Making Aliyah is a dream come true for many, but the actual move is understandably fraught with practical concerns.
Not everyone is in a position to take the plunge and formally make Aliyah, i.e. become a full-fledged Israeli citizen, right away.
For those contemplating Aliyah but wishing to experience life in Israel before deciding if to formalize the move, a temporary resident visa, known as an A1 visa, is available.
Such a visa allows one to reside in Israel for a trial period, while according the visa holder certain rights enjoyed by Olim (those who formally make Aliyah).
Eligibility and Procedure
A1 visas are usually valid for a year, with possible extensions for up to a total of three years.
The A1 visa is available only to individuals who are eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return, and the qualifications for the visa are basically identical to those of an Aliyah application, namely – proof of Jewishness and presentation of a foreign passport.
However, an A1 visa is not available to an individual who is qualified to be registered as an Israeli citizen without formally making Aliyah (such as offspring of an Israeli parent, whose birth was not reported to the Israeli consulate by the parent).
An A1 visa is not usually granted to students and yeshiva students (for whom an A2 study visa is available), nor to an individual whose spouse comes to Israel at the same time, but under a tourist visa or alternatively as an Oleh Chadash.
Rights and Obligations of A1 Visa Holders
(a) An A1 visa holder may work in Israel.
(b) An A1 visa holder is issued an Israeli identification card (teudat zehut), similar to the one held by Israeli citizens, but with a different background color; however, in contrast to an Oleh, whose ID card is issued at the port of entry, an A1 visa holder receives an identity number and an ID card only later, at the Ministry of Interior offices in his or her area of residence (a process which usually takes a number of weeks). At the same time, it should be clarified that the A1 visa holder is not an Israeli citizen, and is not issued an Israeli passport.
(c) An A1 visa holder becomes eligible for health insurance once in Israel for over half (i.e. 183 days) of the year following receipt of the A1 visa.
(d) An A1 visa holder is entitled to exemptions and privileges with respect to customs, income tax and real-estate property purchase tax, identical to those enjoyed by Olim. The period of time the individual enjoys such privileges is deducted from any such rights to which he may later be entitled as an Oleh. If an A1 visa holder subsequently makes Aliyah, his period as a visa holder is likewise taken into account by the Ministry of Interior in figuring such individual’s qualification for various privileges as an Oleh.
(e) An A1 visa holder lacks the right to vote in national elections, however he may vote in municipal elections in his area of residence.
(f) An A1 visa holder is not conscripted into the Israeli army (the IDF), so long as he does not overstay the visa by more than 6 months following its expiry.
By offering the A1 visa, the State of Israel invites Aliyah candidates to come and try out life in Israel, and to defer to later the weighty decision of whether to stay on as an Oleh.