There is something special about immigrating to Israel, particularly if you are a deeply religious person. It is home to the Gospel Trail, a route Jesus followed when he left Nazareth. Jerusalem, Israel’s designated capital city, is prominently featured in the Bible. Apart from the country’s religious history, it is one of the most technologically advanced economies in the world. When it comes to startup companies, only the U.S. beats it.
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So, whether you are moving to Israel for economic, social or cultural reasons, here is all you need to know about the immigration process.
1. Living in Israel
Unless you are a Jew, or you have Jewish ancestry, wrapping yourself around Israel’s culture can be fairly difficult. In particular, the Judaism religion disagrees with the Christian religion on a number of aspects. If you have not visited the country before, it is highly desirable to do so as a tourist so that you can get a taste of its culture.
Some useful points to note include:
- Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel. Although English is spoken widely, learn either of the official languages before moving
- Lunch, not dinner, is considered the main meal
- Israelis are crazy for classical music
- The Mediterranean beaches are breathtaking
- Judaism is the dominant religion (75 percent) followed by Islam (21 percent).
2. Getting The Visa
Israel issues a number of visas, including student visa, clergy visa, immigration visa, temporary resident visa, and work visa. Since you are immigrating to Israel, you will need to obtain the Immigration Visa.
According to Israel’s Law of Return, you can secure the immigration visa if:
- Your mother is Jewish, or
- Your grandmother is Jewish, or
- You have converted to Judaism
If you meet any of these conditions, Israel treats you as a Jew who is returning home. All you will need to do is visit a Jewish Agency or Israel embassy in your home country, and start the process of applying for the visa. You will be assisted by an immigration or Aliyah representative, who will interview you about your family background and immigration plans. He or she will certify your eligibility documents (birth certificates proving your Jewish ancestry, or a letter from your rabbi approving your conversion to Judaism), and then transfer your application to the government of Israel, which will issue you with an Israeli Identification Card and Immigration Certificate, which doubles up as your visa.
What if you don’t meet any of the conditions listed above? Well, it will be almost impossible for you to settle in Israel. The country’s immigration laws are designed to protect the dominance of the Jewish population. The best you can do is to temporarily visit and operate in the country as a student, tourist or expatriate.
3. Work Permit
With the immigration visa, you are legally a citizen of Israel. As such, you don’t need any work visa and permit to find employment or start a business.
But if you are non-Jewish and you wish to move temporarily to Israel for work, you must follow these steps to obtain a work permit and visa.
- Find a job offer in Israel– You can do this through a recruitment agency in your home country, or while in Israel as a tourist
- Your prospective employer will act as a sponsor for your work permit. It will submit an application to the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, providing information about the job offer in the process
- After the work permit is issued, apply for a visa recommendation with the Ministry of Immigration
- After you have the recommendation, apply for a work visa in an Israeli embassy or consulate in your home country. Medical examination and good conduct certificates will be required
- With the work visa and work permit in your possession, you are ready to move to Israel for work. A work visa can only enable you to live in Israel for up to five years.
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As you have found out, moving to Israel is fairly straightforward if you have Jewish roots. Without them, you will most likely need to change your religion to Judaism. Or if you are ambitious enough, you can find yourself and Israeli spouse to enhance your chances of securing a spouse visa.
Have you tried to immigrate to Israel before? How was the experience? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.