Covid Travel

You might think this page has nothing to do with our book. But it does. We want to help families navigate COVID-19 travel rules for those who have relatives in Israel-because we believe in bridging the gaps for olim and those who love them.

This page was born out of a need that exploded over the last few months to better understand the cumbersome rules for entering Israel to visit a first degree relative.

Ariella "met" Maureen Ash purely by accident. When this book was published, we somehow connected and before long, Maureen and Ariella were fielding thousands of questions on how to visit family in Israel. There is even a Facebook Group called Reunite Olim With Their Families here, where many of the same questions come up.

It seems like many people feel the need for an immediate answer, and we understand it. So Maureen and I pulled this page together to offer one easy link. It offers you the rules and regulations as we know it, and gives you some of our experiences, what we call our own "intel". 

If you are perplexed by the travel regulations to Israel, you aren't alone. When the government changed the rules for foreign travel to Israel, relatives were looking for some clarity to be able to properly jump through all of the hoops to secure a coveted permit to visit. And the rules keep on changing all of the time. 

The next scheduled change will be around July 1, 2021. Many have asked us "what will change," and no one really knows. It appears that Israel will grant entry to individual travelers without entry permits, but there are likely to be restrictions and conditions attached to entry, i.e., only vaccinated people and dependent upon which countries' COVID rates. 

It hasn't been easy. Every Consulate around the world has posted the English version of the rules that are available in Hebrew, which you can find here. Yet, we have learned, the hard way, that there is quite a bit of ambiguity, and worse yet, inconsistency.

We tried to centralize what we have learned and give you links to forms you need, lists of documents you need in one place.

We will update this space as needed so be sure to check back, and please contact us (scroll down below for our contacts) so we can correct any errors.

Any errors are our own and if we made a mistake, we apologize.

Last update made: June 15, 2021

A few important things to keep in mind all the time:

Rules can change. Forms can change.

Not next week or next month. So it's hard to answer questions on what might happen in the summer or Sukkot.

If you get rejected for a permit to travel to Israel, try again. If you don't hear back, file again. If you are getting close to your flight, contact us. Many people are securing permits in Israel via Misrad Hapnim so consider that route. More on it below. 

There are some threshold issues you need to be aware of:

For a period of time, one needed a ticket in order to receive an an ishur  (a permit) to enter Israel. It then changed so that no one needed to provide a ticket. Today, it seems that consulates and Misrad Hapnim do require tickets even though the rules say you don't. If you attempt to get a permit without a ticket know that some travelers cannot secure COVID-specific insurance without a pre-paid ticket. And you definitely need that insurance in order the secure a permit. 

Think of the consulate as your agent outside of Israel. They take the documentary package you send them, and they process it via Misrad Hapnim. They assume you can't access Misrad Hapnim from outside of Israel (and you can't) so they do it. Many Israeli citizens with first degree relatives overseas have managed to go directly to Misrad Hapnim and secure permits faster. Most Consulates say that it takes 10 business days to process requests. It has proved very difficult to get consulates to issue you an ishur and they often don't answer emails, leaving you hanging. It appears to be more certain to apply via a first degree relative at Misrad Hapnim in Israel. More information on the consulate process vs the Misrad Hapnim process below.  

What is a first degree relative? Well no one defines it well enough, so here is the short and brutal answer. A first degree relative is someone you sit shiva for. Parents, children, and siblings. In some cases, we have heard that half siblings and step-siblings who have secured permits, but it is rare. And those who managed to do it, did it from Israel via Misrad Hapnim. Recently, the Ministry of Health indicated that they will consider permit requests for grandparents of brides and grooms who are Israeli citizens. However, you will need birth certificate records in order to prove the relationship from grandparent down to the grandchild. 

First degree relatives can bring a spouse and children, but they all must be vaccinated, each needs a separate permit request, and children under 6 must do a full quarantine period (10-14 days). 

Vaccinated (or recovered from Covid) parents of student visa holders can receive approval to enter Israel for the birth of a grandchild - within 30 days prior to the due date or within 30 days of the birth. The application must include all the regular documentation plus: Copies of both parents passports and visas, and the baby's birth certificate or a letter from a doctor with the due date. Please note that paternal grandparents have been expressly rejected from receiving a permit. Thus, only the parents of a pregnant woman student visa holder (or new mother) can receive a permit.  

Israelis living outside of Israel can now travel to Israel with their non-Israeli children without the need to register them as Israelis first. But the process of registering them as Israelis had to have been started. It is complicated. Please see the post here.

Student visa holders currently in the USA and those with permanent resident status in Israel who are currently in the USA can return to Israel with no need for approval. But this is a new policy and it is not clear how this will play out. Stay tuned.

Birth certificates no longer need to be apostilled when applying for a permit at Misrad Hapnim, although the consulate websites and the Israeli government websites continue to say you need it (even though it is no longer true.) We know your application is accepted today without that apostilled document. Please make sure that if the first degree relative's last name and your last name are not the same, you will need to provide documentation of name changes. There are some Consulates that are asking for apostilled marriage licenses. Please contact us if that happens. 

As of June 1, it appears that grandparents might be allowed to secure a permit for the wedding of grandchildren. Please ensure that you create a "trail" with birth certificates - grandparents to parents to the Israeli citizen - including evidence of name changes. 

The Documents You Need

 

  1. The New York Consulate has done an excellent job of explaining everything in every situation and not every consulate has organized it in this way. It is worth looking at it here. It seems that every consulate might have slight variations on the same documents.
  2. As indicated above, you no longer need a pre-paid ticket to get an entry permit via the consulate. If your insurance company only issues COVID insurance policies with a finite ticket, you won't have a choice but to purchase a ticket. If you file with Misrad Hapnim, you will need a ticket.
  3. If you purchase a ticket that is less than 14 days in duration, you will not be allowed to leave Israel in less than 14 days unless you have a serological test in Israel, approved by the Ministry of Health (see below how you do that) that shows you have antibodies. If you purchase a 14-day ticket, you will be able to change your flight to leave earlier if you have a serological test in Israel that shows you have antibodies. Try to get a refundable ticket or one where you can change the date, just in case you don't get the ishur/permit by the time you are supposed to fly. Those who leave Israel prior to the 14 days have had some trouble at Ben Gurion Airport and have been asked to go to the Misrad Hapnim in the airport to receive an "ishur yetzia me'haratez," approval to leave the country. This is despite having serological tests and permission to leave quarantine. Accordingly, if you plan on being in Israel for less than 14 days, leave yourself extra time at Ben Gurion upon your departure and make sure you have your release from quarantine and serological test results handy.
  4. COVID-19 specific insurance coverage. It has to be very specific for non-Israelis. Permits have been rejected if its not specific. Some people have been asked to submit policies with specific names of the policy holder and not just "dear valued customer."  Some have reported that the proof should be in letter form with the name of the insured as it appears on the passport, the policy number, the dates of coverage and the details of COVID coverage in the body of the letter. Again, check to see whether you need a ticket before the policy is issued. Please note that Israeli citizens living outside of Israel no longer need this COVID specific insurance. See post here.
  5. Proof of vaccination or recovery certificate.
  6. Marriage license, birth certificate or any other document that proves your first-degree relationship to the Israeli citizen. It does not need to be with an apostille. The Consulate sites still say you need it, but aren't supposed to require it anymore. If your first degree relative is NOT a citizen or a permanent resident you will likely be rejected for now, but this might change. A first degree relative is a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son. Again, we have heard of some cases where half siblings and step siblings managed to get permission, but it is far from the norm. 
  7. Copies of your passports and the passports of your Israeli first degree relative in Israel.
  8. Request for a permit to enter Israel. An example is here, from the New York Consulate but they all seem to be similar.
  9. Signed quarantine statement, a commitment to abide by Israel's rules. The form is here.
  10. While it is not mentioned anywhere, we think it might be helpful to add a copy of the Teudot Zehut of your child in Israel if you are sending a request to the Consulate. Teudot Zehut also have parents' name on it. That, coupled with a passport and birth certificate, can help keep it clear for Consulate offices.
  11. Those who are flying for a wedding might get asked for their children's proof of marriage by sending the tik number from Rabbanut - the documentation that they have a wedding date. Try and avoid this issue and just let them know you are visiting a child or sibling. Raising the issue of a wedding has caused issues and we'd recommend you avoid it. 
  12. While it is not mentioned in any of the rules, if you apply for a permit in Israel at a Misrad Hapnim office (see below for how to do that), some of those offices are asking applicants to fill out this form (only the first two pages). It is a visa form, seeking permission to enter Israel. Again, this form is not mentioned anywhere in the rules, but it suddenly started cropping up here and there. While the form requires a passport photo, it is submitted without a photo. The form ought to be signed by you, the applicant, and your relative in Israel before submitting it to Misrad Hapnim. Contact us personally if you have any questions about this form. 
  13. Vaccinated (or recovered) parents of pregnant student visa holders can receive approval to enter Israel for the birth of a grandchild - within 30 days prior to the due date or within 30 days of the birth. The application must include all the regular documentation noted above plus: Copies of both parents passports and visas, and the baby's birth certificate or a letter from a doctor with the due date. See post about this issue here. This is only for maternal grandparents and not paternal grandparents.
  14. No documents are needed for student visa holders currently in the USA and those with permanent resident status in Israel who are currently in the USA. Both can apparently return to Israel with no need for approval, but we aren't sure how this will play out.

Once you have all of the above, here are your next steps:

Some Consulates, like New York and Los Angeles, say that you should email or upload your documents 3 weeks before your flight. Some Consulates might still instruct you to submit within 14 days.  We expect that sometime in the near future they will all require them 3 weeks before you intend to leave. Not all Consulates have the same language. New York says they need 10 business days to process and NY is far behind in reviewing applications.Accordingly, please check your local Consulate's website to know when is the right time to send your documents. You do not need item number 12 in the document list above if you submit to the Consulate. Again, all documents need to be in one PDF. Consulates around the world will most likely not process approval requests if the PDF is larger than 5MB or if the request is made less than 8 business days before the flight. If the flight is approaching and you or your family have not heard back from the consulate this is likely the reason. If you are in this situation, change the flight and resubmit a new request that fits the 8 business days rule and is under 5MB. Or, send an email to the Consulate with the subject line "Urgent: Flight in 48 hours," to see if it works. To compress your file go to ILovePDF.com 

Once you send the file to the consulate, DO NOT re-forward that email if you have not heard in a few days time. DO NOT resubmit either. Once you re-forward the email with the documentation, your request gets put to the back of the line with a date and time stamp. If you want to contact the consulate about your request for a permit, write a new email - do not forward the old one. 

Our Intel:  Many Consulates seem to be granting 30 day permits which means you have 30 days from the date of the permit to travel to Israel. At Misrad Hapnim, the permit is 14 days, and you need to fly within 14 days. Again, this does not have any bearing on how long you can stay in Israel. There was a period of time when one could forum shop at certain consulates. That appears to be getting harder and harder.  Please remember that some Misrad Hapnim offices are asking for item #12 in the document list - a visa form - so you might as well fill it out just in case.

It can all be printed and one can go to the Misrad Hapnim to get an ishur/permit to enter the country. Misrad Hapnim local offices can be found here. But not every office offers this service. For example, Givat Shmuel residents have to go to Petach Tikvah. Every office has a website with their hours and ways to contact them and make appointments. It's not consistent across the board. Please ask your first degree relative applying for you to look at the Misrad Hapnim's website. They will be able to navigate it. 

Increasingly, Misrad Hapnim offices have been offering email service, rather than deal with people on long lines.  Here are Misrad Hapnim offices that accept applications by email: 

Jerusalem Residents: For Jerusalem residents and its surrounding areas,  entrypermits@piba.gov.il or Corona-Jerusalem@piba.gov.il or ashrot-jerusalem@piba.gov.il. Please note that Maale Adumim recently was trained in processing permits but they only accept permit requests in person (no email). 

Ramat Gan Residents: MRG@piba.gov.il 

Tel Aviv Residents: Ashrot-Yaffo@piba.gov.il or Ashrot-Knisa-Yaffo@piba.gov.il or Ashrot-knisa@piba.gov.il 

Ramle Residents: Ashrot-Ramle@piba.gov.il 

Kfar Saba Residents: Ashrot-kfar-saba@piba.gov.il 

Applications at Misrad Hapnim will be rejected if sent more than two weeks before the flight. The goal is to issue permits by two days after submission. 

If you can send the request via email to Misrad Hapnim, It is helpful to send it with an email in Hebrew. If you need help in drafting the email in Hebrew, please contact us. The documents for Misrad Hapnim must include the following, all in ONE file. 
1) The name of the person doing the inviting
2) Phone number of the person doing the inviting
3) Teudat Zehut of the person doing the inviting
4) The name of the person being invited
5) Explaining the relationship between the two sides
6) Attach a picture of the passport of the person being invited
7) Attach a picture of the passport of the person doing the inviting
8) Proof of COVID specific health insurance  
9) Proof of vaccination proof or medical documentation of recovery from COVID for the person visiting
10) Plane tickets (something that is NOT needed for the Consulates). 
11) Isolation form here.  
12) Birth certificates and/or marriage certificates to prove the first degree relationship (or request for spouse of first degree relative to visit with the relative)
13) Immigration Authority Form (which they sometimes call a visa) here.

 

If you are coming to Israel for a wedding of a child who is a citizen, do not say this in any of the forms. Just say that you are coming to visit a first degree relative. Any mention of a wedding will then result in Misrad Hapnim asking for a tie rabbanut, and invitations. There is no reason to go down this road. You are better off with the path of least resistance - i.e., you are coming to visit an Israeli citizen who is a first degree relative. 

Our Intel: For those applying to Misrad Hapnim, you will need this "visa" form. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense since it is a visa form, but we do what we can to get the permit. Application of the rules at Misrad Hapnim offices vary widely. Two places might not necessarily apply the guidelines the same way. In addition, we have heard that some places require appointments. Others don't. If you show up at the Misrad Hapnim, they might give you an appointment the next day. Others have managed to get in without an appointment. But show up very very early. Not every Misrad Hapnim will do this ishur. We have heard success stories in Herzliya, South Tel Aviv, Ramle, Ramat Gan, Beit Shemesh, Kfar Saba, Har Homa in Jerusalem and Shlomzion Hamalka in Jerusalem, but every single day is a different story.  If all your paperwork is in order and you meet the requirements, the ishur can be given on the spot. It is worthwhile to bring the Israeli regulations here because there are certain Misrad Hapnim offices that don't even know of these particular guidelines. 

Keep on trying different offices to see how you fare. Some Mirsrad Hapnim offices (Bet Shemesh, for example) have told applicants that visitors have to do quarantine in the same geographical area covered by that office. That is not stated anywhere in the rules, but be aware of it.

Once you have your ishur to travel to Israel, PRINT IT, along with all the other documents above. It is good to have it all.

Before you fly, fill out these forms:

 

    1. Complete a travel entry declaration statement/form within 24 hours before you fly. It must be within 24 hours of your flight to Israel. The form sits on the Ramzor website here. Filing it out can be a little unfriendly and you need to do it on a computer or tablet. There have been complaints about entering area codes and arrival times in Israel. You know you did the form correctly if you get an email response after submission.  That email response will be in Hebrew followed by English. Print it. 

    2. Schedule a PCR test at Ben Gurion with the submission of the above. There was a time that you could schedule PCR at Ben Gurion weeks before your flight. That is no longer the case. You can only schedule your PCR test at Ben Gurion once you completed the above form. The supplier that does the PCR testing for inbound arrivals to Ben Gurion is called TestNGo, and their site for booking can be found here.

    3. Do a PCR test 72 hours pre-flight. It cannot be a rapid test. It must be a PCR test. It can't be more than 72 hours before you fly. Please account for connecting flights or the PCR test will not be valid and because of this, it's best to try a direct flight. Please note that some airlines have requested a passport number on the top of the PCR test result.

    4. Fill out the Self Isolation form here, within 24 hours of your flight. Some of the information is repeated in the form noted above but that seems to be the way it is. It would be best to do the form after midnight on the day you fly because some people have reported difficulties with the dates of arrival in Israel. If you are at an AirBnB give them that address and say that you are in a vacant apartment. If you are at your family's home, please make sure you have a room that has a door and access to a bathroom that no one else uses. If you have a problem with the form, contact us. You know you have done it right if you receive a form letter from Ministry of Health which says you are required do to 14 days of quarantine and give you a date when it ends. Don't panic. That very same letter can come back to you after your serological test saying your quarantine is מבוטל  - canceled. 

Traveling To And From Israel:

It must be made clear that you are required to quarantine until you are released from it via Ministry of Health's notification. You cannot quarantine in a hotel. Quarantine means a bedroom with a door and a bathroom. Israel takes quarantine seriously. The authorities will indeed check on you. They will knock on your door to see if you are there. Please honor the quarantine rules.

Your "get out of quarantine jail free card" is a serological test, which is discussed below. It is not required, but if you want to be out of quarantine, you have to do this step. Israel does not currently honor vaccines given overseas nor does it honor serological tests done overseas. If you do the PCR and serological test the first day you arrive, you can be out of quarantine by day 2 of your trip. It can take about 24 hours from the time your results are done to the time that MOH releases you from quarantine. We can all be grateful that it such a minimal time and it is worth being patient. Remember the days when quarantine was 14 days!

 

Ben Gurion's PCR: You will go through Ben Gurion Airport and will be sent automatically for a PCR test. You can't get out of the airport without it. PCR tests are done by a company called TestNGo. Check2Fly used to be the company that does this but are soon phased out. It was once free and now it is not - for Israelis and foreigners alike. If you book the test in advance it is 80 NIS. If you don't book in advance it is 100 NIS. Results of your PCR will be sent to you via SMS within 24 hours but only to an Israeli cell phone and you might have to log into the TestNGo website for your results. PCR testing in Ben Gurion is fairly seamless and you don't wait for a long time at all. You won't be let out of Ben Gurion without it. Do log into the TestNGo site to check on results if you think too much time has passed.  

Our Intel: Some people don't get the SMS because they don't have Israeli cell phone numbers. These messages are SMS and not WhatsApp. Please give TestNGo the number of someone who has an Israeli cell so you can get your PCR results.
Serological Tests: Arrange for a Ministry of Health approved serological test because this is your “get out of quarantine jail free” card. If you do NOT get a serological test, you will remain in quarantine until you take a second PCR test on day 9 and once it is negative, you can leave quarantine on day 10. From the time you get your serological test results, it can take about 24-48 hours until you receive final confirmation from MOH to be released from quarantine. Here is a list of various serological testing services:
  • Ministry of Health approved serological testing sites (in Hebrew) here and in English here. Some of the more popular ones are Assaf Harofeh which is not far from the airport, Assuta, and Ichilov but note that hours vary.
  • Hatzalah, see here for days and hours and locations. They will also come to your home for a higher fee, 600NIS before 11:00 PM and 1,000NIS after 11:00PM.
  • Rambam Labs in Jerusalem, 16 Hillel Street, see here for hours, telephone and email.
  • Herzliya Medical Center also does these tests, but email them to check on it.
  • Another website has cropped up with serological information here and you can search by region.
  • You can also follow a thread on Facebook here for more information.
  • Tenecare that can meet you at or near the airport for 450NIS and will come to your home.
Make sure that all testing labs put your passport number on the serological results and whoever you use, make sure that you get a copy of your own serological tests. Without the proper passport number on the serological paperwork, your release from quarantine can be a longer process. Please note that these tests might not be cheap depending on where you do them.
In addition, not all of the locations are labs. Some just draw blood and send the sample to a lab. Most labs are not open on Friday or Saturday for these kinds of tests. If you land on a Thursday or Friday, be aware that the Ministry of Health does not work at full capacity on Friday or Saturday and it might take more time to be released from quarantine. Your serological test must be reported to the Ministry of Health.
Upload your serological results to the Ministry of Health via the request release from quarantine form here. The form is available in English but you have to click on the menu bar and change the language. We'd advise you to submit your serological test, passport, vaccination card (or recovery certificate) and the SMS you received noting your negative PCR test with this form. You know you have done it right when you receive the form back via email in a PDF.  
Please know that sometime in the summer of 2021, after a pilot test among group travelers (on an organized trip), individual tourists are supposed to be able to receive serological and PCR tests at the airport. The serological test is supposed to be a 15 minute test. If it works, it will alleviate all of the running around for serological tests and uploading to MOH. No word on when this will be rolled out. 
Our Intel: Serological test costs can be a few hundred NIS, so don't be surprised but remember it is the way out of quarantine and a whole lot less than your ticket - or your aggravation - cost. TestNGo does NOT do the serological tests in the airport. Also note that serological labs tend not to be open at night, which makes it inconvenient for those who arrive late in the afternoon and cannot make it to a testing site. You might just have to go the next day to get the test done. You may leave quarantine to do the test. Please remember to wear a mask. If you have not been released from quarantine within 24 hours, call MOH at *5400, (press #2 and then #1), when a person comes on, give your name and passport number and they will send you an SMS that you are out of quarantine. 
Again, please understand that serological labs are likely closed or short staffed on Friday and Shabbat. MOH runs with less staff on Friday and Shabbat. Keep these kinds of situations in mind when you book tickets. 

Green passes are no longer relevant in Israel as of June 1. We simply don't use them anymore because the case levels are so low. The Ministry of Health has a record of your serological test and will honor it until the end of 2021, provided there are no new variants that are resistant to vaccinations.  

For practical purposes, what does this mean? If you did a serological test in Israel, and you return for another visit before the end of 2021, you will receive an email that you are released from quarantine after you file this 24-hour preflight self isolation form.

Israel requires that you do a 72-hour pre flight PCR test before you leave Israel. Hatzala does PCR tests and so does Check2Fly at the airport. Check2Fly continues to do outbound PCR tests, but as noted above, no longer does inbound to Israel. You can find other private testing sites for non citizens at public hospitals here. The maximum cost is around 297NIS. Please note that Check2Fly is cheaper but must be done at the airport. 

If you stayed in Israel for less than 14 days, you might be asked at Ben Gurion to go to the Misrad Hapnim in the airport to secure a written "ishur yetzia me'haretz," permission to leave country. This is not an online form or an application you can file for. You simply need to arrive at the airport a little earlier than planned in order to get this slip of paper. Please make sure that you have you serological test results with you and the release SMS from the Ministry of Health when departing from Ben Gurion.

As of June 1, 2021, Israel has dispensed with all form requirements when leaving Israel.

We will update this page whenever rules or forms change, so check back with us. Most recent update on this webpage has been June 15, 2021.

Contact us anytime. We are happy to help. You can contact Ariella via the form here. Ariella is located in Jerusalem and would be happy to hear from you when you arrive. Maureen can be reached at this email: AshMaureen@gmail.com. Please use subject line: Olim and Their Families.

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