First-degree relatives of Israeli citizens or permanent residents who do not meet the criteria to travel to the country are now allowed to apply for special permission to attend a family member’s wedding, provided that they commit to quarantine, according to the official regulations published on the Hebrew – but not English – website of the Population and Immigration Authority at the Interior Ministry.
The English version of the website still reflects the previous policy, in which only the parents of a bride or groom were eligible for permission. Moreover, its links to the application process did not work as of Tuesday afternoon.
While the change in regulations is a positive development, the problems persist, according to former MK Dov Lipman, founder of the NGO Yad L’Olim, because the entry statement that all travelers are required to fill out and present before boarding does not offer an option for passengers who received special permission. They are then turned away at check-in.
In addition, according to the NGO, many consulates were not notified of this change in policy, even though a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry said that all consulates were.
The inability of people traveling with special permission to fill out the form is only one of the many problems presented by the entry statement, said Lipman.
For example, while passengers are supposed to be able to fill out the form 48 hours before their flight, permission to board the plane for those who manage to complete it is only valid for 24 hours.
The Health Ministry did not respond as of press time.
Established with the purpose of supporting immigrants in their new life in Israel, Yad L’Olim has become a pillar in both assisting individuals to navigate the corona travel regulations, and lobbying authorities for better policies.
Largely thanks to its efforts, a special hearing on travel regulations is expected to take place next week.
“I have been spending most of my time in the Knesset, and am hopeful that a committee hearing will be scheduled for next week to focus exclusively on addressing the new entry rules that have closed the doors to Israel to so many,” said Lipman. “I want to thank MK Gilad Kariv who has been a listening ear and a driving force regarding this issue.” Kariv is head of the Law and Constitution Committee holding the hearing.
Israel’s borders were closed to foreign nationals for more than 20 months since the beginning of the pandemic. Some exceptions were allowed for close family members to attend life-cycle events or visit lone soldiers. A special procedure was established in April to allow vaccinated or recovered first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens to receive permission to enter the country.
However, the Health Ministry changed its criteria in September on vaccinated or recovered individuals.
To meet the new requirements, visitors need to have been inoculated twice within the previous six months, vaccinated with a booster, recovered with one shot, or recovered within the past six months.
Beginning November 1, the country reopened its skies to foreign visitors who fulfill these conditions, requiring, in the case of recovered tourists, an electronic recovery certificate. At the same time, it canceled the possibility of applying for special permissions as first-degree relatives – with the exception of those coming for a wedding.
This has left many who were able to visit Israel under the previous system with no possibility to do so now, either because they do not meet the criteria – boosters are still not widely available – or because they cannot prove they meet them.
During the latest session of the Constitution Committee last Thursday, Kariv promised that the topic would be looked into seriously in a special hearing.
Lipman said that he is working among others to make sure that representatives of all the relevant ministries attend the hearing.
“The ministries aren’t communicating with one another, and this is the No. 1 issue,” he said. “I have been pointing this out to all the relevant authorities, and am confident that we will be able to make order out of all of it – with forms that work, and with all ministries being on the same page about the rules.”