Who qualifies for Israeli citizenship?
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Any individual born outside Israel is an Israeli citizen if his/her father or mother holds the Israeli citizenship, acquired either by:
The Law of Return
Acquisition of Nationality by Birth:
An individual who was born in Israel to a mother or a father who are Israeli citizens.
An individual who was born outside Israel and his/her father or mother holds the Israeli citizenship, acquired either by birth in Israel, according to the Law of Return, by residence, or by naturalization.
An individual who was born after the death of one of his/her parents, if the late parent was an Israeli citizen by virtue of the conditions enumerated in 1. and 2. above at the time of death.
An individual who was born in Israel and who has never had any nationality and subject to limitations specified in the law, if s/he:
apply for it in the period between their 18th and 25th birthday and
has been a resident of Israel for five consecutive years, immediately preceding the day of the filing of their application.
Acquisition of Nationality according to the Law of Return:
The Law of Return (1950) grants every Jew, wherever he may be, the right to come to Israel as an new immigrant and to become an Israeli citizen immediately upon immigration.
For the purposes of this Law, “Jew” means a person who was born to a Jewish mother, or has converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion. However, the right to return to Israel is not limited only to Jews, but also to their relatives, even if they are not Jews under the above definition.
Therefore, right to return to Israel extends equally to the children and grandchildren of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew. This right is granted independently of whether the Jew has immigrated together with these family members or whether or not he or she is still alive. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure the unity of families especially where intermarriage had occurred. However, this right does not extend to individuals who had been Jews and had voluntarily changed their religion.
For an English Version of the Law of Return and its amendments see: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/mfa-archive/1950-1959/pages/law%20of%20return%205710-1950.aspx
As a result of the above extension, in order to claim Israeli citizenship, it is enough to present evidence of at least one Jewish grandparent.
Israeli citizenship becomes effective on the day of arrival in the country. However, an applicant may declare, within three months of the application that s/he does not wish to become a citizen anymore. This is particularly important for nationals of states who do not recognize dual citizenship and where the acceptance of Israeli citizenship would cause the loss of the citizenship of the state of origin.
An Oleh’s certificate may be denied to an individual who:
Engages in activities directed against the Jewish people.
May endanger public health or the state security.
Has a criminal past and likely to endanger the welfare of the public
Acquisition of Nationality by Residence
Special provisions refer to citizens of the former British Mandatory Palestine. Those who remained in Israel from the establishment of the State in 1948 until the enactment of the Nationality Law of 1952, became Israeli by residence or by return.
According to an amendment (1980), further possibilities to acquire citizenship by residence, were included in the law.
Acquisition of Nationality by Naturalization
Adults may acquire Israeli citizenship by naturalization at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior and subject to a number of requirements, such as:
The individual must have resided in Israel for at least three years out of the five years preceding the day of submission of the application.
The person is entitled to reside in Israel permanently and has settled or intended to settle in Israel.
The person has renounced his/her prior nationality, or has proved that s/he will cease to be a foreign national upon becoming an Israeli citizen.
The Minister of the Interior may exempt an applicant from some of these requirements.