Passport, Flights, Visas, and Advance Letter - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Passport, Flights, Visas, and Advance Letter

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Timeline (Before Departure) Action Check
3-4 months Get or renew your passport if necessary
2-3 months Book your flight  
  Apply for your visa  
1 Month Send advance letter  


Get or renew your passport

Don’t have one?  Is your current one about to expire?  Don't delay.  Get or renew yours now!  It can take up to six weeks to process your passport application, and you will need one to get your plane tickets and your visa!

For US Citizens
For Canadian Citzens


Book your flight

We recommend that you arrive in Israel at least a week prior to the start of orientation. This will give you a chance to get over your jet lag and participate in the informal activities that the summer interns (HUC-JIR upper-class students) initiate to help acclimatize you to Jerusalem. But not to worry—if you arrive just before Orientation you will have lots of opportunities to get to know your classmates and Jerusalem.

Students advise that you try to fly direct (if the cost is not prohibitive) to minimize the chance of lost luggage and changed flight schedules.

Try not to arrive late Friday or on Saturday.  Since it will be Shabbat, it may be more difficult and costly to get from the airport to your apartment.  Additionally, banks, most stores, and HUC-JIR will be closed. 

When booking your flight, you may want to leave your May 2020 return date open. It might be a good idea to ask your family/friends/rabbi if they have trusted travel agents to assist with purchasing an open-ended ticket. If you enjoy teenagers, and noise is not a problem, you might want to chaperone a NFTY flight.  Call the national NFTY office ( for more information. Other students have staffed Birthright trips ( Just be sure to check the time limitations on the return segment.


Apply for your visa 

Note: The below information serves as a guideline.   There have been cases where the policies and procedures of the Consulates change without our knowledge, so please be sure to contact your closest consulate to check what you need to do.  Let Nancy Lewitt know if any of the below is incorrect so that we can update our information. 

Get your visa in the United States. Do not wait until you get the Israel.  It can take up to a month to process your visa application, so plan accordingly.

Though it is possible to get your visa in Israel, the process here has proved far more difficult for students than it has been to simply get it in the States.

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists the following as the necessary documents for obtaining a student visa:

A/2 Student visa

This visa is granted to those who want to study in Israel in elementary and high schools, academic institutions, yeshivot and youth institutions of the Jewish Agency. The visa is valid for up to one year and for multiple entrances and exits. Recipients of this visa are not permitted to work in Israel. This is the visa you should be applying for as an HUC-JIR Student.

The visa is granted to students who provide the following:

  • Completed and signed application for a visa to enter Israel 
  • Two passport pictures
  • Certification of acceptance for study at a recognized educational institution in Israel
  • Proof that the student has the financial means to pay for his studies and sustenance throughout his stay in Israel
  • A travel document that is valid for at least one year, provided that his country has a diplomatic mission in the State of Israel (The US and Canada do). If there is no such mission in Israel, the passport must be valid for the entire period of studies and another six months beyond that time. Remember to keep a note of your passport number so that you still have it at hand while your passport is at the consulate.
  • Payment of the fee, currently $50. 
  • MASA letter. If you will be receiving a MASA grant or scholarship (see the section on “Planning for Finances and Financial Aid" ) be sure to include your confirmation letter from them.  It may help cut through some of the bureaucracy and possibly you will be exempted from paying the visa fee.  

A/4 Visa for Spouses/Children

This visa is granted to spouses and children (specifically minors) of recipients of the A/2 visas you as students will be applying for. 

The visa will be granted under the following conditions:

  • The applicant is the spouse and/or minor child of a person who received an A/2 visa
  • An application for an A/4 visa has been filled out and signed, and attached to the visa application of the person they are accompanying 
  • Payment of the fee (currently $50)
  • Two passport pictures (5x5 cm)

If you are getting an A/4 visa for your spouse, the two of you should travel to the consulate and apply together, as they may have additonal questions. As with applying for other visa types, it is best to contact your consulate directly in advance to ask about any additonal documentation they may require. The advantage of getting an A/4 visa as a spouse is that it is valid for the same amount of time as the A/2 visa, as opposed to the 3-month period for which the B/2 visa is valid.

B/2 Tourist Visa for S/Os

SOs will need to obtain a B/2 Tourist Visa.  It is important to note that B/2 Tourist Visas are valid for up to three months, and as such will need to be renewed while the SO is in Israel. This can be done at the Regional Population Offices for the Ministry of the Interior. The list of their locations is available here. In addition to gathering these documents, we recommend that you contact your closest consulate (listed here) before you go to apply in order to ask if they will require any additional documents. Remember to keep copies of all documents that you hand in to the consulate, including your passport. In the past, students have been asked to provide:

  • A copy of your medical exam
  • Proof of health insurance coverage (either coverage from the US or the email that Helen Linden will send you with the application for Harel Insurance)
  • Your plane ticket. Some consulates insist on seeing a ticket for a return flight. If you only have one way booked, the acceptance letter from Helen (see below) seems to help. 
  • Proof that you have paid a deposit for the Year in Israel program. If that is the case, the Admissions office is happy to help you secure these documents- please email to request any additional information you may need, or if you have any questions.
  • A letter of acceptance from the Jerusalem campus. If so, write to Helen Linden in the Jerusalem office at and she will email the letter to you. She will need to know your name as it appears in your passport, your nationality and  your passport number.

Unfortunately, no two consulates seem to operate the same.  Thus we cannot recommend strongly enough that you call the consulate in advance to inquire what documents they require and still bring every piece of documentation that you imagine might be necessary. If you have to travel to your consulate, we recommend that you add an additional day or two to your travel time in order to collect any missing documentation and to be able to go back to the consulate.

Important note: Make sure that you receive a "multiple-entry visa" for a "stay of 12 months" so that if the visa is valid from date of issue (rather than from date of entry to Israel ) it will still cover you until the end of the YII program.

If there is no consulate within driving distance in your region, you may get your student visa by mail.  Again, check the consulate website to find your nearest consulate and call to find out what information you need to mail to them. Allow up to a month to receive your student visa by mail, and realize that you will need to mail in your passport, so make sure you have enough time to receive your passport and visa back by mail. Make copies of all documents you send by mail, including your passport and keep a note of your passport number which you may need for additional purposes.

Although we strongly recommend getting your student visa while still abroad, it is possible for you to come into Israel on a B2 tourist visa, which is free when you arrive at Ben Gurion airport, and change to a A2 student visa here.  This is done at the Ministry of Interior offices in Jerusalem within 3 months of arriving in Israel.   The Office of Student Services will help you set up the appointment after you arrive in Jerusalem.  Bring with you your original birth certificate and a letter from your rabbi, on congregational letterhead, stating that you are Jewish and a member of the congregation. Spouses and family members should bring the same type of letter. Make sure your name matches your passport on all documents requested (maiden names can cause issues).

Important Note: Jews by choice should get their A2 student visa abroad, not in Israel.  The Ministry of Interior requests a lot of additional paperwork, and there have been cases where they have not recognized a non-Orthodox conversion. Save yourself the aggravation, do it before you arrive here.  In addition to the above documents, you will need to submit a copy of your conversion papers. 


Send advance letter

One month before your arrival, you must email Helen Linden, Administrative Assistant for the YII Program at the following information:

  • Date of arrival, flight number, and time
  • Short term and permanent housing arrangements
  • Whether you will have a significant other and/or children coming with you
  • Your nationality and passport number (and the  nationality and passport numbers of family members/SOs coming with you)