April 12, 2007

Israeli administration

Yesterday, I had the invaluable opportunity to experience the procedures of the Ministry of Interior.

Over the week of Passover, I had been thinking over and over about my status and how to best change it in order to be able to start working. I was so frustrated because nothing could be done during the holiday!

I consulted the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, first thing Tuesday morning. From the interview with the counselor and from what I had read about the various statuses I came to the conclusion that the best for me was to become a Temporary Resident, which I am entitled to under the Law of Return.

Wednesday morning, I went to the Ministry of Interior before 8am. When I said I was coming to change my status to that of Temporary Resident (A-1) they gave me an appointment for... next month. Four full weeks from now. Why such a delay? No reason is given and no discussion is possible.

I am really in a hurry to start working (I almost became crazy doing nothing for a week, how would I wait for four weeks only to have the first appointment in a longer process?) so I stayed around until I could speak to the manager who told me: "An A-1, that's not good for you. Get a B-1!"

Again, why do they discourage people from requesting the A-1? I don't know. Anyway, B-1 is the "Working tourist" status. It's not exactly what I wanted because it involves paying for health insurance by myself, it is valid only 6 months and doesn't give me an Israeli ID so the contract with the company has to be rewritten. Never thwart an administration if you want to get something from them. If they look eager to give me a B-1 I'll take a B-1 for starters!

The procedure involved getting a letter from the Jewish Agency for the Ministry of Interior, which they gave me quickly after checking my "certificate of Jewishness", going back to the Ministry of Interior, filling the form, supplying a letter from the company and a certificate of health insurance. These two documents I had not brought because they were not required for an A-1 so I had to return to the Ministry today.

This morning, the B-1 visa was stamped in my passport, I can work legally here for 6 months!

Globally the process can be viewed as efficient. I got the work permit in 25 hours and 11 minutes (I arrived at the Ministry yesterday morning at 0745 and the visa was stamped today at 0856). But I was quite hopeless at first as they were about as welcoming to my request for an A-1 as a prison gate (French: aimable comme une porte de prison) and I continued to be very stressed at the idea that I was at their mercy all the time until I got the visa.

Dealing with the administration is a matter of humility, politeness, not giving up easily and not rubbing them in the wrong way (French: caresser dans le sens du poil)...

Initially I wanted, as a principle, to avoid having to resort to the Law of Return, and in fact avoid having at all to use the fact that I'm Jewish. But in practice it was not possible. If I get the A-1 it will be under the Law of Return which to applies to me as a Jew. Getting the B-1 is theoretically possible for non-Jews but it was clear that if I wanted the visa within a reasonable time, I needed the letter from the Jewish Agency and therefore the certificate of Jewishness. "People are not always as bad as their principles", my father says. I would say that "Principles are good,
but some flexibility in applying them is necessary"...

I'll write on the company and the job as soon as I sign the contract!

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