Under the Law of Return, every Jew is eligible to immigrate to Israel and become a citizen. The Law, however, denies this right to persons with a criminal record who endanger State security and public safety.

However, the wording of the Law in this regard is rather vague, and based on the legal practice, the concept of “endangering public safety” may be interpreted differently by MOI and Israeli High Court of Justice.

Under MOI ordinance 5.2.0001, a criminal record includes not only formal convictions (by court verdict that found a person guilty of a crime) but also criminal cases were the applicant was a suspect in a crime that endangered public safety.

Under this ordinance, MOI may consider information obtained from the security agencies in the country of origin (i.e. MOI, Police, State Security Service etc.) even when the criminal proceedings have not resulted in a conviction.

The High Court of Justice requires the State to consider several factors when reviewing the criminal record of an immigration applicant.

What sections of the Criminal Code the applicant violated;

  • Circumstances of the committed crimes (that may suggest potential recidivism);
  • Number of committed crimes;
  • Frequency of committed crimes;
  • Time elapsed since the crimes were committed;
  • Type of sentence imposed; if imprisonment – length of imprisonment;
    Time elapsed since imprisonment.

In previous cases, the Supreme Court has repeatedly reflected on the weight that MOI officers must assign to factors such as time elapsed since crimes were committed, thus protecting the legal and moral right of criminal offenders to rehabilitation.

It should be noted that even when the applicant had been convicted of a serious crime, the Supreme Court ordered the State to review each application individually, carefully considering time of committed crimes, type of sentencing, rehabilitation, social status, occupation, marital status of the offender etc.

For example, in the case of Sergey Padchenko (2013), the Supreme Court has upheld MOI’s decision to deny his application for immigration due to serious crimes committed by the applicant in the distant past. Yet, in its decision, the Court had noted that Mr. Padchenko is not banned from immigration for life, and in the future he would be eligible to file another application with MOI.

In the past decade, the Supreme Court reached several compromise settlements with MOI [cases of Nemuk Guliyev (2003) and Andrey Kuznetsov (2009)] where the applicant was granted a temporary residence in Israel and his or her application was reconsidered at the end of the “probationary period.”

In summary, we shall note that a denied application is not a final verdict. MOI’s decision can be appealed in court. Your chances for a successful appeal depend on your self-discipline, persistence and timely hiring of a qualified attorney.


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