Israel Mulls One-year Residency, Work Permits for Ukrainians Fleeing Russia War

Ministries dispute how many Ukrainians to grant entry into Israel under such scheme, while the number of arrivals from the war-torn country is set to exceed 2,000 early next week

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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A mother and daughter on the Polish border after fleeing Ukraine, on Friday.
A mother and daughter on the Polish border after fleeing Ukraine, on Friday.Credit: Markus Schreiber / AP
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel is looking into granting stay and work permits valid for one year to Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war with Russia.

The number of Ukrainians Israel should award status to is the main sticking point between Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Between February 24, when the war broke out, and March 3, some 1,400 Ukrainians entered Israel, with the rate of arrivals spiking in recent days. According to estimates, the number is expected to exceed 2,000 early next week. The current policy grants Ukrainians stay permits for only one month, though some of those seeking refuge will be included in the one-year scheme.

Shaked addressed the absorption of Ukrainian nationals in Israel on Friday, focusing on the Jews among them. “Israel is preparing to grant citizenship immediately to more than 100,000 eligible under the Law of Return, who are fleeing the war.

"Naturally, Israel is focused on taking in Jewish refugees and those eligible under the Law of Return, but is displaying flexibility and willingness to aid Ukrainian nationals at large,” Shaked said.

There are thousands of undocumented Ukrainians in Israel. This week the Population Authority announced that no enforcement or deportation actions will be undertaken against Ukrainians residing in Israel, “until the situation in their country stabilizes.”

In the 24 hours between noon on Thursday and Friday, 571 Ukrainians landed in Israel, with seven denied entry. Over the past three days, since the beginning of March, 1,155 Ukrainians entered Israel and 29 were denied entry, according to Population Authority figures published on Friday. These figures demonstrate a significant shift from the first days of fighting, when 16 percent of Ukrainians arriving in Israel were denied entry.

As of the beginning of March, 165 entrants, representing 14 percent of all Ukrainians seeking entry, did so subject to posting collateral, meaning they deposited money as a guarantee that they plan eventually to leave Israel. The others are first-degree kin of Israelis, who are not required to post collateral, or tourists who did not impress the immigration officials as intending to settle in Israel.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed disappointment with Israel’s conduct, saying that “relations are tested at times like these, at the hardest moments, when help and support are needed.”

Zelenskyy went on to criticize Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, saying “I spoke to [him] and our relations are not bad at all.” But, he said, referring to a moving image of people praying for Ukraine at the Western Wall, wrapped in Ukrainian flags, “I don’t feel that he [Bennett] is wrapped in our flag.”

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