Sarah Gargi is director of the Publications Department in Research and Planning Administration at the head office of the National Insurance Institute, Jerusalem.
If you are interested in receiving a free copy of "Your Rights at the National Insurance Institute" (in English), offering a concise description of social security programs, definitions, conditions of entitlement, and rates of payment, please email your request; include your name and mailing address.
Click here to send us your questions for Sarah, please include month and year of birth, year of immigration and marital status.
NOTE: Sarah can only answer questions of a general nature. For specific cases, contact the Public Enquiries Dept. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call *6050. Make sure to supply your ID number. For general information see the NII web site most information is on the site in English as well.
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Q: I am currently divorced through the Beit Din [Rabbinical Court]inÂ the US. My ex-spouse returned to Israel and did not submit the get [divorce papers] to the courts. My status is still married. I am making child support payments but bituah leumi is also making payments--what do I need to do?
A: Under the Alimony-Guarantee of Payment Law, the payments that a woman (who has a court verdict for alimony in her favor) is receiving from her husband (or ex-husband)must be deducted from the payments that she receives from the NII. The woman is required to notify the NII of any child support payments she receives from any other source. If your ex-wife is indeed receiving payments both from the NII and from yourself, you should so notify the local NII branch (where your file is kept) right away, providing proofs of your payments.
You can check the NII site (www.btl.gov.il) for contact information on all the local branches.
Q: I want to make aliya after 17 years in the US. What are my rights in health insurance? How much would my pension be? Do I have to pay in advance? I am 68 years old, my wife is 61.
A: Pension: If you are a returning resident, your entitlement to a regular old-age pension will be examined on the basis of the qualifying period that you accummulated when you were living in Israel. You do not state when you immigrated to Israel for the first time, so that we cannot determine whether or not you are entitled to the regular old-age pension, nor the rate of the pension. If you are immigrating for the first time, you will not be entitled to the regular old-age pension (because you are past the retirement age), but you may be entitled to the special old-age benefit, conditional on income. As soon as possible after your arrival in Israel you should make contact with your closest NII branch to determine your eligibility for pension (and residency status, if you are a returning resident).
Health: If you are a new immigrant (immigrating for the first time) you will be entitled to health services upon arrival. If you are a returning resident, you will have a waiting period of 14 months before being entitled to health services. This waiting period can be redeemed by making a one-time payment of NIS 8,730 by credit card through our internet site (www.btl.gov.il) 6 months before coming to Israel, in which case you will be entitled to health services upon arrival.
Q: A Dec 4, 2007 question concerned a person who receives an old age pension and moved abroad to the US. You stated that this person is not eligible to the old-age pension from Israel. Yet, the Bituah Leumi site, clearly states that "a person who moved to United States or Belgium after becoming eligible for old age pension will receive this pension while residing in either US or Belgium" Could you explain the discrepancy between your statement and that of Bituah Leumi?
A: I was mistaken and the information on the site is correct, but should be qualified. The general rules regarding continuing to receive old-age pension abroad are as follows:
1. A person who began receiving a regular old-age pension in Israel and goes abroad will continue receiving the old-age pension (to his bank account in Israel) for 6 months.
2. A person who began receiving a special old-age benefit in Israel and goes abroad will continue receiving the old-age pension (to his bank account in Israel) for one month.
3. A person who goes abroad to a country with whom Israel has signed a Convention that applies to old-age pensions may continue to receive his old-age pension abroad for an unlimited time, depending on the terms of the specific Convention.
4. Israel does not have a Convention with the US or Belgium, but rather a "friendship treaty", under which the old-age pension may continue to be paid abroad, subject to certain conditions and rules.
The eligibility of each person for continued payment of old-age pension abroad is examined by his/her local NII branch individually and depends on a number of conditions, such as whether the specific treaty or Convention with that country allows for a combination of qualifying periods, whether it includes self-employed persons, and so on.
Q: Shalom Sarah: I had been livingÂ and working in Israel from 1973-1999. I moved back to Canada 2000. Am I entitled to my years that I paid into the fund till I left. Can I receive any of my old age pension?
A: Entitlement to all NII benefits is based on residency in Israel. Since you are not a resident of Israel, you are not entitled to benefits. (Your payment of NII contributions while in Israel insured you for the period that you lived in Israel). If you return to Israel as a returning resident, your eligibility for the old-age pension will be examined.
Q: First of all,Â Sarah, let me thank for doing such a fantastic and necessary work that benefits so many of us. My question is: What is the minimum number of years of work one has to do in order to receive bituach leumi retirement benefits (monthly financial stipends).
Thank you and continue your excellent work.
A: You're very welcome.
A married woman can be eligible for an old-age pension in one of two ways: as a housewife (if she does not work outside her household) or as a working woman. You may be eligible as a housewife in December 2008. As a working woman, you need 5 years in which you worked and paid insurance contributions out of the 10 years preceding your age of eligibility for pension (in your case: age 60 conditional on an income test and age 66 and 8 months, regardless of income).
Q: I immigrated to Israel in 1988.
In Feb. of this year, I had to come to the States to help take care of an older sister (with Alzheimers) and an older brother with a heart condition. I am 79 years old. I only planned a temporary stay, but it is impossible for me to return to Israel at this time. I am also not in very good health. I still have the return airline ticket and still maintain a bank account at the Discount Bank in Ra'anana and continue to have the Kupat Holim deductions made. My question is : How much longer can I receive the Bituah Leumi deposits, which I need for my expenses here?
A: The NII continues to pay the regular old-age pension to a person abroad (if he/she began receiving the pension in Israel) for six months, and the special old-age benefit - for one month. There is a "friendship treaty" between Israel and the United States regarding social security benefits, and you may be or may not be entitled to continued payment of the old-age pension, depending on whether your case fulfills the conditions of the treaty (such as qualifying period). You should contact your local NII branch in Israel, providing your ID number, and your eligibility will be examined.
Q: My 90 old mother who is resident in Israel for over a year was denied Kitzvah ziknah as I did not provide the financial records in time.Â Can I reapply at some future date?Â If there is no financial restriction over 70, why do they need financial records?
A: It is always possible to re-apply for the old-age pension or special old-age benefit.
There is no income test for the regular old-age pension for a woman over 65. Your mother is apparently not entitled to the regular old-age pension, since she was over retirement age when she first immigrated to Israel, and I therefore assume that you applied for the special old-age benefit. The latter is conditional on an income test, no matter what the age of the claimant.
Q: I am receiving the Old Age Pension and would like to find out what discounts are available for pensioners. I know there are discounts on public transport but would like to receive a full list of all other available discounts.
A: Here is the list:
Recipients of old-age pension may be entitled to:
- from local authorities - a discount on arnona (city tax), under the by-laws of the specific town. Requests for a discount should be submitted to the town, not to the NII.
- from the Ministry of Transportation - a discount in public transportation. A certificate of entitlement is issued once every 2 years automatically. There is no need to turn to the Ministry.
- from the Broadcasting Authority - used to be a 50% discount on TV fee, provided automatically according to lists from the NII. I think that now elderly are exempt.
Recipients of old-age pension plus income supplement may be entitled to:
- from the Ministry of Construction and Housing - assistance with rentals of public or private housing or with purchasing an apartment from one of the public companies (Halamish, Amidar, Amigur, Prazot, Shakmona or Heled). Requests for assistance should be submitted to one of the mortgage banks.
- from the sick funds - a 50% discount on medicines (that are in the health basket) and exemption on payment for doctors' visits, hospital commitments and visits to clinics. These are granted automatically based on lists from the NII. For clarifications, one can call the NII at 02-6462000 from Sunday through Thursday, 8.00-13.30.
- from the Jewish Agency - those who immigrated to Israel between April 1, 1991 and December 31, 1995 and received a loan for an absorption basket are exempt from returning the loan from the day that they began receiving pension.
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Q: I am planning on retiring in Israel and although I am a citizen, not a Toshav I would like to know if I can pay for BL and how much until I get there in a couple years.
A: Coverage in the National Insurance Institute of Israel is based on residence in Israel. Only a "toshav" (Israeli resident) can pay NII payments from within Israel, not from abroad. Only after you return to Israel and are recognized by the NII as an Israeli resident will you be able to make payments and also be entitled to benefits. Generally after 6 months of residence in Israel, one is restored his "residency" status retroactively, so that both the obligation to pay contributions and the eligibility for benefits will be restored retroactively (from arrival in the country).
Health - A resident of Israel who returns to the country on March 1, 2003 or thereafter, following a period of absence of two consecutive years or longer (during which he did not pay health insurance contributions to the NII) is not entitled to receive health services from the sick funds in Israel for two months for every such year of absence since 2002. This is called the waiting period (maximum waiting period as of now is 14 months.) It is possible to redeem this waiting period by paying a one-time sum of NIS 8,730 by credit card, through the NII web site (www.btl.gov.il).
Six months after this payment is made, one is entitled to health services, so that if you make the payment 6 months before coming to Israel, you will be entitled to health services upon arrival. However, this is in theory only, because as mentioned above, you will have to report to your NII local branch and wait another 6 months before your Israeli residence is determined - and only then can you register at a sick fund. (If you have redeemed the waiting period, you should save receipts of medical expenses and may be entitled to reimbursement).
Q: My wife and I have been living here for several years. We are not Israeli citizens, but receive Bituach Leumi as permanent residents. When our daughter was born a year and a half ago we were not able to register her with a Kupat Cholim because she did not have a Bituach Leumi number.
And she couldn't get that until she got a visa in her USA passport. Needless to say, this took about three months. During the time until she got a USA passport and then got a visa until Bituach Leumi could issue her a number, we paid Maccabi almost NIS 300 per month for health insurance.
The clerks at Bituach Leumi told us that she would be granted residency status retroactively from the date of her birth here in Israel and that Maccabi would refund the money we paid them.
When we finally got her registered with Maccabi, they told us that they can only recognize her from the date she enrolled (three months later) and that they will not refund the money we paid them. They said that it was just like as if we had taken private insurance with any other company and they were not responsible for the money we paid for the interim.
Can you please explain the law and who is right. My wife is expecting again this spring. What should we do?
A: All medical expenses that are included in the basic health basket - including the basic health insurance contributions but not including supplementary insurance or medications/services not in the basic health basket - incurred before one was recognized as an Israeli resident are reimbursed by means of the National Insurance Institute after the residency status is obtained retroactively.
All medical receipts should be sent to Mrs. Telma Freidburg, the National Insurance Institute, 13 Weizman Avenue, Jerusalem. Her telephone number is 02-6709540. She sends these to a special Ministry of Health committee, and you will be reimbursed for all medical expenses that are in the health basket. Supplementary health insurance is not included. (The basic health insurance is paid for adults only, so if you paid Maccabi NIS 300 per month, apparently you had a supplementary insurance.) It is important to save all medical receipts, also regarding the new child.
Q: I lived and worked in Israel from 1950 (aliya) till 1978. I paid my duties to the Bituach Leumi, for over 20 years. How can I apply for the Bituach Leumi from the USA?
A: Rights and obligations under the National Insurance Law are only to residents of Israel. The money you paid to the National Insurance Institute covered you for the period that you were living in Israel (similarly to the case with private insurance). You are no longer considered an Israeli resident, and therefore are not obliged to pay NII conributions, nor are you entitled to benefits. If you decide to return to Israel and are granted the status of a returning resident, you will again be covered by national insurance.
Q: I have had a number of part-time house cleaners (once in two weeks) for many years.Â I have always paid bituach leumi for them on an anonymous basis, since they always requested not to be named on the BTL form.Â I have done this due to my understanding that this payment protects me from being sued for medical expenses in case of an accident.Â Am I mistaken or is this correct? Are there any other advantages to making this payment?Â What are the implications of not paying?
A: You are correct. One is obligated to pay national insurance contributions for one's employee, including a house cleaner. This does protect you from being sued in case of an accident, as you wrote; also, the period of work is taken into account when your employee reaches the age of entitlement to old-age pension. If he/she lists you as an employer and it turns out that you did not pay insurance contributions for him/her, you will have a debt to the NII that includes fines and linkage. So... continue to pay.
Q: I am an Israeli who has been living in the US for the last 18 years. This past summer, we have decided to return to Israel.
Question 1: Why do I have to have a bituah leumi? Or is it a law in Israel?
Question 2: I am very close to signing for a management position with an Israeli company. Do I have to let BL know ahead of time or I can just simply start working and BL deductions will automatically "active" me contributions to BL? Could my employer deduct BL deductions without me being registered in BL?
Question 3: Although I will need to wait 6-12 months to be covered, am I still obligated to make these BL payments/deductions from my salary? i.e. while I wait, BL still deducting from my salary?
Thanks in advance for your assistance.
A: 1. Yes, it is a law in Israel. Coverage in national insurance is compulsory, and every Israeli resident (working or not working) must pay national insurance contributions.
2. Registration with the NII and deduction of NII contributions are two separate things. When you arrive in Israel you should report to the closest NII local branch and request to be recognized as an Israeli resident. Residency status will be granted to you retroactively from your arrival in Israel. Unrelatedly, every employer in Israel must deduct NII contributions from every employee.
3. Yes, because as stated above, residency will be granted to you retroactively.
In addition to the 6 months that it takes for one to be recognized as an Israeli resident, there is a 6-month waiting period for health services for returning residents. It is advisable to redeem this waiting period for health insurance by paying a one-time sum of NIS 8,730 by credit card, through the NII web site (www.btl.gov.il). Six months after this payment is made, one is entitled to health services, so that if you make the payment 6 months before coming to Israel, you will be entitled to health services upon arrival.
Q: I made Aliya in 1997 with my family and now am 25. I served three years in the army, and after my stint I went overseas to work and study. During my time overseas I have not paid Bituah Briyot. However, I return to Israel for my summer holidays. How do the payments work for someone that is 5/6 of the time out of Israel for more than 4 years?
A: All Israeli residents are obliged to pay regular national insurance contributions, even when they are abroad, when they pay the minimal rate, in order to ensure continuity of rights. On your next visit to Israel, you should report to your local NII branch and pay your debt to the NII. You will be also asked to leave an address in Israel of a family member who can pay the regular payments for you, or to sign a standing order.
By the way, you should take into account the possibility that after a number of years abroad (presently 5), your Israeli residency status may be revoked.
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