As one of the most economically prosperous countries in the Middle East, Israel became a popular choice for those looking to settle overseas. Particularly, Israel might be very attractive to young entrepreneurs, with one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems in the world. If we’re considering taking our career to the next level by moving to Israel – and if we want to stay there long term, it’s relevant for us to know if we could eventually apply for Israeli citizenship.
Similarly to almost any other country, attaining citizen status in Israel grants a person the right to live, work, and vote within national territory. Additionally, it allows you to travel into and out of Israel whenever you wish (unlike Residents, who lose their status when they leave) with the required Israeli passport (which must have been acquired before leaving). Citizenship also grants you the right to a pension and the extenuation of tax payments.
For all Israeli citizens and residents over 18 years of age, Military Service is mandatory. Some demographics aren’t required to go through Military Service, but they’re allowed to sign up voluntarily. These groups include Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox jews.
In this post, we’ll examine some of the most common paths to Israeli citizenship.
By the way, if you’re looking to obtain citizenship for other countries, check out our Dual Citizenship guide here – it will take you through the step-by-step with a video tutorial.
How to get Israeli Citizenship through the Law of Return
According to the Law of Return, all Jews have the right to migrate to Israel (Aliyah) and henceforth claim Israeli citizenship.
There is an ongoing discussion regarding the criteria one needs to meet to qualify as Jewish, and the Law of Return doesn’t provide a definition either. However, in 1970 the Israeli supreme court defined that “a Jew” means that a person is born from a Jewish mother, or has converted to Judaism and is a not member of other religion. Through an amendment, the right of entry was extended to people who have at least one Jewish grandparent, and to anyone who married a Jew (despite he or she not being considered Jewish by the rules of Halakha).
This doesn’t mean that you’re forced to convert to Judaism if you want to become Israeli, since the Law of Return by itself does not determine citizenship.
It’s worth mentioning that non-Israeli Jews and eligible descendants of non-Israeli Jews need official approval to immigrate into the country, and upon arriving in Israel, they have a three-month window to explicitly refuse to receive the citizenship. The request to immigrate can be denied for reasons such as being infected with a contagious disease or having a criminal record in the country of origin, among other causes.
On the other hand, thanks to the aforementioned 1970 amendment, the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew can be granted citizenship eligibility. This particular path to citizenship was suspended in 2003 for people who lived in the Palestinian territories.
How to Become an Israeli Citizen by Residence or Naturalization
In the 1950s and 1980s, Israeli citizenship was granted to non-Jewish residents of the British Mandate of Palestine who lived in current Israeli territories before the constitution of the State of Israel. Nowadays, any person who has resided in Israel for three of the previous five years has the right to live in the country and to renounce to his or her previous citizenship by swearing an oath to the State, that reads: “I declare that I will be a loyal national of the State of Israel.”
How to get Citizenship by Descent
Another way of acquiring Israeli citizenship is known as jus sanguinis. It might not be relevant to those seeking to emigrate to Israel, but it’s worth mentioning.
Citizenship by jus sanguinis (or “by descent”) grants any child Israeli allegiance at birth if either or both of his or her parents are Israeli citizens. This applies to anyone born from Israeli parents outside Israel, regardless of the way any of their parents acquired the citizenship and is limited to only one generation born abroad.
On the other hand, since 1996 onwards, any non-Israeli child adopted by Israeli citizens has the right to citizenship since the very day of the adoption. The only requirement is having been adopted under Israeli law. But any child adopted outside of Israel by Israeli citizens who can receive Israeli citizenship if the parents consent. Between the age of 18 and 22, a person can claim his or her right to citizenship if it was canceled during childhood. In this case, a letter (written in Hebrew) should be presented before the Israeli government, explaining why the applicant’s parents renounced their citizenship and why he or she wants to reinstate it.
Obtaining Israeli Citizenship by Jus Soli
Anyone born in any territory considered part of the State of Israel on the day of their birth can apply for citizenship by jus soli. In case of applying between their 18th and 21st birthday, the candidate needs to have resided in Israel for five continuous years at the time of application.
We’ve explored how to get Israeli citizenship through various methods, and most of them do not require converting to the Jewish faith, although Jews and people of Jewish descent may have an upper hand in their path to citizenship. If you’re considering applying for Israeli citizenship, investigate and carefully consider your options. Have in mind that you’ll need to collect and translate several relevant documents, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. For a smooth application process, counting on proper legal guidance and document translation services is always a must. Good luck!