As you may have seen on all our other platforms (Facebook, Instagram and our Facebook Community), last Thursday evening AIC has launched a protest campaign against the imminent shutdown of the 4 biggest visa departments in Israel.
If you still haven’t heard, last Monday, the new Minister of the Interior, MK Moshe Arbel, has decided on an outline to combat the “passport crisis” – a severe shortage of manpower and adequate management at PIBA, that has made it extremely difficult for Israeli to get passports. According to the ministers plan, the 4 biggest PIBA branches will be converted to passport services only, in very extended opening hours, from May 14th until June 15th.
The official press release made by PIBA did not include information about the fate of visa departments in the affected branches. It mentioned that PIBA will redistribute manpower to help the passport efforts, and that the minister decided to automatically extend visas of around 11,000 foreigners who live in Israel.
Since this announcement was published AIC has been working “behind the scenes” to make sure the decision will not come at the expense of international couples. We have been in touch with PIBA personnel, parliament members and the media. Unfortunately, we did not manage to get a clear answer from PIBA about the emerging policy and its effect on visa departments.
However, over the last few days, AIC has gotten first-hand testimonies about remarks made by PIBA clerks, including a written confirmation from the manager of one of the offices that the visa department is scheduled to be shut down completely for the whole period, or even “until further notice”.
A full long-term shutdown of the 4 biggest visa departments in Israel is an unprecedented move. This would mean hundreds of cancelled visa appointments, many of them not extension appointments. The cancellation will harm couples who are currently separated and waiting for invitation, couples who have been patiently waiting to start their life in Israel and get their first visa, couples who are waiting to upgrade their status to residency, or to Israeli citizenship. Even with an extension of some existing visas – the “full” renewal appointments will just be “dragged” a few months ahead, causing the backlog of applications and appointment waiting times to reach new heights.
The consensus among professionals in the immigration field is that the shutdown will lead to consequences that will affect the rights of international couples for years to come.
AIC is highly opposed to this decision, and has escalated its efforts to combat the harmful policy. Last Thursday we have sent an official letter to the minister of Interior, MK Moshe Arbel and the head of PIBA, Mr Eyal Sisso, warning about the consequences of shutting down the 4 biggest visa departments for a long time (click here to read our letter).
In addition to our backstage efforts, we have also launched a full on protest campaign to combat the decision, on all our platforms. As a part of the campaign, we have reached out to the community and started collecting the personal stories of the people that will be affected by this discriminative policy. We have already gotten dozens of stories and will try to get exposure for those through the media (with the permission of the people involved, of course).
As the new week starts, we are now waiting for new information from our partners in the Israeli parliament and our connections at PIBA. If we see that our efforts do not yield a proper solution to the problems that we presented, we will escalate the protest further.
In the meantime, we ask you to join the protest, share the campaign, sign the petition and educate the people around you about what’s going on and how it is going to affect your life as an international couple in Israel.
Even if your personal file does not seem to be affected by the shutdown of these branches, don’t be naïve to think it won’t affect you. Allowing PIBA to act in such disregard to the rights as international couples, will allow them to escalate their oppressive policies in the future.
It is our moment to put our foot down and say – ENOUGH!