The Complications of Registering an Apartment on a Foreign Passport

By Yaacov Epstein

Congratulations, you have decided to buy an apartment in Israel. Hopefully, you will benefit greatly from this investment and this purchase will yield you good returns in every way.

But wait. If you are a foreign resident (and not an Israeli citizen) there could be possible complications that may arise in the way that you will register your apartment.

In Israel, the ownership of apartments is registered in the Land Registry and Settlement of Rights Office (TABU), or through other relevant registration venues. This is accomplished by noting the seller’s and the buyer’s name(s), identity number(s) and type of identity document(s) (Israeli ID document or Foreign Passport). This article discusses the registration of an apartment using a foreign passport.

An apartment that is registered elsewhere, as in an authorized housing company (Chevra Meshakenet) or/and in the Israel Lands Administration, is not discussed in this article, although the following discussion might also be relevant to these and other registration venues.

What is the situation when an Israeli citizen registers his/her rights using an Israeli Identity Document?

The procedure for an Israeli citizen who uses his/her Israeli identity number as it appears in this citizen’s identity document (teudat zehut) is usually simple. his/her Israel identity number never changes throughout his/her lifetime and this number is registered in all documents pertaining to the sale.

What is the situation when a foreign resident registers his/her rights using a Passport Number?

Usually the rights of those who are foreign residents (and not Israeli citizens) are registered according to their foreign passport number. However, a person’s passport number changes when his document is periodically renewed. This will create a problem when proving ownership or transferring real estate rights, as the seller’s new passport number will not match the previous passport number that is listed in the TABU. Presenting your expired passport will not solve the problem, as the TABU will only accept a valid and current identity document (e.g. a valid passport)

We do not recommend registering your apartment using your Social Security Number (SSN). Although a SSN has the similar benefit of not changing, but be aware, SSN’s are at risk to possible identity theft as they are unprotected. This is a risk that is not worth taking.

Let me suggest some basic recommendations:

  1. Before purchasing, check the expiration date on your passport and renew if necessary. If the expiration date is in the near future, it might be less expensive to renew your passport before the purchase than going through the procedure of requesting the land registrar in Israel to update your registration with your new passport number. Renewing now will give you time for five to ten years until the passport’s expiration. This way, if you are interested within this period to transfer real estate rights your passport number will still be valid.
  2. If a passport number was changed after buying an apartment one should refer to a lawyer who can renew your registration at the land registrar on your behalf. The renewal will be done by signing an affidavit and application. The Registrar may request that you present additional documents in addition to your original passport in which these rights were registered and of course also your new passport. In order to be able to update the registration of your apartment, one should save old passports to prove your ownership.
  3. Before selling, check if the property is registered on a valid passport number. When your passport expires, and before the transaction, we recommended you update the Registrar with your updated passport number in order to prevent extra complications when you will sell the apartment in the future.
  4. Have your lawyer scan your passport or your expired passport. If needed in the future, your lawyer will then be able to present a certified copy of your passport, which is considered in Israel as an original document.

The Ben Zoma says “Who is wise? One who learns from every person”, as is stated in Psalms 119:99: “From all my teachers I became wise” (Pirkey Avot 4:1) We at Epstein law have the experience and knowledge to assist you in making intelligent and wise real estate decisions in Israel. Make an appointment with us today; you have much to gain.

Note: This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with the appropriate legal advisors in your own jurisdiction.

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