Israel Bars Entry of Foreigners as COVID Cases Surge

Government tightens restrictions after it made numerous exceptions to its official policy to bar the entry of non-Israelis to the country over the course of the coronavirus pandemic

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People demonstrate operating of the coronavirus disease checking system, at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, November 9, 2020.
People demonstrate operating of the coronavirus disease checking system, at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, November 9, 2020.Credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS

Israel's new guidelines drastically limiting the entry of foreign citizens into the country went into effect on Wednesday, after the government had previously made numerous exceptions to its official policy to bar the entry of non-Israelis to the country over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to updated Interior Ministry regulations, some foreign citizens, who had previously been permitted to apply for entry, are now completely forbidden to enter the country until January 4. 

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The new measures come after the government tightened COVID restrictions, mandating 14-day quarantine in designated facilities for Israelis returning from abroad starting Wednesday night. This changed the previous policy that permitted returning Israelis to self-isolate at home. 

The decisions were made, according to the government, in an effort to block a new mutation of the coronavirus that has appeared in the United Kingdom from spreading in Israel.

The largest group of those barred from entry for the next two weeks are foreign students who seek to begin their studies in yeshivas, high school, university and postgraduate frameworks like the Jewish Agency Program MASA. These groups were previously permitted to enter the country after having obtained visas and special permission from the Health Ministry.

As of Tuesday, a blanket rule that applies both to new and continuing students forbids their entry until January 4. The same restriction applies to foreign volunteers, who were previously permitted to apply for entry. 

Foreign businesspersons and foreign clergy are also barred from requesting permission to enter Israel until January 4. 

A group defined as foreign experts living in Israel, providing counseling for government institution, who were previously permitted to fly abroad with their families and return to Israel, may not re-enter the country until after January 4. 

The new restrictions also bar entry for foreigners who wish to enter Israel to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah or the birth of a grandchild. The blanket restrictions, however, do not apply to foreigners entering the country for a child’s wedding, or an approved 24-hour visit to attend a funeral. 

Relatives wishing to visit a lone soldier or national service volunteer are still allowed to enter the country. Foreign citizens married to Israelis, as well as parents of minor children living in Israel, will also be permitted to enter the country if they apply for special permission and receive approval. 

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