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Immigrating to Israel without The Law of Return: Part 2

January 25, 2010

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

In order to continue the immigration process, the Israeli government requires that I produce a תעודת יושר (teudat yosher, literally an “honesty certificate”), which translates to a background check in the American lexicon. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but because I’m in Israel now and Israeli police don’t fingerprint non-criminal civilians and the American Embassy doesn’t provide this service or recommend anyone who does, I had to spend the past few weeks tracking down a private investigator certified and willing to fingerprint me according to FBI procedures.

I never thought I would need to fill out an FD-258 and get fingerprinted, but there’s a first time for everything. It wasn’t as scary or messy as I expected it to be, but then again I was having it done by an amicable Romanian named Mark, former chief of fingerprinting for the Israeli police, in his extremely nice home office instead of in a police station surrounded by actual criminals and other suspicious folk.

To anyone who is thinking about immigrating to Israel, I highly recommend getting this particular requirement done before you leave home no matter what the Ministry of the Interior tells you. What would have been a free service in the U.S. cost me more than NIS 500 (about $135) for a PI and secure shipping, not to mention a lot of frustration. It also takes 6-8 weeks for the U.S. to process a background check, and once it’s done you have to physically take the paperwork to the the Secretary of State office in the U.S. to get an apostille attached because the government won’t do it for you, and you can’t do it yourself in Israel. Orchestrating this sort of operation from overseas is not easy, even with very helpful family members willing to wait in long lines for you.

The Ministry of the Interior also requires I provide a document called a תעודת רווקות (teudat ravakut, or a certificate of being single). In Israel, this document is issued by the rabbanut, the rabbinical court, in a convergence of church and state I find jarring. I’m allowed to provide one issued by my own country, except that the U.S. doesn’t provide such a document, nor does any church I’m affiliated with. When I told the Ministry this, they threw up their hands and claimed I needed one anyway. The embassy confirmed that there is no such document, and instead instructed me to write a statement declaring I was single before getting married and explain that the U.S. doesn’t provide a document attesting to that fact apart from a brief mention in the form I filled out to get my marriage certificate. Because the ministry requires the teudat ravakut be apostilled, and a document not issued by the state can’t be apostilled, I had to have my two-sentence declaration notarized at the embassy instead. It took innumerable phone calls, emails, and about two weeks for me to figure out this would be acceptable. The notarization cost $30 and took half a day to complete.

Finally, disregard everything the Ministry of the Interior tells you about your birth certificate. If you were born before 1989 and still have your original certificate, you don’t need to request a new certified copy and have it apostilled. This will save you about $50 and another 8 weeks of waiting.

The next big step — after I get back all the documents I applied to the U.S. for and the affidavits I had to ask upstanding Israeli citizens to submit on my behalf — is hiring a lawyer to sign everything. Stay tuned.

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