How To Move To Israel - The Definitive Guide
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Apply For A Visa[back to top]
When travelling to Israel it is essential that your passport still has six months left run. A short stay visa will allow a visitor to remain in the country for up to three months. Requests for work permits must be made to the Ministry of the Interior.
Some people can obtain a tourist visa upon entry into Israel free of charge, although this depends upon the country of origin. Residents of most European countries will qualify for this, though a complete list of qualifying nations can be obtained from the website of the Israeli government. These visas can be extended when you are in the country though this will incur a fee.
Immigration visas are processed via the Jewish agency, which makes the recommendation for the visa to be issued. Work permits can be issued while you are still in your country of origin or while you are in Israel on a tourist visa. No foreign worker is permitted to work in Israel without a valid permit. It is the employer who must apply for the work permit. The worker will have their passport stamped with the visa which carries the name of the employer. After one year an application must be made to extend the permit, even if it was originally issued for a longer period of time.
Workers should be aware that a work permit will allow them to obtain employment for one specific trade and will not cover them to work in another, so a teacher will not be permitted to obtain office work during the school holidays.
Obtaining Israeli citizenship can be done in a number of ways. The first of these is birth and citizenship is granted if one of the parents is Israeli or if they have been born outside the country to Israeli parents. The law of return also allows Israeli citizenship to be granted. This means that every Jewish person has the right to be resident in Israel. They arrive in the country with the status of an ‘oleh’ and can choose to accept or reject Israeli citizenship within three months. This does not apply to those who may pose a threat to national security or who have a criminal past.
Some can also become citizens by residence, if they used to be citizens of British Mandatory Palestine. Citizens who obtain nationality by naturalisation may do so if they have been resident in the country for a minimum of three years out of the previous five or if they have permission to remain in the country on a permanent basis. They will also have to declare that they will renounce their own nationality. Each case is considered on its merits and some requirements may be wavered in some cases.
Find A Job[back to top]
It is not really possible to find a job in Israel before actually moving to the country unless you are transferred there by the firm that you currently work for. Even industries like the medical profession will require you to take conversion exams so this is something that you will need to do before applying for a license to practice in the country.
It is much easier to move to Israel and begin searching for work then. Residents of most European countries are able to visit Israel for up to 90 days without needing a visa. Once a job has been secured a work permit must be applied for. If there is a firm offer of employment and there is a valid reason why the position cannot be given to an Israeli worker, then obtaining the work permit should be relatively straightforward.
There are some industries – like the medical profession – which require skilled staff. Teaching is also a popular profession with foreign workers as there is a need for qualified professionals, particularly language teachers. There is also regular recruiting taking place for professionals in the construction industry.
Around 12% of the workforce in Israel is from abroad. There is a general federation of labour in Israel which is open to all workers although membership is not compulsory. Members pay a fee of between 3 and 6% of salaries and this covers health insurance, social service and trade union activities. They are active in union organizations, social services, educational services and business development.
There is a minimum monthly wage and workers can claim benefits from the social security system if they have been making contributions. The minimum wage works out at 47.5% of the average wage and there is an excellent healthcare system in place which is available to all workers. Working conditions are generally very good although it has been noted that enforcement of employment law is a little lax when it comes to foreign workers.
The national languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, with English as the most commonly used foreign language. It is important that workers are able to converse in at least one of these, particularly in professions such as nursing where there is a lot of contact with the public.
Your contract of employment will give you all the details you need on your working conditions, pay, holiday entitlement and any other benefits that may be applicable. It is essential to read it carefully to ensure you are aware of your conditions of employment.
Rent Property[back to top]
In Israel rental agreements for properties will vary. The basic information it should contain is details on the tenant and the landlord. Prospective tenants are advised to check out the ownership of the property as it has been quite common in recent years for landlords to be impersonated and collect monies to which they are not entitled.
Most leases are for a duration of one year and a tenant will not be eligible to break this early unless the landlord has already broken the terms of the lease. If a tenant breaks the contract early they are responsible for paying the rent for the rest of the agreed term. If an extension has been agreed, then the agreement will show the rental amount for the option period and show the tenant’s right to give notice.
The tenancy agreement should include a detailed description of the property and any furniture that is included. Details on any damaged items or the general condition of the property should also be included so that tenants are not unfairly charged for repairs. It should also make clear that reasonable wear and tear is not the responsibility of the tenant.
Tenants will have to pay a security deposit. This is refundable when the tenant leaves but may take several months to be refunded. This is to ensure that no bills have been left unpaid by the tenant. This is usually the equivalent of three months rent. Both tenants and landlords are advised to have everything checked by a lawyer prior to signing.
There are some areas which expats are advised to avoid when choosing housing, mainly those which are frequently sites of civil unrest. It is wise to take into consideration religious and cultural differences when deciding on a place to live. Most Israelis are hospitable people and will be welcoming, but there is a minority who do not like to mix. It is also a good idea to take into account the locations of the nearest hospitals, schools and employment opportunities. Average rental prices can range between 1000 shekels and 5000 shekels, depending upon the size and location of the property.
Many families do have domestic help, particularly if they are resident in a larger property. There are agencies who can help to recruit staff for you and it is recommended that you check all references before hiring anybody to work in your home.
Buy Property[back to top]
When purchasing a property in Israel there are several regulations that you should be aware of in advance. The first one is to ensure that you have a different lawyer to your buyer. In Israel it is legal for the same lawyer to represent both the buyer and the seller, but having your own will avoid any conflict of interest during the transaction. When purchasing a new build property off plan, the buyer is liable for the legal fees of the builder so having your own lawyer will ensure that this process runs smoothly and fairly.
Costs to be taken into consideration include purchase tax. It is applicable to all property purchases and your lawyer will be able to advise you on the amount you must pay and when. It is dependent upon the purchase price. Legal fees can be as much as 1.5% of the purchase price plus taxes but this does not include fees that need to be paid for registering the property. Expats should also be aware of the cost of transferring monies and converting currencies. There may also be maintenance charges if there are common areas, such as in an apartment building and all homeowners must pay municipal taxes.
Purchasers are protected by law now after the collapse of several construction companies which lost purchasers their new homes. Monies are deposited into a special account, as several payments must be made while the property is being built, and this is protected from loss. If buying an existing property, monies are held in Escrow with the lawyer until all the legalities are completed.
House prices will vary in range according to the size of the property and its location. Small properties in a small town will be much cheaper than a house in a busier area. Many sellers will be prepared to negotiate on price so it is a good idea to make an offer lower than the asking price in the first instance. There are many estate agents located in all the major towns and cities in Israel and most have websites that will list all the properties that they have for sale.
Expats do not tend to have specific communities but will buy in the same areas as there are some divisions in certain areas between people of different religions and social class. This is something that should be taken into consideration when choosing which area to buy in, along with proximity to the place of employment, schools and medical facilities.
Register For Healthcare[back to top]
QUICK LINK: Israel health insurance
Israel has an excellent standard of healthcare and is one of the highest ranked countries in the world. All citizens are entitled to the same quality of healthcare, regardless of their financial circumstances.
The system used in Israel takes its roots from the system used during British rule. In 1973 a law was passed which required all employers to provide medical insurance for their workers, by making a payment to the Health Maintenance Fund, which all workers are members of. Another law came into effect in 1995 which meant that all workers had to pay into one of the four health insurances which are available. Each insurance is required to provide a minimum amount of health services and packages and some services were brought under the direct control of the department of health. All workers, regardless of country of origin, are entitled to the same health services provided they are paying into the system.
There are a number of publicly run hospitals and several private hospitals which are available to residents of the country. The facilities and equipment in these hospitals are up to date and the hospitals are staffed by fully trained doctors and nurses, some of whom will have studied at universities in the UK and the USA.
Those going to Israel are advised to ensure that their routine vaccinations are up to date and in addition should have vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B. If you should require regular prescription medication it is a good idea to check in advance if it is available in Israel. It may be that you will need to consult a doctor regularly to obtain your medication or it could be freely available over the counter at a pharmacy. There is also the possibility that it is not available at all, in which case you should consult your own doctor at home to discuss alternatives.
Some health risks in the country, such as West Nile virus, are passed on by insect bites, so it is advisable to regularly use insect repellents to reduce the risks.
The emergency medical service in Israel is called Magen David Adom and this service can be contacted by dialing 101. They can administer emergency medical treatment or provide an ambulance service to the nearest hotel. Those with private medical insurance may be able to make use of a private ambulance service, though details of which service will be provided with details when they join.
Open A Bank Account[back to top]
If you are living and working in Israel then a bank account makes life easier, particularly as all expat workers are now allowed to open an account, and not just Israeli citizens. Most banks that accept foreign nationals as account holders will ask for a deposit, but the Israeli post office runs a Postal Bank which allows an account to be opened with no funds in advance.
Expats should note that most banks in the main cities have English speaking staff, as this language is widely spoken, although branches in more rural areas may only have staff that speak Hebrew. There are several Israeli banks to choose from, such as the Arab-Israel Bank, Bank of Jerusalem, First International Bank of Israel and the Union Bank of Israel, but there are also foreign banks that have branches in the country. These include Barclays, HSBC and Citibank.
Most of these banks will offer very similar services. They will have telephone and online banking facilities and many of these services will be available in English. Banks can also provide all paperwork in English if required. Israeli law states that all bank statements have to be kept for a minimum of seven years. Cheques are normally issued with current accounts, although regularly writing bad cheques can lead to the account holder being blacklisted by the banks. In Israel it is also possible to deposit a post dated cheque for the bank to process on the specified date. Cheques and debit cards usually incur a fee for use although fees will vary considerably. It is a good idea to shop around before deciding on one particular bank.
Credit facilities are usually available, though some banks may offer them automatically and some may need the client to request them. There is a usually a small charge made for overdraft facilities and this will vary from bank to bank. There are two types of credit card in Israel. One is for using within the country itself and the other is for international transactions that may be in another currency. Credit cards are normally only issued to those who have lived and worked in the country for several months and the requirement is that all funds used are paid back the following month with no spreading of payments. Debit cards are standard issue to current account holders and most banks have an ATM located outside to give the user 24 hour access to their funds. There are daily limits placed on withdrawals, though these will vary between banks.
There are several types of accounts available. The most widely used is the current account, although unlike most other countries, these will offer a small interest rate. Savings accounts are similar to those in other countries, with different rates of interest depending upon the type of account. There are also fixed term accounts which lock the money away for a fixed period of time and usually give the account holder little or no access to it.
Accounts can also be opened in currencies other than the Israel Shekel, including the American dollar and British pound. These accounts are a good idea if you have funds being sent from abroad in other currencies, but charges will be made if you are carrying out transactions in the Israeli Shekel.
Opening an account is not a complicated process. Foreign nationals will need to show their passport for identification purposes. Other documentation required will vary, but items such as references from employers and your bank at home as well as copies of statements, will help with the application process. Some expats may find it beneficial to open an account before they arrive in the country with one of the international foreign banks.
It is advisable for expats to get to know their bank manager, as some regulations on banking in Israel are fairly strict, but managers are able to be flexible if they are made aware of special requirements in advance.
In the cities the bank opening hours will vary depending upon the bank, but most are open Sunday to Friday in the mornings from 8.30 am to 12.30pm, and from Monday to Thursday in the afternoons from 4pm to 5pm. In smaller towns banks may not follow the same pattern and opening hours are likely to be reduced.
Learn The Language[back to top]
Israel has two official languages – Hebrew and Arabic. The most commonly used second language is English and other languages that are used regularly include Russian, French, Italian, Romanian and Yiddish although as there are immigrants from many countries this is just a small example of the languages spoken. Both Arabic and Hebrew are written right to left.
Hebrew was widely spoken in biblical times and then became a lost language for centuries, used only for prayer, until its revival towards the end of the 19th century. It is now widely used in business, schools, universities, government and legal business. It is compulsory to learn Hebrew in Arabic schools. Arabic is used mainly within the Arabic communities. It became one of the official languages of the country in 2006 and children in Hebrew schools will take lessons in Arabic.
English as a language began to lose its importance in Israel when the country obtained independence from Britain, although it is still used in business, particularly in international matters. English is not permitted in any official government business. However, most people in the country will have a good working and conversational knowledge of English, making it relatively easy for English speakers to get by in Israel.
As expats travel around the country they will notice that nearly every street and road sign appears in both Hebrew and Arabic, with the vast majority also having an English translation. There are English language books, newspapers and magazines and it is possible to receive English language television and radio stations.
It would not be necessary to learn either of the two official languages, although a few basic phrases may come in useful. Those moving to Israel for work may find that their employer will offer or arrange language training in whichever language would be used on a daily basis, but there are schools which offer language courses if this is not the case. Language schools will offer a range of courses, from short intensive courses to evening courses which can take several months to complete.
Both Hebrew and Arabic use a different script to western languages and this may cause some problems for westerners when learning either language, but those who only ever need them for conversation can take lessons which focus on the speaking of the languages rather than the writing. As the languages are also written right to left, many may find that hard to get used to, as to westerners, this is ‘back to front’.
Choose A School[back to top]
In Israel education is compulsory for 11 years. There are no fees to pay for those children aged between 5 and 15. There are 6 years of primary education followed by secondary education. The system in Israel is now much more uniform, after many years of separate schools which were determined by the child’s religion and class background. There are still different types of schools but they are administered now by a central body. There are public Jewish schools and public schools which are not based on any religion. There are also public schools for Arab children and private schools which are often run by Christian organisations. No school is permitted to exclude a child on the basis of its faith.
Jewish schools teach in Hebrew, in Arab schools the language is Arabic. Each language is also taught in the other schools as a subject and children will also learn English. Instruction in other languages will depend upon the school. Most schools are subsidised by the state and the Israeli government spends a great deal of money on education each year.
There are 8 universities in Israel based in cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There is also an Open University which has been designed in a similar way to the British OU and which focuses on adult learning.
Subjects which are compulsory include the aforementioned languages and religious education is compulsory in faith schools. Maths and sciences are also taught to all students along with history and geography. Modern subjects such as information technology are also becoming more common.
Children study for public examinations known as Bagrut at the end of their time in high school. Without these examinations study at university will not be possible.
The quality of teaching staff in the country suffered for a number of years due to the low pay. Many have left the country to work abroad for better paid work. Teachers are only allowed to take up teaching positions in the country if they are suitably qualified.
For the children of expats the secular schools or private schools are usually used, although there is no reason they cannot be enrolled in a Hebrew or Arab school if you prefer. There are international schools which offer a different curriculum if you prefer your children to obtain international qualifications. Entry is not just a matter of filling out forms though, and each child will be assessed to ensure that they are suitable candidates.
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