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Direct relatives of Israelis now permitted to enter Israel – but only with proof of vaccine or COVID recovery

Even then, family members will still need formal approval from Israeli authorities before boarding a plane

Outgoing MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh with immigrants demonstrating near the Knesset building in protest of the Israeli government's lack of policy regarding the entry of family members from abroad during the pandemic (Photo: Michal Cotler-Wunsh/Twitter)

Israel will begin allowing non-Israeli citizens to visit a first-degree family member living in Israel, after more than 12 months of an entry ban on all foreigners which has kept families separated from loved ones and has also resulted in missing milestones such as births, weddings and funerals.

But the policy change only applies to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the virus and still requires special approval beforehand from Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA).

Now, with the easing of these restrictions, foreign nationals with parents, children or siblings living in Israel should be granted an entry permit more easily. Prior to the regulation change, family members abroad were not given any special consideration.

The new regulations quickly went into effect on Wednesday, just one day after Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevitch opposed the entry ban for immediate family members of olim, the Hebrew word for new immigrants. The PIBA entry permit – issued by Israeli consulates abroad – will still be required for boarding flights. Proof of relationship to the Israeli relative must be provided along with the documentation verified by a notary or apostille. Travelers will be permitted to visit the country with their spouse or partner, and their children.

Upon landing, visitors will be required to do a serological test for antibodies and wait in quarantine for the results (hopefully received within 24 hours, but not guaranteed), regardless of whether or not they were vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19. 

The reformed PIBA policy was implemented following complaints from hundreds of olim that their requesting for entry permits for parents and other first-degree relatives to attend significant family events had been repeatedly denied.

Tamano-Shata, Israel’s Aliyah and Integration minister, was credited as “being the driving force behind this decision” by Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member who worked for months to help immigrants and their overseas family members to enter Israel.

The Israeli government “should not remain apathetic to the distress of olim and always ensure that solutions for immigrants are in place [during national crises],” stated Tamano-Shata.

She and Yankelevitch, minister of Diaspora Affairs, were responsible for spearheading the policy change, arguing that first-degree relatives should be permitted to visit their Israeli family members immediately. 

Earlier this week, about 30 activists organized a protest outside of the Israeli parliament building to demand entry-rights for their relatives, despite the fact the policy change had already been approved. Their protest was an extension of their frustration for what they call a lack of consideration and understanding for the needs of immigrants who have been separated from their families abroad for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh who has advocated for new immigrants for months, also attended the protest and said the regulation change was a “testament to the need for immigrants’ voices to be part of the decision-making process.”

Israel’s Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen shared that the new policy is “a first step in the resumption of healthy, vaccinated tourism to Israel.” She believes that the Ministry of Health will soon publish their overall plan to allow vaccinated tourists to visit Israel.

In the meantime, perhaps the policy change will lead to more rights for Israeli citizens. 

“I believe this is also an example of how we – as olim – can stand up and have our voices heard, especially when we work together, we can make real change in Israel,” Lipman said. “There are daily issues for olim and we will continue to fight together for the benefit of all of them.”

Foreign nationals must submit their applications for entry into Israel to the Population Authority or directly through the Israeli consulate in their country of origin.

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