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Immigrating to Israel without the Law of Return: Part 3

April 11, 2010

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

The משרד הפנים (Misrad ha’Pnim, Ministry of the Interior) can be a terrifying place when you feel powerless against its mountains of inevitable bureaucracy. The best strategy to get through the unpleasantness is to accept that logical or not, efficient or not, insane or not, they’re the ones who have all the power to say what is and isn’t acceptable. Once you come to terms with that, things get a little easier.

After you make it clear that you want to immigrate to Israel and aren’t eligible for the Law of Return (meaning you have to do things the hard way because you, your parents, or your grandparents aren’t Jewish), the Ministry of the Interior sets an official date for an appointment. Although I’d already been to the Ministry twice before trying to get answers, my official appointment wasn’t scheduled until today. At the appointment, we were asked to present the mountains of required evidence to prove I’m a respectable future permanent resident. Here is what I learned and what I had to do:

  • Even when you appear perfectly normal and functional, no one will take anything for granted. They made me sign declarations stating that I’ve never had a mental illness, smallpox (or maybe tuberculosis — my husband gets them confused, and I don’t know how to say either in Hebrew), other infectious or harmful diseases, or drug addictions, plus a document clearly stating that I don’t hate Jewish people.

  • Even when you know it will cost money, the amount is never disclosed until the last minute. Today they finally told us it will cost 835 shekels (about $226) to process the paperwork.

  • Even when someone tells you you don’t need something, you will probably need it anyway. We were told not to bring wedding pictures and other photographic evidence of our relationship, but the guy we met with today said he wanted to see it anyway. Same goes for extra photocopies of everything.
  • Even when something seems simple, rules change. Today the officer said two passport-sized photos are required, not three, and they must be taken in Israel. Even when we explained that they had been, the officer claimed they were still the wrong size and needed to be redone.

  • Even when you thought everything was perfect, it’s not. The תעודת יושר (teudat yosher, literally an “honesty certificate,” otherwise known as a background check) must have both my married and maiden names on it. Never mind that my fingerprints didn’t change when my name did, or that I filled out my maiden name on the form required to get the background check. They want both names on the apostilled document, period.

  • Even when something seems impossible, it’s still required. The תעודת רווקות (teudat ravakut, or a certificate of being single/celibate), a document that doesn’t exist in the U.S., must be issued by the city or state in which I am a resident. Never mind that the Ministry of the Interior originally said they didn’t know what to do and told me to ask the Embassy, which told me a notarized declaration explaining the U.S. doesn’t issue such certificates was acceptable. When I explained to the manager what had happened, she said I must have misunderstood the directions, there’s no proof that anyone ever told me what they told me, and that they can’t be held accountable for the time and money I wasted getting what the Embassy told me to get. I’m still trying to figure out what to do but will post an update when I do.

  • Finally, always insist on talking to the manager right away. Everyone else is a waste of time.

The officer filed my case and scheduled the next meeting, which he called a שימוע (shemu’a, hearing). Unfortunately I didn’t recognize the word and thought he was repeating the phrase “chez moi” for no good reason. Oops. The hearing will be in early June, at which time I will have to present the ammended documents in order to receive a verdict about whether or not my application for permanent residency is approved. We’re not sure if the verdict will be delayed due to a few documents needing small changes, but I don’t think the Ministry really knows either. We’ll have to wait and see.

Just to make this post a little less frustrating, here is a picture of the eggs my husband and I colored for Easter this year:

On a positive note, the government finally officially recognized our marriage today. It only took eight months and one day before they deigned to admit the legality of the union, but I suppose it’s a start.

Stay tuned for part four of my immigration adventure.

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