In a further easing of travel restrictions, foreign nationals are permitted to enter Israel from Monday, on condition they receive permission from a government committee before they travel, the Population Immigration and Border Authority said.
The development came the day after the government decided to lift some restrictions on air travel to the country, enabling thousands of citizens to return home and doing away with the need to stay in state-run quarantine hotels. Air travel had been greatly curtailed in an effort to prevent travelers from bringing new strains of the coronavirus into the country.
However, the number of entries is still capped at up to 3,000 people a day.
Over the coming two weeks, preference will be given to returning Israeli nationals ahead of the coming elections scheduled for March 23, the Population Immigration and Border Authority said in a statement on Sunday.
As a result, there will be only limited entry for foreign nationals granted for exceptional circumstances.
Requests can be filed online and require additional documents backing up the appeal.
Among the reasons given for obtaining an entry permit are involvement in essential diplomacy or security needs for Israel; professional athletes to participate in competitions; new immigrants who cannot put off their arrival; foreign workers needed to continue their job function; spouses or parents of Israelis; and humanitarian needs.
Information about foreign nationals visiting Israel is also available in English on the Health Ministry website.
Israel’s land and air gateways had been largely closed since January 25, leaving thousands unable to return. Ben Gurion Airport has been shuttered for all but a few special flights by Israeli and some foreign airlines to bring back citizens stranded abroad. Entrance into the country required special permission by the government, which was granted on a case-by-case basis ahead of each flight by the government-run exceptions committee.
With the lifting of some restrictions from Sunday, Israelis will be able to enter the country on flights from specific locations, with Kyiv, Toronto, and Hong Kong added to the existing list of New York, Frankfurt, London, and Paris.
The PIBA-run exceptions committee has previously faced accusations of political meddling in its work. It was put under intense public scrutiny in recent days after a Channel 12 report last week suggested that the vast majority of passengers being allowed into the country have been ultra-Orthodox, while many non-Haredi requests were being rejected (though politicians and some in the media called the report into question).