getting a work visa is a completely different process that I have no experience with. Can\'t help out here, aside from to say it is very difficult. Sorry!

  • matang
    matang 07 April 2013 13:20:47

    Thanks keyheartlion!

    I\'ve got two questions:
    1)Regarding \"Certificate of non-marriage\". My girlfriend (an american citizen) and I can\'t seem to find any official document provided by US authorities. The only thing we manged to find is the option to search the county\'s (Lexington, SC) Marriage license database and show \'No records found\'. Will this be enough for misrad hapnim?

    2)My girlfriend has a police record for a misdemeanor (Public disorderly conduct). Do you know how will this affect her chances to get a visa?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 12 April 2013 03:07:38

    1) No, you\'ll need something more official. If you go to whatever office that provides marriage licenses, they should be able to help you out. I lived in Washington DC, and they gave me an official letter stating there was \"no record found\". Call your city office of records and tell him what you need, and they\'ll tell you what they can give you.

    2) Well, I doubt it helps but if was not recent and not serious (like a felony), then they\'ll take that into account I\'m sure. So hopefully it won\'t have too much of an effect.

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 23 July 2012 02:10:42

    I'm not sure if it's easier for married couples, but it is different. You could register the marriage with the MOI which I *think* then entitles you to certain rights under the law (such as residency, inheritance, etc), as opposed to yeduim betzibor where you're really at the mercy of if the MOI feels like letting you stay or not since you don't have any kind of legal relationship with your partner. But that's what I've heard; I can't personally attest to that.

  • matang
    matang 12 April 2013 12:22:54

    thanks! we\'ll try that.

  • Guest 20 March 2012 04:07:25

    Thank you a lot, keyheartlion!

    I think this is the only serious report i found about this rare visa-case.

    Great work!!

    PS: just one question:

    you wrote:

    "Married couples go through a similar but different application process."

    What do you mean by that? Is it easier when the couple is already married?

  • Guest 14 January 2012 19:21:10

    Great overview keyheartion! The lists and everything are very accurate. It's a lot of paper work and a bit of a hassle, but it all worked out for us, and we renew each year.

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 21 November 2011 13:50:44

    A tapuz.co.il forum (in Hebrew) on having foreign partners immigrate to Israel:
    http://www.tapuz.co.il/Forums2008/ForumPage.aspx?ForumId=257

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 21 November 2011 13:19:43

    @fr33_bird
    My guess would be it depends on his citizenship. If he's an Israeli citizen, you'd probably go through much of the same process that we did. If he's not an Israeli citizen, I reckon you'd have to check with the Palestinian Authority; you may need a visa from the PA to apply for residence in Israel, but I'm just guessing.

  • fr33_bird
    fr33_bird 14 November 2011 19:16:21

    HEY Keyheartlion, thanks a lot for the great infos. I got couple of questions. what if I am in a relationship with a Palestine guy who lives in East Jeursalem and am an American citizen!!how can I get the spouse visa?thanks once again

  • LilS
    LilS 02 October 2011 10:52:38

    This is not quite true. All depends on the circumstances of both partners but it gives an idea about how the process might be......

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 28 September 2011 20:20:19

    I have an updated list from the Ministry of Interior (as of Sept 2011) of required documents, in Hebrew. Please feel free to contact me, and I can send it on.

  • ashlynn89
    ashlynn89 21 December 2012 03:48:46

    Hi i over read this forum and i am in a similar case to an israli but he has dual citizenship living in jerusalem, he is jordanian?? would it be similar for us as well for the marrige visa too??

  • keyheartlion
    keyheartlion 28 December 2012 18:44:52

    I would assume it would be the same process, since he has Israeli citizenship. But you should probably check with the MOI just to make sure. Good luck!

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