Every journey begins with a single step.
There was always a bit of mystery surrounding the Aliyah (citizenship) process for me. Having received Aliyah I wanted to share some hard earned wisdom and bring some clarity. We have friends who went through the process, ten and some five years out, still guiding us who are dual citizens and commute. We are a unique category and have different challenges than those who reside full time in Israel. We all plan to spend more time in Israel as time goes on, to ease in…
Our friends recommended Nefesh B’ Nefesh, NBN, (soul to soul) as the organization to work with. Each one had stories to share, all hilarious. We still ask them about next steps as we are adjusting to our new status. The biggest advantage to working with NBN is their connection to the Jewish Agency which is key to Aliyah.
I searched for NBN on my desk top. A friendly site (loaded with info) popped up on the screen. I took a glance, at “the required list”, forms to be filled out and required documents needed in order to apply for Aliyah. I did a double take. I began talking to the screen…then myself. I tried not to panic. I took a deep breath and went to the registration page. I filled out the request for Aliyah, and set up an appointment.
I was linked to an advisor. I was delighted when the call came, on time. NBN is an organization specifically designed to help with North American Aliyah, it is staffed primarily by American Israelis and culturally tend to have an American work ethic. Punctuality is a priority among most Americans, Israeli timed appointments are often/usually a suggestion. After a brief introduction, my advisor assured me it was possible to make Aliyah and eventually it would happen. It is not a quick process. I was relieved. I suggested to my advisor that I would do better if I just began the process before meeting again. I didn’t even know what to ask. It’s typically what I don’t know to ask, that gets me in trouble.
My husband and I decided to do joint Aliyah. I did the paperwork, set up the NBN accounts, spoke often as needed with the advisor, and did as much as I could on my own, as he was/is working full time, (it was during COVID) my design world was pretty quiet. We drove together when the locations were far or intimidating. You can choose a solo Aliyah. There are instances when the couple does a split, one decides to do it before the other for various reasons.
NBN has a clever filing system. Documents are gathered, scanned then dragged by the applicant into a computer file NBN keeps live. The advisor reviews each document on their end. The scanning was simple, I downloaded a scanning app, then photographed/scanned each item. I’m new to some tech stuff so I sent each file in an email to myself then dragged the file from the email to the NBN filing system. My hand shook a bit before each submission, I had double the amount of documents, one set for each of us. Sometimes the review for each document would happen quickly, often hours or next day.
I did as requested. As an incentive, I kept a large manilla envelope on the desk near the computer with a list of all required documents written on the front of the envelope titled Forms for Aliyah. As I gathered then submitted each document, I put a check mark next to the list then placed the document back in the envelope. I only had one copy of each (added pressure), I hear some people get doubles of everything. The entire process is a bit much a bit much, but to know the documents will be ok’d when the time comes is a huge relief. Hindsight is wonderful!
Where to start?
We had certified copies of our birth certificates in our home file, (check that one). For the marriage certificate we drove to the Waukegan courthouse to get the official document, (the county where we were married). That was relatively easy… The required list of documents is extensive, you need to be resourceful. Click on the link to see the full list. https://www.nbn.org.il/documents-you-need/
The Apostille is a unique category…They are internationally recognized seals placed on official documents to attest to their authenticity. State Apostilles, are needed for birth certificate and marriage license if appropriate, death/ divorce as needed of former spouse. Federal Apostilles are needed for a background (criminal) check. The Apostille seemed to be the most intimidating aspect of the process and I wanted to confront them early on. That ended up being a problem…
We drove downtown one morning, to the Secretary of State office, (with printed and filled out requests) for each document requiring a state Apostille, and within minutes of speaking with a clerk, the seals were attached. You need a check for each application, luckily I had some blank checks. Remember bureaucrats are very strict, fill out everything as exacting as possible.
The Federal Apostille required for the back ground check is a bit more complicated. You obtain the Apostille from Washington DC. Locate a (preferably digital) fingerprint agency, then make an appointment. We thought we would try the US post office. There are only a couple of post offices within a half hour drive of us where they take the fingerprint tests. We checked on the US postal site, saw the hours listed then drove to one location. When we showed up and there was a sign hanging that said the system was down…we asked why they did not write that on the site, the postal guy shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Israel is not the only place to experience shenanigans.
We then looked online for a digital private background check company, made an appointment, drove over (another half hour). When it was my turn I had trouble getting the computer to read my finger prints, I needed a bit of help, sometimes its as simple as using a wipe to remove hand lotion….Don’t do the mail in with ink fingerprint system, it will take weeks to get the results and if you do a poor job on the fingerprints you will need to redo.
We received our answer later that day with a warning, if you open the pdf file/report you need to send the printed version to Washington DC to get the Apostille. If it remains unopened you can submit the link on the NBN site, but then you do not get to see the file beforehand. There was no way we were going to submit the results without seeing them. Not that we had anything to worry about lol!
When you dive into the Apostille world you can find companies which offer to help acquire them. You send your printed document to an Apostille assisting office in DC, they literally walk it across the street to get the Apostille applied, shenanigans! We printed the report stating our clean record on our home printer and sent it to DC to receive the Apostille. We wanted to see if we could do it ourselves…It took two weeks. Keep in mind, the background check expires after six months. Timing matters…to be continued…
Last week was the holiday Tu B’Shvat, the holiday of trees. We love planting seeds and trees!.. For us Americans who own homes in Israel (there are thousands of foreign national homeowners in Israel), making Aliyah is the next logical next. I always dreamt of owning a piece of the rock, by landscaping our garden apartment we were able to manifest a dream beyond our wildest imagination…By planting Aliyah seeds you will be making a powerful statement to yourselves and your family. Nefesh B’Nefesh https://www.nbn.org.il/