What kind of questions will Israeli immigration / security ask me?

Ahh, the famed Israeli security. Highly regarded and the role model for many of the world’s travel hubs. But also mightily intimidating when experiencing it for the first time!

Let’s face it, security at most borders across the globe has become more stringent in recent times. Just a sign of the times and the way it is, unfortunately. However, in Israel the security is just that bit more intense and thorough.

And the questions they barrage you with at any of the access points into Israel (when boarding for flights AND arriving at Ben Gurion airport, as well as the three  Jordan-Israel border crossings, at King Allenby Bridge, Sheikh Hussein and Wadi Arava, and the Taba crossing into Egypt) are asked for a very good reason: to keep Israelis and visitors to Israel safe (yes, Israel is safe to visit!).

Unfortunately, that strict adherence to security can also appear at times rude and arrogant and leave a less than shining first impression (Tim Marshall from Sky News had a recent run-in with apathetic staff, and Bollywood star Aftab Shivdasani was also put through the grill regarding his visits to Gulf countries). But most times immigration personnel are friendly and courteous, so if you run across a “bad one”, don’t let that mar your experience of the Holy Land.

If you’re worried about the Arab stamps in your passport read this, and if you’re worried about having an Israeli stamp in your passport with future visits to Arab countries planned, read this.

So, what questions will they ask?

First up, if you have a Muslim-sounding name, or have visas from Islamic countries in your passport, you are likely to face a tough round of questioning. You were probably already aware of that though…

Single men traveling alone can also attract a lot of questions but if you have a partner with you the questioning should be less intensive. Couples are treated as being less “suspicious” than lone male travelers (or groups of males).

If you have traveled to Israel recently on a previous occasion, you may be asked why you’ve chosen to return so soon. The more often you go to Israel, the more suspicious you may seem to officials, so you may be questioned for a longer period on frequent trips.

You will almost certainly be asked for the details of where you plan to stay. If you’re heading for a hotel or hostel, you may need to show your booking confirmation. And if you’re heading to a friend’s or family, you may be required to provide the life-story of the friend/family in question!

Some of the questions may also appear totally irrelevant, such as “What school did you go to?”, and they may be asked repeatedly by different personnel. But the aim here is to see if you’re consistent with your story and aren’t stumbling or fluffing answers. Your body language will also be carefully scrutinized.

And just so you know, when leaving Israel that barrage of questioning may also occur once again…add an extra hour to your check-in time if you’re worried about not having time to check out the duty-free shops…

Our top tip

Be honest, be honest, be honest! If you’re a genuine tourist, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

And stay cool – those immigration guys are only doing their job!

41 Comments

  1. FrequentIsraelVisitor

    December 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Actually, the worst thing you can do is be honest. Don’t say you went anywhere near the West Bank, unless you are or look like a settler. Its best to not admit you’ve ever stayed overnight in Jerusalem – tell them you visited Tel Aviv and the Herziliya beaches, and they will consider you a real tourist that is no threat. The majority of border/security agents are rude, its the rarity to meet the polite one. Its actually more accurate to say that Israelis so-called “security” checks are just plain racist – they have a long habit of not admitting people of Christian, Buddhist, Bahai and the Muslim faiths, not just famous people. Make up the name of a friend with a popular Jewish name, and that will be better. Also, they don’t like the lone, stupid back packers, so much better to make the appearances of a business person working “in partnership” with an Israeli company (again, make up a Jewish name of that one, and you’ll be good to go). If you are Jewish but never applied for an Israeli citizenship, you will get extra questioning – they want to see how “loyal” a Jew you are.

    • Ashley

      December 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Frequent one, appreciate the comment but a bit OTT…”make up the name of a friend”?? And what happens when they check that name out…?
      I’m not Jewish but have been through many checkpoints and borders, and have had security agents call an Israeli friend and even read letters I had sent to a girlfriend…
      Just guessing, but fictitious friends may well land you a strip session with a burly 6 foot security guard…

    • Kolumn9

      January 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      This is really bad advice. The security agents are trained to detect lying and signs of nervousness. The questions are just ways of checking out how you respond to mild pressure. They have talked with thousands of visitors and have a damn good ability to spot made up stories.

      The best approach is to smile and be concise and honest.

    • Svetlana

      August 26, 2012 at 11:52 am

      this is a lie!!! i am a christian and was always allowed to Israel. my Muslim Tatar friends also visited their friends in Israel!

    • Achjani

      July 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      That is absolutely terrible advice! I’ve lived in Israel for a year now and also met people working at the airport security. First of all, compared to 4-5 years ago, they have been trained to be a lot friendlier (which they definitely are).
      If they find out you’re lying you will to 95% miss your flight because they’ll keep you there. How do you explain that you’re lying? If you say you just made it up because it seemed safer you’ll have a sh*tload of problems.
      DO NOT take this advice.

    • Gil

      August 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      I find your post border-line anti-semitic. Especially that last line. You clearly know nothing about Israel, your comment is a liability with dire consequences for those that followed your advice.

    • Rippy the Gator

      October 9, 2015 at 4:52 am

      I guess your last effort to smuggle a bomb into Jerusalem didn’t go so well, eh, Nasrallah?

  2. rasha

    March 20, 2012 at 2:49 am

    i would like to visit israel but i m kinda worried i have arabic name but i m EU citizen and am concerned that i ll have problems with security is there any advice please i ve been reading many bad stories lol they really scared me.

    • Achjani

      July 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      There should be no problem.
      Whatsoever…
      Just be honest because you’ll get some more questioning at border-control. Otherwise you’ll get a lot more questioning at border-control ;-)

  3. Theo

    April 18, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Being honest is always an advantage being silly is always a problem. If you are muslim why would you visit Israel? For someone who trully loves Israel there is no fear crossing its borders. Honesty honesty honesty that is the key. Donot put yourself in political things and enjoy the sun the beaches and every single attraction this land can give you.
    A quick question tho…
    Why would someone who is a Jew and has not applied for citizeship be worried for extra questions? It is no mandatory for a Jew to return to Israel after a certain age… Pls check aliyah’s website for such infos.

    • Gil

      August 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Theo:

      If you were a Muslim you might want to visit Israel because your family live there. I’ve met Muslim tourists in Israel too from a gay muslim from Dubai interested in the gay scene in Tel Aviv to a muslim Arab Israeli from Germany. All kinds of people like to visit Israel, the fact that they might be Muslim often makes no difference and they will be just as welcome.

    • unkonw

      December 13, 2016 at 8:21 am

      It is also the Holy Land for muslims. Obviously, that is why.

  4. Svetlana

    August 26, 2012 at 11:48 am

    i met only smiley boys and girls on the security control! they always asked me to tell in details how i met my Israeli boyfriend and where he is living. But after that i always saw a smile and “welcome to Israel” even in Russian!!! i dont understand why some people are irritated with such a strict security – it is ur own safety, guys! Before terrorists, the israeli security procedure was not like this – and i prefer to answer more questions than become a hostage!

  5. Bill Obamabush

    September 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Hey, my name is Osama Ghaddafi bin-Quaeda al-Mohammed Sheikh Saddam Zarqawi Nasrallah Hitler. Do you think I might have any trouble getting through security?

    • Ashley

      October 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I think you’ll get the VIP treatment :-)

      • Jill

        May 19, 2015 at 2:06 pm

        Nice one hhhhh

    • Will

      September 3, 2013 at 8:58 am

      You just made my day!!

  6. Tarek

    July 14, 2014 at 9:20 am

    I’m Egyptian & would love to visit Tel-Aviv especially, it reminds me of my city Alexandria , but the Alexandria of my Parents & Grandparents, the clean , beautiful, cosmopolitan Alexandria, before Nasser changed our Egyptian identity from Egyptians to “Arabs”

  7. Nannette Enriquez

    August 20, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Going to Israel in 2016.

    • Ashley

      August 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Excellent! If you need any help, let us know!

      • Zel

        October 2, 2015 at 10:33 am

        My mother is work in israel, is it ok i go there?

      • Princess

        January 22, 2016 at 2:15 pm

        Hi everyone! Specially Ashley!

        My mom is working in israel for almost 11 years now and her employer is going to invite me this year. Do you think i can pass the immigration questions? I am quite scared cause im travelling alone and it will be my first time going out of the country.

        Im going to stay there for three months to help my mom and visit the country. We’ve never seen each other for like 8 years now.

        The embassy told her employer that i will need a visa before going there.

        Any tips and suggestions please?

        Princess from philippines
        Thank you!

        • Ashley

          January 23, 2016 at 8:43 pm

          Hi Princess, I think you will be fine, but just bear in mind that they may ask you a few questions and require evidence of your plans to visit your Mum. Plus you’ll likely need a return ticket and plenty of funds to show them you’re coming on vacation. Hope it works out for you – and enjoy Israel!
          Ashley

        • Alex

          January 3, 2017 at 9:21 am

          Hi Princess! How did your trip go? I wanna go to Israel this year to visit my friend’s family, but I’m intimidated by the immigration too haha

      • Ana

        August 16, 2016 at 11:19 am

        hi ashley do you think its safe for me and my kids to travel to israel now…this will be our first visit to israel and im from the pacific islands and i never see guns,bombs etc in my life

  8. Ken

    October 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I’m Indonesian and i can’t hardly wait to going to Israel next month.

  9. Princess

    January 24, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks Ashley!

    Do you know how much money i need to show them? And is it really required for me to get a visa first before buying a ticket?

    I’m so lucky that my Mom’s employer is incharge of all my requirements. He wants everything to be complete before going there!

    Anyway, thank you so much for your response! <3

    • Ashley

      January 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Princess, I’m sorry but I don’t have an exact figure for you, but I would imagine they’d want to see “sufficient funds”, meaning enough to cover living expenses and travel / accommodation fees.

      • Maria

        February 23, 2016 at 4:38 pm

        hi Ashley,

        my family will be visiting Israel on Holy Week to see jerusalem and also visit my mother in law which is working there for 10 years now. Im a Philippine passport holder working in UK. Just worried as we might be denied entry as my friend family who went there recently has not been given entry clearance in the airport in reason that she got daughter working there. is it true that if you got family member working in israel you will not be given an entry clearance, i was searching the net and i cant find that requirement.

        • Ashley

          February 24, 2016 at 7:03 am

          Good question, and not sure I can help you, sorry! If you have a return ticket and plenty of funds to show for a holiday, I would have thought that was enough. You might want to check with the Israeli Embassy in the UK and make clear the issue…not sure what else to suggest. Good luck!

    • Tracy Amrani

      April 14, 2016 at 5:43 am

      if you are unsure when coming to Israel and have a local Israeli vouching for you, get them to write a letter, in Hebrew, with all your passport details, reason of visit and their phone number. The border control may call them to verify your story and it will back your claims.

  10. Sean

    March 29, 2016 at 5:53 am

    Hi Ashley,

    I’m planning on visiting Israel and Jordan (flying in and out of Israel) from Canada in August.

    I was planning on a day spent in the Palestinian territories, but this seems like it might be a problem? I’ve seen advice when asked by security to say you’re not planning on visiting West-Bank – however the advice above says to be honest. What do you think is the best course of action?

    • Ashley

      March 29, 2016 at 6:08 am

      Hi Sean,
      If you’re just planning on a day trip (like this excellent day tour: http://bit.ly/1UyFIfj) then I wouldn’t even mention it. If it’s something like a business trip, and already planned, I would probably mention it, but only if asked.
      Hope that helps!

  11. evelyn

    June 4, 2016 at 5:23 am

    hellooo pls help or suggest.. im going to israel on july bec my bf israeli invite me to meet the family and the wedding… but i have a roundtrip ticket already..and my bf said nothing to worry if im there in the airport he will txt me.. why im there.. to see the msg to the imigrAtion.. im telling the truth.. how much my possible my pocket money.. plsss help me?thank u

    • Ashley

      June 5, 2016 at 6:21 am

      If everything is above board, you have a round trip ticket, and lots of money to support yourself – plus the bf waiting at the airport – there shouldn’t be any problems.

  12. Jam

    July 9, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Ashley i have an important question to ask…can a pakistani travel to israel(purely tourist purpose) on pakistani passport which says this passport is valid for all countries except israel and both countries dont have any diplomatic relations..i one want to enter from jorden? Do You ever notice pakistanis visiting Israel?

    • Ashley

      July 9, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Hi, could be tricky, sorry! Best to get in touch with your local embassy.

  13. Vicky

    July 13, 2016 at 3:13 am

    Hi Ashley,
    I’ve been working in Saudi Arabia, my grandma who is a preacher in a church and she told me that her last wish is to visit Israel. If I visit Israel I think I can’t go to Saudi again for my job.I can’t send my grandma with others because she is almost 65 and don’t know any language except Telugu.can you please guide me

  14. Grizelle

    September 25, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Hello Ashley
    I found your advises very helpful, however, you said plenty of money.
    Give us a range please. These days most arrangements are done on line and paid through credit cards. Also, you want to get money out of the ATM machine to avoid exchange fees,

  15. Abdel

    June 22, 2017 at 6:57 am

    If u have sent money in gaza will they question you about that

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