Israeli Citizenship for a Foreign Spouse – Rights and Obligations of a Couple When One of Them is a Foreign National

Do you want to get Israeli citizenship for your spouse? Do you have a spouse/partner who is a resident and citizen of Israel and have decided to make your fixed place of residence Israel? We wish you success in marriage but we must draw your attention to a number of significant points in terms of Israeli law as our office has learned over the years.

Civil Marriage Prior to Obtaining Israeli Citizenship

After the beginning of the relationship, and if the parties plan to establish a small family in Israel, they will be required to register as a married couple at the Interior Ministry in Israel in order to start the process of naturalization of the non-Israeli spouse. There are two main paths to settle the matter of the marriage:

The first, and most common, is by the non-Israeli spouse signing marriage documents at the municipality in which the non-Israeli partner resides. Since a marriage outside of Israel is generally not a religious issue but a civil matter, then there is no reason that a foreign citizen cannot marry an Israeli citizen.

The second is where the couple travels to a country neighboring Israel in order to arrange the marriage registration at the municipality in the foreign jurisdiction. The most popular countries for this are Cyprus, the Czech Republic ‘, Greece and so on. The couple arrive at the local marriage authority with official identity documents and the marriage registration official registers the marriage in the local records and gives them a certificate attesting to the marriage.

In both cases, the couple will have to have the certificate translated into the Hebrew language by a notary in Israel in order to give effect to the certificate in Israel and in order to present it to the Interior Ministry.

In terms of family law – we recommend the following course of action:

–       Drafting and executing a prenuptial financial agreement – in order to regulate property relations between the couple while fully and exactly detailing the property that each spouse has, liens (if at all), securities as well as the physical location of the property.

–       Opening a bank account in Israel in the name of the foreign spouse – in order to create a division and differentiation between the source of their funds and in order to transfer money from abroad solely into this account. Note that only the foreign citizen should be the account owner for this account.

–       Participation in any naturalization proceeding and the demand to examine all documents – sometimes the foreign spouse has “buries his head” in his/her home country and gives the other spouse full authority to act on his/her behalf and in his/her place when it comes to matters of naturalization. We recommend taking full part in the process and requiring that documents which are not in your native language be translated.

Beginning of the Process of Receiving Israeli Citizenship

After registration of the couple as being married at the Ministry of Interior, it is necessary to submit an appropriate request for granting of status to the spouse of the Israeli citizen. As part of the application, you will have to submit many documents relating to the foreign spouse, documents relating to the applicant (Israeli citizen) and documents proving the bona fides of the relationship. Of course you will need to present any documents translated into Hebrew and notarized. We strongly recommend that before submitting the application, you consult a lawyer specializing in immigration law and naturalization law.

The Interior Ministry is not helpful in the process, to say the least, and our firm has on a not insignificant number of time had to seek court intervention from the various courts in Israel in order to force the Interior Ministry to accept some document or another, to consider an application, to withdraw a denial of status, to request an explanation of a decision by the ministry and many other various requests.

With the filing of the petition for the granting of status to the spouse of the Israeli citizen, a B/1 type visa, which is a work visa, will be issued for a limited period. With the approval of the petition the foreign spouse will receive an A/5 visa which is a temporary resident license which is valid for up to one year.

It is important to know that even in cases of an early separation of the couple, this does not void the visa which the foreign citizen has received, but rather it is unlikely that the foreign spouse will get an extension of the visa upon its expiry.

The A/5 visa will be renewed every year for the next 4 years. The couple is summoned from time to time (as needed) to the Interior Ministry to the agent handling the case in order to examine whether the relationship is legitimate and still exists.

At the end of the process, the foreign spouse will receive Israeli citizenship.