Last updated: April 28, 2022
Are You an Israeli Citizen?
It is possible to obtain Israeli citizenship by making Aliyah. It is also possible to automatically inherit mandatory Israeli citizenship at birth.
- One who makes Aliyah or is born in Israel to at least one Israeli parent automatically becomes a first-generation Israeli. Additionally, anyone who was born in Israel prior to the year 1980 is a first-generation Israeli citizen, unless their citizenship was actively revoked.
- One who is born outside of Israel to a first-generation Israeli automatically inherits mandatory citizenship as a second-generation Israeli.
- Those born outside Israel to a second-generation Israeli who himself never legally established residency in Israel do not inherit citizenship. This concept is referred to in Hebrew as dor shlishi, lit. third generation.
An Israeli citizen is required to enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport. While many second-generation Israeli citizens across the world are legally registered with Israel and carry Israeli ID numbers and passports, many others are not. When non-registered second-generation Israeli citizens come in contact with the Israeli authorities, either at the airport or in Israel’s Ministry of Interior, they are usually flagged for further investigation and ultimately instructed to put their citizenship in order.
Those who are born to a first-generation Israeli parent outside Israel are without question Israeli. This applies whether or not the citizenship – or the citizen’s existence! – has been properly registered with the Israeli authorities. It is a mandatory acquisition that applies automatically at birth.
For foreign citizens living in Israel, holding a student visa is vital because it legalizes residency and grants holders access to critical benefits, including health insurance, tax discounts, and government-funded kollel support known as datot.
Those who are essentially Israeli but have not been registered with the authorities are legally unable to obtain a student visa. When their Israeli roots are discovered by the Ministry of Interior, they are either confirmed immediately to be Israeli and instructed to put their citizenship in order, or they are flagged for future investigation, which effectively bars them from obtaining a visa at any future point.
In the past, undisclosed Israeli citizens would employ various methods to obtain student visas despite their questionable status – and often got away with it. Misrad Hapnim has increased scrutiny over the past several years and is highly attuned to attempts to avoid citizenship. They also now demand original birth certificates. If an individual in this state does receive a student visa, he may continue to be legally viewed as a foreigner, but it is questionable how long it can last.
There are those who harbor an innate fear of “being Israeli.” There are others who are, rightfully, afraid of living under an illegal pretense without knowing when it will be exposed. If your stay in Israel will be long term, it is critical to properly legalize your Israeli status.
The process of legalization as an Israeli citizen is actually simpler when arranged abroad. There are less legal requirements, personal documents are more readily available; and parents are often able to be physically present, which avoids the extra step of long-distance parental consent.
See the following section for details on the process.
Registering a Child Born Abroad as an Israeli Citizen
The Israeli parent(s) must go down to the nearest Israeli consulate to have their child registered as an Israeli citizen and receive a mispar zehut (an Israeli ID number). An appointment should be made in advance.
The following documents are required:
- Parental Consent Form – At the Israeli consulate, your Israeli parent(s) will sign a consent form for your application stating they agree for you to register as an Israeli. If parent(s) cannot get to the Israeli consulate to sign this declaration of consent, due to distance or disability, the statement can be signed in the presence of a local lawyer or notary.
- Parents’ Marriage Certificate with apostille – If your parents’ marital status has not been registered at the Israeli consulate they may be required to present civil documentation to ascertain their status including: marriage certificate; divorce certificate; spouse’s death certificate, if applicable.
In such a case, number 5 below will also be required for the mother.
- Passport Pictures – 2 identical passport pictures
- Passports – bring your non-Israeli passport that you currently hold.
- Birth Certificate with apostille – Original birth certificate. Both parents’ names must appear on the birth certificate
- Civil Documentation on marital status with apostille – All civil documentation of your marital status, including: marriage certificate; divorce certificate; spouse’s death certificate, if applicable.
In some cases, the following documents may also be requested:
- A declaration signed by your Israeli parent(s) stating the mother listed on your birth certificate is indeed your birth mother.
- Proof of pregnancy – additional documentation showing the mother listed on your birth certificate is indeed your birth mother. This could be a discharge letter from the hospital, medical records form the time of pregnancy or ultrasound pictures
- Proof of your parents living together 300 days prior to your birth such as – a joint rent contract or bills, dated pictures from an extended period or joint bank accounts
- A court ruling connecting you to your Israeli parent. This will usually require a DNA test
- Proof of Judaism letter from a Rabbi on congregation letterhead, stating you are Jewish and born to a Jewish mother or father. If you are born to a non-Jewish mother this will not be required
- If you are over the age of 28 you will need a letter from the Jewish Agency stating you are in the process of Aliyah in order to obtain your passport outside of Israel.
- Additional documents may be required depending on the circumstances.
Once registered as a citizen, you can apply for an Israeli passport. This can be done in person either at the consulate abroad or at Misrad Hapnim in Israel.
Coming to Israel as a Registered Israeli Citizen Residing Abroad
1. Student Visa
An Israeli citizen is not eligible for (and obviously not required to obtain) a student visa .
2. Military Service
Israeli citizens who reside since their youth outside Israel can obtain the status of a Ben Mehagrim which, loosely translated, means the son of an Israeli who now lives abroad. A Ben Mehager is allowed to stay in Israel for up to 120 days in a calendar year without being required to serve in the army.
In addition, they can receive a one-time sh’nat shehiya (one-year’s stay) which may be able to be extended for up to a total of 4 years.
The ben mehagrim deferment does apply to females as well; however, single women who attest to being shomrei Torah u’mitzvos can completely and permanently avoid the draft by presenting a letter from a dayan certifying that the young woman is shomeres Torah umitzvos. This can be taken care of easily and it is advisable to do so as soon as possible.
Please see our guide on Ben Mehagrim for more information on obtaining this status.
3. Health Insurance
Health insurance in Israel is largely socialized.
Bituach Leumi, Israel’s National Insurance Institute, provides medical coverage through health care providers known as kupot cholim. Foreigners will not be covered by Bituach Leumi until they have proven their residency in Israel (a minimum of 6 months) and they may be eligible for limited kupat cholim services on a tourist plan. An Israeli citizen is not eligible for the tourist plan on Kupat Cholim and must establish residency in Israel in order to be eligible for coverage by Bituach Leumi.
Israeli citizens who are not registered as residents of Israel may be eligible for certain privately-run insurance programs geared toward foreign residents.
Israeli citizens who have resided abroad can establish themselves as residents of Israel, through Misrad Haklitah, (becoming a Toshav/ Katin Chozer or Ezrach Oleh and) thus qualifying for Bituach Leumi and kupat cholim (as well as a number of other Aliyah-related benefits). Please see our guide on Bituach Leumi Registration for details on the process in such cases.
However, it is important to note that establishing residency does “upgrade” a second-generation Israeli to a first-generation Israeli. If one does not wish to do this, it is critical to arrange for private medical insurance coverage for the duration of his or her stay in Israel.
Being that the Ministry of Interior is so sensitive to potential citizenship fraud, the authorities may flag children of second-generation Israelis for further investigation. If you are a “third generation Israeli” (which means that you are not Israeli), come to Israel prepared with proof of the fact that both you and your Israeli parent were born outside Israel, i.e. birth certificates.
Renouncing Israeli Citizenship
A citizen who has left Israel may be able to renounce their Israeli citizenship abroad via the Israeli embassy or consulate. Being that it can only be done abroad we are not familiar with the intricacies or the process, however, please note that it can only be renounced after first establishing citizenship. Additionally, citizenship cannot be renounced as long as one is required to serve in the army (generally from age 16 1/2 until after age 28/29) unless one has an exemption.