Amid wage dispute, Israelis abroad increasingly unable to get replacement passports

Growing numbers of Israelis overseas may be unable to acquire replacement passports amid an ongoing labor dispute in the Foreign Ministry.

Some consular services have run out of passports after ministry workers refused to send refills to overseas representatives due to the dispute over salary conditions.

Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that the affected countries include the United States, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Belarus, Australia, Chile, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Sweden.

Some locations are able to provide a travel document that allows Israelis to return home, but not fly to other countries. The document is only valid for Israelis who can board direct flights to Israel, and only flights operated by Israeli airlines and a few international airlines that accept such documents.

Israelis in life-threatening danger overseas can turn to a Foreign Ministry exceptions committee that will discuss individual cases.

For several years Israel’s diplomats and Foreign Ministry workers have complained of poor conditions, occasionally going on strike.

Illustrative photo of an Israeli passport (Flash90)

Israelis at home are also facing challenges in acquiring passports, apparently due to significant backlogs created by the coronavirus pandemic, with many Israelis making international vacation plans following the removal of travel restrictions.

According to a report by Globes, 700,000 Israelis are awaiting delivery of passports, some up to six weeks. Securing an appointment for passport renewal has also proven challenging, with offices of the Population and Immigration Authority in larger cities swamped with applicants.

Population and Immigration Authority director Tomer Moskowitz has said he believes new measures aimed at tackling the crisis will ease the situation “in the coming days.”

One of the measures includes the opening of an office in Bnei Brak where Israelis can receive a temporary passport, valid for two years, for NIS 400 ($120). It is expected to issue 5,000 passports before the end of May. Regular passports are cheaper, costing up to NIS 145 ($43) for children, and NIS 275 ($82) for adults.

The office is a cheaper alternative to Ben Gurion Airport, where an office provides emergency passports for NIS 845 ($252).

Another measure is the introduction of extra shifts at the facility that produces passports. A new evening shift is expected to reduce the wait, and the planned introduction of a night shift before summer will further ease the backlog.

Additionally, Israelis with dual citizenship will be permitted to leave and enter Israel on their foreign passports until January 1, 2023.

Last week, the Interior Ministry and Population and Immigration Authority were criticized by the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee for the delays. Lawmakers noted that the huge demand for passports could have been predicted and prepared for.

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