Government Set to Reinstate One-Year Residency Requirement for New Olim Passport


An Israeli passport. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The government is set to reinstate a one-year residency requirement before issuing an Israeli passport to new immigrants, starting as early as July 10, according to the Knesset committee preparing the law.

On Tuesday, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee approved for its final floor votes a bill to grant the Interior Minister power to refuse to issue a passport to a new immigrant who arrived under the Law of Return until the immigrant has actually proven that their center of life is in Israel.

The law effectively nullifies a legislative agreement the government made with the Yisrael Beytenu party back in 2017 to ease documentation for new immigrants, approving an amendment that permitted granting passports on arrival to immigrants who qualify for citizenship through their Jewish heritage.

The new legislation said the 2017 agreement led to a steep rise in the number of new immigrants who received Israeli passports without settling down in Israel. Before 2017, the Interior Ministry relied upon a 1964 directive to use one year as a test for residency, and issued a temporary transit document until the year was up.

According to the proposed law, after a cumulative year in Israel, a new immigrant must then prove that the country is his or her center of life to qualify for a passport. Children born abroad to Israeli parents are granted birthright citizenship, and will continue to automatically qualify for passports.

Put forward as a government-sponsored bill, the measure is likely to reduce the burden on an overtaxed Interior Ministry to issue passports during a period of overload. It also follows a banner year for immigration, led by Russian immigrants who fled due to their country’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to the Internal Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Gil Bringer, the deputy director-general of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, said his office has observed an abuse of the passport-on-arrival policy, claiming a trend of new immigrants using the passports only to get visa-free access to other countries.

“The strength of the Israeli passport erodes alongside the erosion of the connection between having an Israeli passport and the connection to the State of Israel,” he said.

The deputy director-general also said there was a correlation between immigrants remaining longer in Israel and longer waits for passport times, but did not provide a time frame for his data or additional details.

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