How the 2019 elections may affect immigration to Israel

Illustration of a ballot box at a polling station in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Danielle Shitrit/Flash90)

Israel is set to have elections on April 9. This is right around the corner, and so we thought to address a few things that can change in Israeli immigration policy as governmental leadership changes. Israeli immigration issues fall under the purview of the Ministry of Interior (Misrad Hapnim) thus the identity of the Minister and the supervising clerks who the Minister appoints is quite important.  

The Minister of Interior can influence Israeli immigration policy even without changing any laws, as he holds authority to issue administrative regulations for the conduct of the immigration officers. These regulations and the clerks handling of immigration cases is what make processes harder or easier, granting or withholding status as they see fit.

Several areas of potential change in Israeli immigration policy

What are the various areas we can expect to see change in immigration policy, if and when, a new Minister of Interior is appointed?

Immigration and Aliyah for non-Jews

Immigration policies for non-Jews can be made easier, particularly for those who are not part of the mainstream orthodox community or those who marry an Israeli partner, and need a marriage visa, seek to follow the common law marriage process, or marry a permanent resident.

The concept of “Who is a Jew” eligible to make Aliyah according to the law of return, has, so far, maintained the answer from the Rabbinate. Supreme Court rulings of Israel’s High Court of Justice have generally excluded messianic Jews and other streams of Judaism form receiving Israeli citizenship. The change of the Minister of Interior probably won’t change the law itself, or the court precedents, but may change the way the Ministry clerks implement them.  

Refugees and asylum seekers

Status of asylum seekers in Israel, especially the approximately 40,000 mostely Eritreans might change under a new Minister of Interior. The process for refugees to obtain status in Israel at the moment is extremely long and very few ever successfully complete the process. At the moment, the Ministry of Interior doesn’t process the request of many refugees for status, granting them general protection from deportation, but without official work visas.  

Refusals of entry to Israel

Numbers of visitors refused entry to Israel are extremely high in the last few years. Almost 20,000 visitors have been denied entry to Israel at the Ben Gurion airport and other border crossings during 2018. Under the current policy, those who engage in political dissent with state policy toward minorities or Palestinians can be refused entry, particularly those suspected of supporting BDS activities.  Also those suspected of missionary activity to Israel are often refused entry to the country, which has prevented a number of individuals and clergy from visiting. This policy could change under a different Minister of Interior.

Visas for international organizations

Workers and volunteers of foreign religious and humanitarian organizations who wish to conduct activities in Israel are sometimes refused visas, even if they argue that they are not involved in missionary activity in the country. A more lenient Minister of Interior may allow more visas for organizations like these.

These are just a few issues in which the Minister of Interior can influence Israeli immigration policy, and like you, we are waiting to see what will happen on the elections and who will be appointed as the next Minister of Interior of Israel.   

Contact us for legal assistance with any of your visa or immigration needs.