So you made it to your aliyah flight! You brought your spouse, kids, luggage, and important documents (including the letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and your receipt of having completed the isolation form within 24 hours of your flight), and you’re wondering to yourself what it’s going to look like when you arrive. How does it all work when you land?
When you exit the plane, you’ll first follow the crowd towards the arrival hall. Before you get there, you’ll meet a Jewish Agency representative holding a sign signaling all Olim to report to them. Once everyone is gathered together, the representative will walk you to a kiosk to print your entry visa. After receiving your entry visa, you will be taken to a large conference room. Then more Jewish Agency representatives will talk to you. Honestly, I don’t remember much here because I was so exhausted from my flight (and I took a bathroom break, completely missing the first few minutes). In this room there will be tables at the front of the room bearing water bottles, sandwiches, and cookies. While everyone is eating, you will be called one by one to the back, where yet more Jewish Agency representatives will meet with you.
In this meeting they give you a blue folder containing some VERY important documents (including your Teudat Oleh), most of the Sal Klita payment for the first month, and a SIM card (free for 3 months). After you receive the blue folder, you will return to the conference room until you receive further instructions. If you are staying at one of the quarantine hotels for Bidud (quarantine), you will wait until everyone else staying at the hotel has been processed. Then you will leave together as a group and meet with the commanding officer of the army, who is in charge of running the hotels. He will make sure everyone is accounted for. Then, a couple of soldiers will escort the group to baggage claim. After everyone receives their bags (by the way, the luggage carts are now free), they will be taken to a shuttle, which will then drive them to the hotel.
If you are not staying at the hotel, you will be told when you can pick up your luggage and when your taxi has arrived to take you to your final destination. For those who stay in the hotels, you still get another free taxi/shuttle from the hotel to your final destination. For more about staying at the quarantine hotel, see my previous post.
Once you are out of Bidud, some things will need to be taken care of as soon as possible:
- Getting Your Teudat Zehut (TZ)- make an appointment with Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) to get your temporary Teudat Zehut. This can either be done by calling them or by using the MyVisit app. If you get out of Bidud during a Seger (lockdown), I was instructed by Nefesh B’Nefesh to just show up to the door at Misrad Hapnim (since they are officially closed). Being a new immigrant in this country without a TZ is a bad situation to be in, and classifies as being an emergency. If they try to tell you they are closed (they will), muster up some Israeli chutzpah and don’t take no for an answer. They are required to let you inside to get a temporary TZ. You will need to bring all of your important documents from your previous country, and the blue folder from the airport. You’ll also need extra passport photos: bring at least 3 for every family member. You’ll have your photo taken for your permanent TZ, which will be mailed to the address you provide. They will give you a code that you’ll need to have in order to receive your TZ. Once you have your permanent TZ, you’ll need to activate it either by text message or through the Misrad Hapnim website.
- Opening a Bank Account- The next major thing is to open a bank account. If you don’t already have one, you DO NOT have to have a TZ to open a bank account. It’s easier if you do, but banks also have the option of using your Teudat Oleh and foreign passport. Nowadays, you MUST make an appointment before going to a bank. Shop around, ask for recommendations when choosing a bank. You should know that in Israel, every branch is very specific. Meaning that each branch can be very different from the other, so if you don’t like one branch you might have a better experience trying another of the same bank. At the same time, you can only be a customer at one branch. If you are traveling on the other side of the country and decide you need to see a banker (for whatever reason), you can only be serviced at your assigned branch (unless you choose to switch branches). At the bank, you will need to bring all of the same documents you brought to Misrad Hapnim. You will also need to tell the bank how much money you are planning to transfer into the account, and how you expect to earn an income (Israeli banks are nosy like that). Before leaving the bank, it is imperative that you have the banker sign the Note of Future Bank Account (found in the blue folder from the airport). You will have to present this form to Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Immigrant Absorption) to set up your Sal Klita (monthly stipend) payments into your bank account. If you forget to do this, you’ll have to make another appointment with the bank before proceeding with the next step. Finally, to activate your bank account so that you can receive payments (i.e., Sal Klita), you will need to deposit CASH into your account (don’t ask me why). Since you don’t have a debit card yet (remember to order a debit card and checks, yes checks), you will not be able to access an ATM machine to make a deposit. If your bank doesn’t have a cashier, you will need to make an appointment to go to another location with a cashier to deposit money. Once this is done, you’re good to go!
- First Appointment with Misrad Haklita- Your first appointment with Misrad Haklita must be made over the phone. Each subsequent appointment can be made through MyVisit. At this appointment you’ll present your Note of Future Bank Account, and they will set up your Sal Klita payments to be direct deposited into your bank account each month. Your first payment will be the remainder of what you received at the airport. You’ll receive information about your rights as a new immigrant. You’ll also discuss various Ulpanim to choose from.
- Permanent Residence- If you’ve been staying at an Airbnb or short-term rental up to this point, now is a great time to start looking for a more permanent place to live. I’ll make another post soon about how to go about that!
- Sign Up for Supplemental Insurance- You have a limited amount of time from the day you make Aliyah to sign up for supplemental insurance. When you land, you are covered by one of the four Kupot Cholim (insurance providers) for the general health basket. But dental, optical, some medications and procedures, and lower copays (once you start working) are only covered through supplemental insurance. Once the window of opportunity (your first 90 days) passes to sign up for supplemental insurance, you’ll have to wait (with the rest of the Israelis) until the next waiting period opens up (up to 6 months). If you have a pre-existing condition, it is recommended to NOT let the initial 90 day period to sign up for supplemental insurance pass by. Depending on which Kupah you belong to, some will allow you to pay for supplemental insurance with a foreign credit card; others will not. Because of this, it is important to get your Israeli bank card as soon as possible.
- Job Search- Once all of the pressing bureaucratic matters have been handled and you have found a place to live, the time has come to begin looking for a job. I will also go over employment in Israel in a future post!
- Attend Ulpan Classes- After you have started working again, you will better know your day’s flow and which type of Ulpan is right for you. If you can afford not to work, then perhaps an intensive residential Ulpan is the right fit for you! However, if you work regular Israeli hours and have children who’ll need tending to, maybe an evening online ulpan 2 nights/week is more your speed. If you work from home for an American company (i.e., American hours), morning classes would be a better fit for you. In the age of COVID-19, there are a lot of Ulpanim offered online. During a Seger (lockdown), all ulpanim become virtual. Whatever your life circumstances, actually doing Ulpan is essential to adjusting to life in Israel. You need to know how to pay your bills, answer phone calls, and talk to customer service companies in Hebrew! I should note that the stipend for Ulpan is only good for your first 10 years as a new citizen.
- Convert Your Driver’s License- To convert your foreign driver’s license (and avoid taking a practical driving exam), you must complete the process within 5 years of making aliyah. You must also show proof of having been previously licensed for at least 5 consecutive years before your aliyah date. This can be done either by submitting your 2 previous licenses (including date of issue), or with a letter from your DVM detailing your full driving history (including date of issue of your original license). There is an online application form you will need to fill out. You may also need to schedule an eye exam appointment to be approved to convert your license. Then you will need to schedule to have a meeting over the phone (thanks corona) with Misrad Harishui (Israel DMV). Following this meeting, you will email them all of the relevant forms and you will be notified within a few days if you have been approved. If you have been approved, you will receive a temporary license (which won’t be active until they receive payment), you’ll receive your permanent license in the mail within 3 months (valid for either 5 or 10 years).