Israel Moves to Approve 'Instant Passport' Bill for Immigrants, Even if They Don’t Settle

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FILE PHOTO: Passport control at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport
Passport control at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport. The border officer will have to hear my story before they turn me away. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a bill that would enable immigrants to obtain Israeli passports immediately, even if they don’t live in Israel full-time.

But both the police and the Public Security Ministry oppose the bill, saying it would help international criminals.

Today, an immigrant must wait a year before being issued an Israeli passport, and only on condition that Israel is the new immigrant’s primary place of residence. The preamble of the bill, which was submitted by MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu), says the change would ease foreign travel during the first year for new immigrants with families who live abroad.

A position paper submitted to the committee by the Israel Police spells out the law enforcement agency’s reservations about the legislation. Defense Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman assailed the document as “a hate crime” and “racism” against immigrants from the former Soviet Union, calling the officer who wrote it “a criminal.”

The paper, written by the police’s investigations and intelligence department, said the current one-year wait to get a passport “constitutes the minimum trial period” in which to check whether an immigrant poses a criminal risk. Moreover, it said, there’s a real danger that immigrants from the former Soviet Union “will want once again to exploit Israel and its national passport, as they have in the past, for illicit purposes.”

This would harm both the public welfare and Israel’s image, it added.

Forer rejected these arguments. The bill won’t enable criminals to receive passports, he said, because the police and the public security minister will still be able to deny a passport to a particular individual if they have intelligence indicating that he plans to use it for criminal purposes.

“Moreover, a person can’t obtain an Israeli immigration permit without presenting a certificate [from the police] showing the absence of a criminal record,” Forer added.

The bill will now move to the Knesset, where Forer said he hopes it will pass quickly.

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