Can an American Have Dual Citizenship With Israel?

Can an American Have Dual Citizenship With Israel?

June 20, 2023 Off By Glespynorson

Is it possible for an American citizen to obtain Israeli citizenship while retaining dual citizenship without having to renounce their American citizenship? The answer to this question can be complex, as it depends on specific circumstances.

If the American citizen is Jewish, they may be eligible to acquire Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return, without being required to renounce their American citizenship. Another avenue for obtaining Israeli citizenship without relinquishing American citizenship is by having a spouse who is an Israeli citizen.

However, individuals who opt for Israeli citizenship through naturalization based on permanent residence generally are obligated to renounce their previous citizenship.

In this article, we will explore the various scenarios in which an American citizen can pursue dual citizenship in Israel, as well as situations where dual citizenship is not feasible.

As you may have discerned thus far, the Israeli citizenship law and its associated regulations can be intricate. If you are an American citizen interested in obtaining Israeli citizenship, seeking guidance from a lawyer who specializes in this field and possesses comprehensive knowledge of Israeli law would be highly beneficial. Our office specializes in Israeli immigration law, and we would be pleased to assist you in your endeavors, tailoring our advice to your specific circumstances.

Gaining Israeli Citizenship Through The Law of Return

The state of Israel was established with the purpose of providing the Jewish diaspora a safe country of their own, in which they can reside without fear of persecution. In 1950, two years after the state of Israel was officially established one of the important laws in the Israeli statute book was established – The Law of Return. The essence of the law is stated in section 1 which states “Every Jew has the right to make Aliyah to Israel.”. In the Citizenship Law from 1952, the first of six ways to obtain citizenship in Israel is through the virtue of return. Section 2 of this law states that those who make Aliyah based on the Law of Return shall become Israeli citizens unless granted Israeli citizenship by birthright.

When the Law of Return was enacted, a need to define who is a Jew had arisen. At the time, the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, insisted that the law will not include the definition of who is a Jew, which led to many non-Jew immigrants’ children being registered as Jews. This came to an end when the Ministry of Interior went under the control of the National Religious Party, which led to defining Jews as those who are the children of a Jewish mother, or those who were properly converted to Judaism, and do not belong to another religion.

However, in 1970 after a well-known verdict issued by the supreme court in the case of Shalit, an amendment was introduced to the Law of Return, in section 4a. The section states that “The rights of a Jew according to this law and the rights of an Oleh according to the Citizenship Law, 1952, as well as the rights of an Oleh according to any other legislation, are also granted to the child and grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew and the spouse of a child or grandchild of a Jew; excluding a person who was Jewish and converted to another religion voluntarily.” This means that for example, the non-Jewish children of a Jewish father are eligible to make Aliyah and become Israeli citizens.

Under the Law of Return, it should be noted that the Minister of Interior, as stipulated in section 2(b), retains the discretion to reject Aliyah’s applications of individuals who are otherwise entitled to it. This authority may be exercised for various reasons, including actions that undermine the welfare of the Jewish people, pose a threat to public health or national security, or involve individuals with a criminal record.

Getting Israeli Citizenship Through a Spouse

Another path in which an American can get Israeli citizenship without having their American citizenship revoked is by having a Jewish spouse or romantic partner. Although the law in Israel does not allow for mixed couples to get married in Israel, their marriage can still be recognized by the Israeli Interior Ministry, and their legal status can be arranged in Israel as well. The Israeli Interior Ministry also allows the non-Jewish partner to gain Israeli citizenship due to the relationship.

Up until 1999, mixed coupled suffered many hardships in the matter, where they were not allowed to move together to reside in Israel. In some cases, the non-Jewish partner was even ordered to leave Israel until the couple’s legal status was arranged. However, in 1999 a ruling of the Supreme Court called the “Stamka ruling”, instructed the Interior Ministry to change its policy and to make decisions based on the quality of the relationship and the couple’s bond.

Senior citizens defeated the Ministry of Interior and were recognized as  New Immigrants to Israel - Prepare for Legal Immigration to Israel

After the policy had changed, there were two pathways for married couples and common-law couples to reside together in Israel. Married couples can go through a unique track designed for them under the definition of the Citizenship Law. This track generally takes about five years, until the foreign spouse is granted citizenship.

Common-law couples, including same-sex couples, will have to go through a long track of about seven years. Both married and common-law couples will have to obtain citizenship through the “Gradual process”, which includes a periodical evaluation of the relationship, as well as opening a joint-life file that will grant the non-Jewish partner a visa that will allow them to stay in Israel.

Getting Israeli Citizenship Through Naturalization

As stated in the opening of this article, those who obtain Israeli citizenship through naturalization by the Law of Citizenship will be required to give up on their previous citizenship. However, there are some cases in which the applicant may be exempt from this requirement, for example, those who have chosen to serve in the IDF.

The naturalization process is a pathway for non-Jews to get Israeli citizenship. This requires going through a process that takes about three years. The process requires the applicant to show proof that they have stayed in Israel continuously for 3 out of the 5 years preceding the date of the application, be eligible for a permanent residence permit in Israel, settle or have the intent to settle in Israel, be physically present in Israel at the time of applying and have the ability to speak Hebrew. Also, the applicant and their minor children, if they have any, will be required to waive their foreign citizenship. Citizenship by naturalization will, of course, not be granted to those who hold a criminal record or those who pose a security threat to Israel.

Dual Citizenship In Israel For Americans

In this article, we have learned about the paths in which an American citizen can get Israeli citizenship without having their citizenship revoked. We have also learned about the cases in which waiving American citizenship is required. It is important to keep in mind that although there are known tracks, every case is unique and to be treated as such.

If you are an American citizen or a citizen of another country, and you wish to obtain Israeli citizenship for whatever reason, whether you are Jewish, your spouse is Jewish, or any other reason, it is important to get trustworthy legal advice. You are welcome to contact an attorney from our office who specializes in Israeli immigration law. With Joshua Pex, you will find attorneys with expertise in Aliyah, naturalization, and arranging legal status for mixed couples.