Israeli nationality law defines the criteria under which a person can be granted citizenship of Israel. It also deals with the Right of Return for Jewish diaspora. In general, Israel's nationality follows jus sanguinis as the primary mechanism through which a person may obtain citizenship, rather than jus soli. A citizen of the modern state of Israel is called an Israeli.
Apart from citizenship, there is another civil status which can be held by residents of Israel: the permanent residency status. It is most common among Syrian citizens of the Golan Heights and among East Jerusalem residents, but it occurs also among other non-citizens.
Although not a part of the nationality law, Israeli citizens have the following rights:
Other rights are granted equally to citizens and permanent residents of Israel, among them: the right to work within Israel, the right to extenuation of tax payments, the right to a pension when needed from the social security services, and the right to vote within the scope of local ordinances. Residents who are not citizens may, however, lose their status (and thus any rights provided to them in Israel) if they move outside Israel's borders (outside the Green Line including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem), contrary to the privileges of citizens which enable them to re-settle in Israel at any time.
Virtually all responsibilities are imposed upon citizens and non-citizen residents of Israel equally.
A responsibility which is imposed on Israeli citizens only is the requirement to be in possession of an Israeli passport at all times when outside the country. Israeli citizens must thus have acquired a passport before leaving Israel.
Military service is legally mandatory for most Israeli citizens and residents although various exemptions can be granted. Certain ethnic groups, such as Arab Israelis, who comprise 20% of the Israeli population, have received a blanket exemption.
The Law of Return grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel and almost automatic Israeli citizenship upon arrival in Israel. In the 1970s the Law of Return was expanded to grant the same rights to the spouse of a Jew, the children of a Jew and their spouses, and the grandchildren of a Jew and their spouses, provided that the Jew did not practice a religion other than Judaism willingly. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that Jews or the descendants of Jews that actively practice a religion other than Judaism are not entitled to immigrate to Israel as they would no longer be considered Jews under the Law of Return, irrespective of their status under halacha (Jewish religious law). On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in a case brought by a number of people with Jewish fathers and grandfathers whose applications for citizenship had been rejected on the grounds that they were Jewish Messianics. The argument was made by the applicants that they had never been Jews according to halakha, and were not therefore excluded by the conversion clause. This argument was upheld in the ruling, and the government agreed to reprocess their applications.
Israeli law distinguishes between the Law of Return, which allows for Jews and their descendants to immigrate to Israel, and Israel's nationality law, which formally grants Israeli citizenship. In other words, the Law of Return does not itself determine Israeli citizenship; it merely allows for Jews and their eligible descendants to permanently live in Israel. Israel does, however, grant citizenship to those who immigrated under the Law of Return if the applicant so desires.
A non-Israeli Jew or an eligible descendant of a non-Israeli Jew needs to request approval to immigrate to Israel, a request which can be denied for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to) possession of a criminal record, currently infected with a contagious disease, or otherwise viewed as a threat to Israeli society. Within three months of arriving in Israel under the Law of Return, immigrants automatically receive Israeli citizenship unless they explicitly request not to.
Citizenship by residence was intended for non-Jewish denizens of the British Mandate of Palestine, such as Arabs, Druze and Bedouin, who were considered to be associated with Palestine during the period immediately prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Such denizens who were still within the territorial confines of Israel after the war were granted full Israeli citizenship. In order to determine who was eligible for citizenship under this provision, the state of Israel conducted a population registration in 1952 and again in the 1980s. Those found to meet the requirements obtained Israeli citizenship. For purposes regarding modern Israeli citizenship, this section is usually irrelevant.
A child (including children born outside Israel as first generation out of Israel) of an Israeli citizen is considered an Israeli citizen. Persons born outside Israel are Israeli citizens if their father or mother holds Israeli citizenship, acquired either by birth in Israel, according to the Law of Return, by residence, or by naturalization.
Citizenship by descent, on the principle of jus sanguinis, is limited to only one generation born abroad. Despite this limitation, descendants of an Israeli national born abroad may be eligible to Israeli citizenship through other methods, such as the Law of Return.
A non-Israeli child adopted by Israeli citizens is entitled to Israeli citizenship on the day of the adoption if it is made under Israeli law. A child adopted outside of Israel by Israeli citizens who are not residents of Israel can receive Israeli citizenship if both adoptive parents consent to it.
Adults may acquire Israeli citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, a person must have resided in Israel for three years out of the previous five years. In addition, the applicant must have a right to reside in Israel on a permanent basis. All naturalization requests are, however, at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003 suspended this practice in the case of citizens of a number of countries, which some have termed "enemy nationals". In January 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel upheld the validity of the law.
Israel traditionally automatically granted citizenship to spouses of Jewish Israeli citizens by virtue of the Law of Return. However, this practice was suspended in 1999 due to immigration concerns if the Jewish spouse had done Aliyah previous to the marriage or is an Israeli citizen by birth.
From inside Israel the Israeli parent(s) must go to the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) with the child and the child's original birth certificate that lists the Israeli parent(s) as the parents of the child. In addition the Israeli parent(s) need to bring their Teudat Zehut (National ID) or their Israeli passport and the child's foreign passport. If the parents are not married or did not register their marriage with Misrad Hapnim, or Misrad HaChutz (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), both of the parents must be in attendance at Misrad HaPnim. After all of the information is verified the child will be issued a Mispar Zehut (Identity Number) and an Israeli passport. If the child is 16 years old he/she will also receive a Teudat Zehut. It is important to note that in Israel there is no separation of religion and state. If the mother is not Jewish by Orthodox standards then the child can not be registered as Jewish, nor can the child be married to a Jewish person inside of Israel without first undergoing an Orthodox conversion to Judaism. By the same token, a child born to a mother considered Jewish by Orthodox standards is automatically also registered as Jewish.
There are cases in which the state can initiate a cancellation of citizenship of an Israeli citizen. Article 11 of the Israeli nationality law establishes three circumstances for which citizenship can be revoked:
With regard to citizenship being obtained on the basis of false information, the Interior Minister may cancel the Israeli citizenship of anyone who obtained it through such means within three years of them having acquired it. If the person had acquired Israeli citizenship more than three years prior to the discovery of it having been obtained with false information, the Interior Ministry must first obtain permission from an administrative court to cancel it.
Israel allows its citizens to hold dual (or multiple) citizenship.
A dual national is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes, and is entitled to enter Israel without a visa, stay in Israel according to his own desire, engage in any profession and work with any employer according to Israeli law. An exception is that under an additional law added to the Basic Law: the Knesset (Article 16A) according to which Knesset members cannot pledge allegiance unless their foreign citizenship has been revoked, if possible, under the laws of that country.
A dual national is not considered a foreign citizen under Israeli Security Service Law and is subject to a mandatory military service according to that law. He is considered a citizen regarding the criminal liability of Israeli civilians according to the Israeli Penal Law (and accordingly is not entitled to consular access by a representative of the other country). He is considered a citizen according to the Israeli laws of personal status, such as the authority jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts in the matters of marriage and divorce, according to the Israeli Rabbinical courts jurisdictions law.
A dual national with citizenship of another country that does not allow multiple citizenship may experience problems with the other country of citizenship if Israeli citizenship is not renounced. Japanese nationality law, for example, generally requires anyone with dual Israeli-Japanese citizenship to declare, to the Japanese Ministry of Justice, before turning 22 years old, whether to keep Israeli or Japanese citizenship. A failed renunciation of the Israeli citizenship of a dual Israeli-Japanese national will require that person to then renounce his or her Japanese citizenship.
As of 1 January 2017, Israeli citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 148 countries and territories, ranking the Israeli passport 24th in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley visa restrictions index.
As of 2017, the passports of Israel, Chile, South Korea and Hong Kong are the only ones to provide visa-free access to all of Europe.