By Daniel Aspiro, Head of Private Clientele Department

In a significant development, the Knesset approved the law amendment, granting the Minister of the Interior the authority to refuse the issuance of Israeli passports to new immigrants who have not yet settled in Israel.

The new amendment to the Passport Law, allows the Minister of the Interior extensive discretion in granting passports or alternatively a mere travel document (laissez passer), particularly when evaluating the settlement status of new immigrants in the country.

Israeli laissez passer holders are required to obtain a visa before visiting any country besides Israel. As such, Israel is the only country that laissez passer / travel document holders can enter/exit without a visa. A laissez passer / travel document is normally valid for two years, and may be extended up to five years since the date it was first issued.

Previously the law prohibited the Minister from refusing the issuance of a first passport to an individual who acquired Israeli citizenship under the Citizenship Law, solely based on their non-settlement status. However, the examination of the amendment’s consequences revealed that a significant number of individuals were exploiting the provision, obtaining Israeli passports without establishing substantial ties to the country.

This exploitation raised concerns regarding the misuse of Israeli passports, both in terms of weakening their international standing and potential security threats. Some individuals were utilizing the immediate acquisition of citizenship upon entry into Israel, solely for the purpose of obtaining an Israeli passport. This allowed them to access countries that recognize Israeli passport holders without requiring an additional visa.

The decision to grant or deny passports will be made in accordance with the government’s policy, which stated that passports would not be issued to immigrants residing in Israel for less than a year, except in exceptional cases.

By reinstating the Minister of the Interior’s discretionary powers, the Israeli government seeks to strike a balance between facilitating the integration of new immigrants and safeguarding national security interests. The amendment approval highlights the ongoing efforts to enhance passport regulations and maintain the integrity of the Israeli passport, both domestically and internationally.

Kan-Tor & Acco Immigration Law firm has experience in assisting clients in obtaining passports when specific circumstances necessitate expedited processing before the one-year requirement. The knowledge and experience in immigration law enable them to navigate the complexities of such cases and provide necessary guidance to their clients.