By Amit Acco, Partner |

Update 24 August 2023: Officials announced on Wednesday that an ongoing crisis concerning visa issuance for members of Evangelical Christian groups in Israel is poised for resolution next week, thanks to the mediation by the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr. Parsons, the senior international spokesperson for the organization, said:

“We are hopeful of a favorable outcome. It’s just unfortunate that it took a media appeal after a three-year wait for the promised review.”

Original Article:

The Ministry of Interior has recently reported delays or in some cases did not issue religious visas for clerics from evangelical Christian groups operating in Israel, marking a significant shift in the nation’s policies. These organizations, among them, some of Kan-Tor & Acco clients, are functioning in Israel for years and were not been provided a reason for this decision. It is not yet clear if this is a policy alteration that began with the establishment of the current Israeli administration. The Population and Immigration Authority noted that this matter has previously been discussed and will soon be reviewed by its director-general.

What is the Religious A-3 Visa and How to Apply?

A-3 Religious visas (Clergy) are granted to non-Israeli nationals who intend to serve in an acknowledged religious establishment in Israel and permit global religious figures to carry out their religious duties. The criteria and processes for each visa type are shaped by the specific guidelines of the Ministry o Interior, drawing its mandate from the Entry into Israel Law.

To be eligible for this visa, a cleric must be invited by an established and known religious organization based in Israel, and the cleric must await the visa’s issuance from outside the Israeli borders.

Firstly, the Israeli religious institution must engage with the Department of Religious Affairs to procure a recommendation that affirms the cleric’s intent to work with an accredited religious group in Israel. This endorsement procedure has a dual approach:

  1. The religious entity needs to clarify their requirement for such a personnel.
  2. The cleric, on his part, must present evidence of his suitability for a religious assignment, such as ordination credentials or certificates from theological schools

After this recommendation is provided, the religious institute can then apply to the Ministry of the Interior for the A-3 visa. This application must be accompanied by all necessary paperwork and the visa application charge. It’s worth noting that in some specific cases, these applications can be initiated while the cleric is already present in Israel, directing them to the central office of the Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem.

When the application is approved, the Ministry of the Interior in-turn will notify the religious institution. The visa will allow the cleric to enter Israel under the designation of a religious worker. A key point is that the immediate family of the cleric, which includes the spouse and children below the age of 18, can also enter Israel in accordance with the terms of the A-3 visa.

The A-3 visa has a validity of a single year, requiring renewals on an annual basis. Its maximum duration stretches to five years, with potential for extension. If the hosting religious organization can establish the ongoing significance of the cleric’s role to the Ministry of the Interior, extensions beyond the initial five years can be considered.

Current Situation

It was recently reported on Israeli media, that the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ), which has been active in Israel since 1980, was informed by the Interior Ministry that it didn’t qualify as a religious entity, although the organization has been legally identified as a ‘Christian Association’ for years and has consistently received A-3 cleric visas.

A majority of these evangelical groups emphasized in the press the importance of promoting Jewish immigration to Israel. Nevertheless, they often downplay this aspect in Israel, concentrating more on philanthropic deeds like assisting Holocaust survivors and initiatives they think bolster Israel’s security apparatus.

According to the ICEJ organization representatives, the updated A-3 visa policy threatens their operations in Israel due to manpower constraints. They argue that this new stringent visa protocol would hinder their crucial mission of fostering global Christian backing for Israel.

According to the Ministry of Interior’s Population and Immigration Authority, the issue is not new and that their incoming Director General, Eyal Siso, would revisit the subject. Future decisions will be shaped by the law, processes, Israel’s relationship with various religious groups, political aspects, and other pertinent factors.

Kan-Tor & Acco will continue following the changes in the religious visa A-3, and will updates its clients on any progress through the dedicated client alert. please contact to join the list.