So continuing on with the aliyah process…
There is a lot that has to be done before you actually MAKE aliyah. There are applications to fill out, forms to give in, pictures to take, letters and proofs of…things (birth, residency, marriage/divorce if applicable, Jewishness). As you know, I went through an amazing organization called Nefesh B’Nefesh which literally means “Soul-in-Soul” (like hand-in-hand, except souls) which helped with the paperwork and the process. They have their own forms, which means more paperwork beforehand but the tradeoff for help with the Israeli end is so worth it. They really want your aliyah to succeed, so they make sure you are prepared as much as you can be. I hyper-plan anyway, so this worked out well.
I started my aliyah process early, about a year before I actually made aliyah, which gave me plenty of time to fill things out, get all the proofs and documents I needed, and make the preparations I could beforehand—getting set up for Ulpan Etzion, and getting my degree recognized (more on that later, because the Ministry of Education didn’t exactly do that correctly…) and really make sure that this was the right thing for me.
Before you actually get on the plane you have to go to NBN and/or a Jewish Agency (Sochnut Hayehudit) office to fill out an application and give in the proofs listed above. If you go through NBN, you have an online application to fill out which is very easy—you scan in your documents and upload them. Once all that is in, you wait, they get back to you, and then if you are approved, you get a visa (by the way, this is for olim chadashim; ezrach oleh, katin chozer, and toshav chozer are slightly different).
I’m not going to say this was all easy—it took me two or three tries to get the proof of Judaism letter right-because of the wording! And I had to find my high school report cards because I didn’t have tax papers and this and that. And then I took my pilot trip (after I had submitted my entry-exit Israel list, and another form I had needed to change). I looked into different places for work (I already knew where I wanted to live and go to Ulpan; I looked into that once I decided I was making aliyah and so many of my friends went to Ulpan Etzion, which is the “young professionals ulpan” in Jerusalem and now in Haifa as well) and talked to people about what might be available.
I did a lot of asking questions and talking to people about where they went to ulpan, budgeting, shopping, jobs, salaries, rents, etc. In talking to people, I found out that there are so many different options and that it’s almost impossible to plan everything before you get here.
Next up: My flight and starting life in Israel!