Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday eased rules for registering births abroad, in order to enable some overseas Israeli parents to obtain passports required for their children to enter Israel.
Thousands of Israeli children have been effectively locked out of the country since the state tightened borders at the outbreak of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, many Israeli parents who did not register their children born overseas with the state, and did not obtain passports for them, brought these children to Israel on their foreign passports.
This practice ended abruptly in March 2020, when Israel closed borders to most non-passport holders in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. Israeli parents living abroad who applied to bring their foreign-born children into the country were told that, because their children are legally Israeli, they must enter Israel on an Israeli passport. Renewed vigor behind this previously laxly-enforced policy closed Israel’s borders to thousands of citizens, even as the country periodically opened itself to non-citizen students, business travelers, and at times, even tourists.
According to the 1952 Nationality Law, all children born to Israeli citizens are themselves automatically Israeli citizens. While Israelis are required to register their children with the Population and Immigration Authority within 30 days of birth, these children are legally Israelis whether or not they are registered and known to the state.
In Wednesday’s decision, Shaked excused some Israeli permanent overseas residents from the need to provide “proof of pregnancy” medical records in order to register their children’s births with overseas embassies. All other requirements remain in effect.
The move is intended to reduce the burden for precisely those parents who need to register their children with the state in order to obtain their first passports.
According to a spokeswoman for the Population and Immigration Authority: “In cases where it is not possible to produce medical documents about the pregnancy or the birth, it will be possible to sign a statement stating that the mother on [the child’s] birth certificate is the mother.” The statement can be signed in person at one of Israel’s overseas missions.
The onerous “proof of pregnancy” requirement — which forces applicants to provide unique, difficult to replicate, and privacy invasive medical records to demonstrate that a mother’s child was born to her — is currently only relaxed for families in which both parents are Israeli citizens.
“This relief applies to children born abroad, to parents who are both Israeli citizens who have lived abroad permanently for more than five years,” the Authority said.
However, the latest move does not solve registration problems for parents who don’t fit that narrow description, including couples where only one parent is Israeli or couples who only recently moved abroad.
Additionally, the relaxed requirement does not address other existing paperwork burdens for parents, many of whom are scrambling to obtain apostilled original birth certificates from foreign governments who themselves are working under COVID-19 reduced capacity, or other necessary documents. It also does not provide a pathway to families who refuse to register their children with the state.
One woman, a Washington DC-based mother to an American-born teenager, who Identified herself as Adina F. said chose not to register her daughter due to a parental agreement with her daughter’s Moroccan father.
“If I get her Israeli citizenship, I’ll have to get her Moroccan citizenship,” which Adina explained she does not want to do. Adina successfully flew her daughter into Israel against policy as a tourist in the days before the country’s recent Omicron variant-related border closure, and declined to give her name for fear of future repercussions by the state.
Several ongoing court cases are challenging the state’s current refusal to formally admit Israeli citizens who lack Israeli passports, including one currently at the Supreme Court.