Israel is a popular destination, especially with the Jewish community. The conditions for obtaining a visa vary, depending on your nationality, and these are described below.
Will I need a visa?
Israel has reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries, which allow visits of up to 90 days. Visitors entering via Ben Gurion airport are given an entry card instead of an entry stamp in their passport. You will need to keep your entry card with your passport until you leave. It is evidence of your legal entry into Israel and may be required, particularly at any crossing points into the Occupied Palestinian Territories. If you are British, your passport will need to be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date you enter Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Evidence of a previous visit to another country in the region – such as an entry/exit stamp in your passport – does not normally prevent entry into Israel, but it can lead to additional questioning at the border.
Beyond the 90-day limit, you may need a visa of one of the following types:
• Immigration visa
• A/1 temporary resident visa
• A/2 student visa
• A/3 clergy visa
• A/4 visa for spouses and children
• B/1 work visa
• B/2 visitor’s visa
How do I apply for an entry visa?
The application process will depend on the type of visa you require, and on your status and nationality.
If you want to take up permanent residence in Israel, you must be Jewish, or must be an American investor intending to substantially support an Israeli business. If you are Jewish, and intending to migrate to Israel, there are a number of specialised aliyah organisations that can assist you.
We will look at some of your options below.
The Israeli Law of Return 1950 determines the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel. The law is an expression of the connection between the Jewish people and their homeland. Jews – i.e. a person born to a Jewish mother, or who is a convert to Judaism, and is not a member of another religion – returning to Israel are considered people who were away, or whose ancestors were away, from Israel, and are now returning to their country. The immigration visa granted under the Law of Return, called oleh visa, will entitle you to a teudat oleh (immigration document) and a teudat zehut (ID card). This will give you full residence rights and access to all applicable social benefits in Israel.
If this applies to you, your visa application will be somewhat different to those of non-Jewish descent. According to an arrangement between the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency, the latter handles immigration (aliya) to Israel. They check candidates, provide advice and guidance, and see to absorption arrangements, referrals to immigrant centres, places of study, employment, etc. An aliya emissary of the Jewish Agency who recommends a person’s immigration will transfer the application, together with his written recommendation, to an official representative of the State of Israel.
Non-Jews without family bonds in Israel can stay in the country longer than three months, provided they find an Israeli employer and obtain a work visa (see below). It is unusual for non-Jews to seek or be granted permanent residency in Israel, and this is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Temporary resident visa
An A/1 temporary resident visa is given to a person who is eligible for immigration (aliya) and has completed the examination process with the aliya representative of the Jewish Agency. Your application will need to be examined and approved by a diplomatic/consular representative at an Israeli mission.
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.
B/2 visitor's visa
A B/2 visa is granted to someone who wishes to stay in Israel for only a short time (for a visit, tourism, a business meeting or to study in a Hebrew ulpan). Anyone who enters Israel on a B/2 visa is not allowed to work in Israel.
This visa is valid for up to three months from the date of issue. The duration of your stay in Israel will be determined by the border police. If you want to extend your visit, you may submit an application at one of the regional population administration offices of the Ministry of the Interior.
You will need to submit the following documents:
• A passport/travel document that is valid for at least six months beyond the period of your stay in Israel
• A completed and signed visa application
• A photocopy of your travel document
• Proof of sufficient financial means for your visit to Israel (such as bank statements from the last three months)
• Proof of round-trip airline tickets to and from Israel
• Two passport pictures (five centimetres by five centimetres)
• Proof of payment of the fee
How much does it cost?
The cost of your visa will depend on its type, but some general costs are:
• Permanent residence visa: US$197
• Temporary residence visa: US$47
• Student visa: US$47
• Visitor visa: US$24
How long does it take?
The granting of a visa is said to take around five to seven days in the USA, but may take longer in other countries. A work visa may take from four to eight weeks (for example, because your employer may need to be approached by the immigration authorities).
There is the possibility of an expedited visa application service.
What will I need to apply for a work visa?
The B/1 work visa is for someone whose stay in Israel is approved for a limited period of time for the purpose of work; it is thus a short term visa. This visa is given to experts and artists, among others, and is granted solely with the approval of the Ministry of the Interior. You may also apply for a specialist work visa, either in an academic or a non-academic field. It is illegal for an expat to work without a work visa, so you will need one if you are taking up employment in Israel.
You will need a job offer before you can apply for the B/1 visa, which is open to specialists such as scientists, tech workers and academics. You will need:
• Approval from the Ministry of the Interior
• A medical examination
• An interview
• A validated certificate of good conduct
• A completed application form
• Fingerprints and photographs
• A signed letter from your employer relating to your hire
You may also need a police clearance check and apostilled marriage and birth certificates for any dependants who are accompanying you. In addition, you may need a declaration of your salary.
The cost is currently 9,675 ILS (US$2,740) plus a submission fee of 1,190 ILS (US$337).
Note that most visas are on a temporary basis and will initially apply only for 30 days. Before this period is up, you will need to ask for an extension, which can be for up to a year, and will allow you to enter and leave the country as you wish. Further extensions can apply for up to five years.
You can also apply for an entrepreneur or self-employment visa: the innovation visa (also known as the start-up visa) and the expert visa for expat entrepreneurs. US investors may also apply for the B/5 Israel investor visa. You will need to supply business plans and proof of funding. Israel currently has an Innovation Authority and you can contact them for more information regarding ideas for technological development. Contact the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry in relation to investor visas.
Bringing a pet into Israel
To bring a cat or dog into Israel, your pet will need:
• A microchip
• Vaccinations and proof of vaccinations
• A rabies titer test