Israel to crack down on student visas after phony yeshiva students scandal

Procedures for issuing student visas may now be in “jeopardy.”

By World Israel News Staff

More than 30 people from New York fraudulently posed as yeshiva students in order to enter Israel and attend a wedding. As a consequence, student visas may become more difficult for sincere applicants to obtain.

Israel has not yet re-opened itself to tourism since the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, students studying in recognized high schools, universities, yeshivot, seminaries and other learning institutions can still enter the country. Unlike tourist visas that are valid for limited one-time use, a student visa allows individuals to enter and exit Israel multiple times for one year.

The scam began when a group of more than 30 individuals representing themselves as yeshiva students approached Amudim, a New York-based organization that helps teenagers obtain student visas for gap-year programs in Israel. In an article on the Yeshiva World web site, Amudim CEO Zvi Gluck said that all had documents apparently verifying that they were enrolled in the same yeshiva.

Gluck did not disclose which yeshiva, but he said it was recognized by the Ministry of the Interior and that the so-called students had “used it as a front.” After spending hours looking over the documents and with everything seemingly in order, Gluck and his staff forwarded the paperwork to the Israeli consulate in New York.

But when Amudim and the consulate were flooded with suspicious phone calls to find out the status of their applications, Gluck did further checking and discovered a number of discrepancies. He then contacted the consulate to alert officials of his findings.

“The paperwork included documents signed by the head of the yeshiva confirming that the applicants would all be learning in that school for a minimum of one year. This is a blatant lie. Unbelievably, these individuals pulled every trick in the book to beat the system and attempt to get to Israel for this wedding,” Gluck explained.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Gluck’s efforts to foil the phony students failed. The group of men and women — some over the age of 50 — eventually obtained student visas from the Israeli consulate in Belgium and then entered Israel to attend the wedding in Kfar Saba.

According to the Post, Israeli authorities will no longer process requests for student visas from three yeshiva institutions connected to the affair.

Gluck pointed out that the scandal may have an unfortunate fallout for everyone else seeking an Israeli student visa.

“As a result of the actions of the few who have created an unbelievable Chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name), Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is strongly considering requiring all students to go through the standard process. This can take weeks, if not months, just to get a visa appointment,” he said.

“In case you think this isn’t a big deal, let me point out that there are over 14,000 yeshiva and seminary students and kollel [institute for advanced Talmudic study] couples learning in Israel each year. The current application process that gets them there is now in jeopardy.”