Tourist Plan May Bring Complications for Student Visa Holders

Travelers wear protective face masks at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that vaccinated tourists would be allowed to enter Israel, from the beginning of November. The announcement was welcomed by foreigners, who have been barred from entering Israel for close to two years.

At the same time, Chaim V’Chessed has learned that a side effect of this new process may have a negative impact on student visa holders and their families. In May, after intensive lobbying, the Interior Ministry issued permission for student visa holders to enter Israel despite the overall ban on foreigners. This ruling allowed visa holders residing in Israel to resume normal travel to and from Israel, without needing hard to obtain permits each time.

However, now that vaccinated foreigners will be allowed to enter to Israel, authorities intend to lump student visa holders together with overall tourists. As reported, tourists will be allowed to enter Israel only if recently vaccinated or recovered. This new arrangement means that student visa holders who do not meet the new entry criteria will not be permitted to return to Israel should they leave the country.

This is particularly relevant to visa holders with children under age 12, who cannot be vaccinated. If these children did not recover from COVID in the past 180 days, they will have no route to re-enter the country. Similarly, adult visa holders who did not have COVID, or were not vaccinated in the past 180 days, will not be granted entry.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Nechemia Malinowitz of the Igud has already raised this issue with Interior Ministry officials. Chaim V’Chessed, along with the Igud, will lobby vigorously for a resolution to this onerous new rule. However, until the issue is resolved, visa holders who do not meet the new tourist criteria should not leave Israel, if they intend not to return before the new rules take effect on Nov. 1.

At the same time, visa holders who are recovered or vaccinated in the past six months, will be allowed to reenter Israel. If one is eligible for a Green Pass, they should obtain it now, as this will presumably ease their return to Israel.