Who is entitled to Israeli citizenship? Posted on June 24, 2013

There are several routes through which to receive Israeli citizenship: By virtue of return – the Law of Return states that a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, or a descendant of a Jew (up to the third generation, i.e., grandchildren) is entitled to immigrate to Israel. An immigrant visa is a kind of citizenship. However, receipt of such status is not automatic and Interior Ministry officials have almost complete discretion to reject a person’s request for citizenship in cases where a person has a criminal record or if he is ill and/or has a dangerous or contagious disease. Note that one who qualifies under the Law of Return does not receive an Israeli passport until his citizenship application is approved. Marriage to an Israeli citizen – residence in Israel – one who is married to an Israeli citizen or permanent resident in Israel not entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return may apply for citizenship, on the condition that he/she has been living for four years in Israel or was based in Israel for two years before filing the application. Marriage to an Israeli citizen – foreign resident – one who is married to an Israeli citizen, who does not live in Israel and is not based in Israel, is eligible to apply for citizenship by virtue of the procedures related to one having an Israeli citizen spouse. By birth – a person having at least one Israeli citizen parent qualifies for Israeli citizenship regardless of whether he/she was born in Israel. Note that if the eligible person’s children are born outside of Israel, they are not eligible for citizenship by virtue of birth, but are able to apply under Law of Return. By birth and living in Israel – a person who was born after the establishment of the state and does not hold any foreign citizenship may obtain citizenship if he meets all the following criteria: 1. Born after the founding of the state, i.e. after 1948. 2. Does not have, nor had, any foreign citizenship. 3. His application for citizenship was filed reaching the age of 18 years, but less than 21 years. 4. Was a resident of Israel five consecutive years prior to the filing of the petition. By residence in Israel – people who were subjects of the British Mandate received full Israeli citizenship, based on a census done in 1952. However, the census was imperfect and therefore a repeat census was done in the 80s, and in fact most of the residents of Israel in the 80s received Israeli citizenship. By naturalization – The Interior Minister has discretion to grant citizenship to non-Jewish adults following conditions: 1. The individual is physically located in Israel for the three years prior to the filing of the application. 2. The individual desires to settle in Israel or has already done so. 3. The individual knows basic Hebrew. 4. The individual renounced his/her foreign citizenship or pledged to do so. However, in general the Interior Ministry rejects such requests outright even in cases where the applicant meets all of these conditions. By the “granting” authority – omnibus law section – The Minister of the Interior is authorized to grant Israeli citizenship to “special” people such as the Righteous Among the Nations, scientists, intellectuals, sports figures and more. It is recommended to consult an attorney specializing in matters of citizenship prior to applying.

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