How To Move To Israel
The complete guide!

Find A Job

Israel is a fascinating place to live and work, and is appealing to many expats seeking employment. It can be a challenge to find work in this thriving nation, however, and you will face a certain amount of bureaucracy. But Israel is booming, particularly in the tech industry: it’s been called ‘the start-up nation.’

If you are looking for work in the export sector, finance, IT or the medical sector, and you have the right qualifications and experience, you should stand a reasonable chance of finding employment, but note that Israelis are often highly qualified and local companies may prefer to hire citizens of the country. Competition is thus quite fierce. We will look at some of your options below.

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 exam
• 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 dependents who may accompany 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 (but will allow you to enter and leave the country as you wish). Further extensions can apply for up to 5 years.

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 specialized Aliyah organisations which can assist you.

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.

The tech industry is growing rapidly. Although the Israeli working environment is competitive, there is still a demand for specialists in both academia and outside it.

There is still a demand for teachers of English (TEFL).

It is a good idea to learn some basic Hebrew.

The Israeli working week is from Sunday-Thursday, and some people work on Friday mornings. Typical working hours are from 8.30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Working hours are set at a maximum of 43 hours per week.

The minimum wage is currently set at 4,300 ILS (US$1240) for a full-time job (186 hours per month) or 23.12 ILS (US$6.67) per hour.

The average wage in Israel has risen by 3% from 2018, and is now in the region of 11,400 ILS (US$3287).

Your spouse will be able to come in with you on a temporary residence visa but will need their own work visa if they wish to take up employment in Israel, unless you are a high tech worker, in which case your spouse may be issued with an employment authorization known as an EAS B/1 work visa.

Job Vacancies

You can make speculative applications to Israeli companies (though see below for provisos about job advertisements), both online and in person if you are already in the country. If you apply online, it is advised to begin your search about 4 months before you begin your employment (the hiring process takes about 4 months and employers typically expect you to start as soon as you reach the country).

It is estimated that 60% of vacancies in Israel are not posted publically, but are attained through networking and private contacts. Some vacancies appear in the local press, or you could go via a recruitment agency. If you are already on the ground, it is a good idea to start building up a network of professional contacts as soon as you can. If you are still outside Israel, making online contacts and trying to set up interviews is a good plan: you can still come into the country on a tourist visa.

 

Applying For A Job

It is a good idea to have your CV professionally translated into Hebrew and proofread. It is also recommended that you convert your CV/resume to a standard Israeli model (korot chaim, קו”ח). If you are Jewish and immigrating you should add your date of aliyah (if you have served in the Israeli Defence Force then include details of this also). You should also include details of the languages that you speak.

Legally, Israel is obligated to treat every person equally, regardless of religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, personal status, age, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor. However, in practice, there can be an element of discrimination, particularly racial and with regard to sexual orientation. Be aware of your rights before you go into interview.

Qualifications And Training

Copies of your qualifications will need to be translated into Hebrew and notarized by an Israeli notary.

 

Apply For A Visa/Permit

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.

 

Visas

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 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.

Immigration visa

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 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 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

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

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.

 

Work Permits

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.

 

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

 

Israel is becoming increasingly popular as an expat destination, despite having the highest cost of living in the Middle East. In a 2019 survey, run by InterNations, Israel ranked as the 14th most attractive country to live and work in out of 64 destinations.

One of the more difficult obstacles you will face when relocating to Israel is the language barrier. A lot of websites and documents will be written in Hebrew, and many people will prefer to communicate in this way. It is advised that you have all documents double checked by a Hebrew speaker, and that you use an online translator to generate Hebrew phrases for search engines, so that you are not limited to English information and listings.

If you are able to navigate Hebrew listings, you are likely to find better deals, and you are less likely to fall victim to foreigner-targeted scams. Whether renting or buying, you can begin your property search online at sites such as Menivim, BPII and Yad2.

 

Renting Property

Renting in Israel is quite pricey, with bustling Tel Aviv the most expensive city in the Middle East. A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs on average 5,092 Israeli shekels (c. USD $1,450) a month, compared to a countrywide city centre average of 3,691 shekels (c. USD $1,050). Haifa is typically much cheaper, with an apartment there costing an average of 2,230 shekels (c. USD $633) per month. In Jerusalem, the average price for rent is 3,850 shekels (c. USD $1093) per month.

While you can find some furnished rental properties in Israel, they are typically let unfurnished. Therefore, you may need to supply air conditioning units, wardrobes, lighting fixtures, white goods and kitchen appliances.

When you have found the right property, it is important to get assistance from a Hebrew speaker when negotiating the clauses in your contract. Tenancies in Israel are typically a year long, but you can negotiate. The contract should include how long a notice period you would need to give should you wish to vacate early. It is wise to include an “option to renew” in your contract, to define that the tenant alone has the option to renew and that, should you wish to renew, your rent cannot be increased.

Security deposits in Israel are limited to either one third of the total rent for the length of the tenancy, or three months’ rent, whichever is less. The deposit should be held by a lawyer and not by the landlord, and if you pay the deposit by personal cheque, you should get confirmation in writing that the sum is for the security deposit and should not be used for anything else.

An important cultural point to bear in mind is that many landlords will only lease their properties to tenants who observe Shabbat and will maintain a kosher kitchen. Also, be aware that rent and letting fees are likely to be charged in shekels, so you will need to account for exchange rates from your home currency. You will likely benefit from opening an Israeli bank account.

 

Buying Property

If you are looking to buy property in Israel, then you will be at a disadvantage if you cannot read or speak Hebrew. It is recommended that you engage a lawyer early in the purchase process, or at least ensure you have assistance from someone who speaks the language.

In Israel, it is customary to use an estate agent to find properties for sale and to assist throughout the buying process. Bear in mind that the agent will take a fee, usually 1.5% to 2% of the property value, plus VAT.

As an expat, you will only be able to get a 50% mortgage, so you will be required to pay 50% of the house price upfront. You can increase the mortgage to 60% by obtaining EMI (mortgage insurance from Ezer Mortgage Insurance Company). If you are a Jewish immigrant (“olim”), you are automatically considered an Israeli citizen, and you can therefore apply for a mortgage of up to 85% if you get EMI. Olim are also entitled to a lower rate of purchase tax within seven years of making Aliyah (returning to Israel from the diaspora).

The bank will request your tax returns and credit history reports when you apply. Home insurance is required to obtain a mortgage, but it depends on the bank whether this needs to be in place before finalising the mortgage contract.

The bank will usually request an official valuation of the property, which you will need to arrange with one of their approved valuers. A more thorough property inspection or survey is not required, but is recommended for any pre-owned property. The bank will issue you with a pre-approval confirmation, known as an Ishur Ekroni. This document is valid for three months, and the interest rates will remain fixed for 12 days.

You can also use the Ishur Ekroni to negotiate with other banks. You should aim to obtain it as close to having your offer approved and signing the contracts as possible, so that it does not expire. The deal will be in shekels, so you should factor in fluctuating exchange rates.

When the seller accepts your offer, they or the agent may want you to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, the Zichron Devarim. This is usually no longer than one page long and includes the basic details of the sale. Many lawyers advise against signing this, as it can be considered a binding contract, but without enough detail or specificity to protect you. Ensure that you have engaged a lawyer at this part of the process, and get their advice before signing a Zichron Devarim.

Your lawyers should then exchange and approve contracts. Once these are signed, a He’arat Azhara caution notice must be added to the deed (Tabu). This notice, registered at the Land Registry Office, details your rights to the property and prevents the seller from re-selling to another party. You can now provide the signed contract, the amended deed and seller approval to the bank and open a file to obtain the agreed mortgage.

Your lawyer will then register the property and transfer the deed. Once finalised, they will remove the He’arat Azhara, and the Tabu will reflect your ownership of the property.

There is a lot to navigate when moving to Israel, and you may experience a culture shock. Consider a short-term let when you first arrive, so that you can get your bearings. As long as you keep your wits about you, you should be able to find the right place for you.

 

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Israel health insurance

Israel is a prosperous nation with an excellent standard of healthcare, ranked as one of the best in the world. Under the National Health Insurance Law of 1995, the government extends universal coverage to every Israeli citizen and operates a two-tier health insurance system based on both public and private health insurance. Signing up with a national scheme is compulsory for all Israeli residents but as a foreign worker, you will be entitled to private coverage arranged by your employer. There are also some specific conditions which apply if you have immigrated to the country under the Law of Return.

The Israeli state health insurance system is run on a not-for-profit basis and residents are obliged to sign up to one of four official health insurance organizations, known as Kupat Holim (קופת חולים – “Sick Funds”). You have the right to choose which fund you register with, and can change funds if you wish: there is an opportunity to do this once a year.

The funds are:

• Clalit
• Leumit
• Maccabi
• Meuhedet

Each fund runs its own medical facilities, so it is important to check that your doctor or hospital is registered with the network, although you can choose which medical provider you see (even if they are not with your specific fund).

If you are an expat who is earning an income and paying national insurance contributions, you will be covered by state healthcare automatically, but employers in Israel are legally obliged to register their foreign employees with a health insurance plan – even those who do not yet have a visa – and these will be with private health insurance companies. Check with your employer that this forms part of your employment package.

If you are self employed, you will need to approach either one of the public funds or a private provider directly.

 

Open A Bank Account

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.

 

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

If you are going to be living and working in Israel, and are a native English speaker who does not also speak Hebrew, you may be wondering how easy it will be to communicate with locals and your colleagues. Israel has a plethora of languages and a strong linguistic heritage, so we will look at some of your options below.

The official language of Israel is Hebrew. However, a very high percentage of Israelis speak English, in addition to a number of other languages including:

• Amharic
• Arabic
• French (used as a semi-official formal language in Israel until the 1990s)
• German
• Romanian
• Russian
• Yiddish

German and Russian are spoken by some of Israel’s many immigrants. Yiddish tends to be spoken by the older generation and the more conservative Jewish communities.

Around 90% of Israeli Jews and 60% of Israel Arabs are estimated to have a good understanding of Hebrew, the official language of government, commerce, courts, schools, and universities. It is spoken as a first language by around 53% of the population, but the remainder are usually bilingual in Hebrew and another language such as Russian or English.

The language is an ancient one, but has been revived in relatively recent times by Polish born linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922). He visited Jerusalem in 1881 and believed that ancient Hebrew (used primarily as a liturgical language since the 5th century B.C.) should be the language of the reborn Zionism. Thus he codified Hebrew grammar, wrote the first modern dictionary, and devised words necessary for a modern vocabulary: this form of Hebrew is the one that is in use today.

Literary Arabic has been designated by the Knesset as having “a special status in the State.” Around 1.6 million Israeli-Arabs speak the language. Many Hebrew schools also teach Arabic and around 17% of Israeli Jews understand it.

English is widely spoken and you should have few difficulties in Israel if you are a native English speaker, particularly in the big cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. English is now taught in Israeli schools. You may encounter older people who speak Hebrew and another language, such as Russian, and it is therefore a good idea to master a few useful common phrases in Hebrew, particularly if you are travelling outside the cities.

Quite a large number of Israelis speak French, so you may find that this serves as a helpful lingua franca.

International commerce is usually conducted in English, although you will encounter Hebrew as well.

If you want to study Hebrew, you will find plenty of provision. It is not an easy language to learn and you will need to master a different alphabet, one which is not always translated into Latin letters in a standardised way (place names, for instance, may have different Latin alphabet variations, such as Jaffa, Joppa, or Yafo for a single town).

There are Hebrew as a Foreign Language schools throughout the country, particularly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the larger cities, catering to levels from beginners to advanced students. Universities such as Haifa also offer language classes and if you are interested in studying at either a private school, one to one tuition, or at one of the universities, you can look for some online resources and get a head start before you land.

The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has an approved list of language training institutions and you can look for a school with them. Ulpan, for instance, is a language training programme for adult immigrants, based in several cities across the country. A five-month course will cost just over US$1K, but Olim Chadashim, newly arrived immigrants into Israel, can study for free. Some schools and centres also offer language exchanges, where you can team up with someone who wants to learn your language in exchange for Hebrew.

Ulpan also offer a kibbutz-based five-month work-study program for young adults between the age of 18 to 30.

There are currently nine kibbutzim in Israel offering official ulpan programs where you will be able to learn conversational Hebrew while working and living on the kibbutz.

You may also be intending to go out to Israel to teach English. There is currently a demand for English language tuition in the country, due to the prevalence of the language in business. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.

It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Average salaries quoted are in the region of US$500 – 1800 per month depending on your qualifications and experience. September is a peak hiring season but many schools recruit all year round, typically for six-month/one-year periods, and often for corporate teaching: experience in teaching business English will stand you in good stead in Israel. You will need a work permit but your employer should be able to assist with this.

If you are aiming to find work in translation and interpreting, your Hebrew will obviously need to be of a high standard and you will require the relevant qualifications.

 

Choose A School

If you are planning to live and work in Israel, and you have school age children, you may be wondering about the educational system in this country. How easy will it be to find a school for your child? What sort of school should you choose – one in the public, or in the private sector? How do educational standards vary between the two, and what sort of provision is there at international schools? We will answer some of your questions below.

The Israeli education system is governed by the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for school curricula, educational standards, supervision of teaching personnel and school buildings. Education itself is organised into three tiers after pre-school (3-5 years):

• primary education (grades 1–6, approximately ages 6–12)
• middle school (grades 7–9, approximately ages 12–15)
• high school (grades 10–12, approximately ages 14–19)

Schools are divided into groups:

• state schools, attended by the majority of pupils (Mamlachti)
• state religious schools, which emphasize Jewish studies, tradition, and observance (Mamlachti dati)
• Orthodox Haredi schools (Chinuch Atzmai)
• Arab and Druze schools, with instruction in Arabic and special focus on Arab and Druze history, religion, and culture
• private schools, which may be religious and/or international

On completing high school, which is mandatory up to Grade 12, students take the te’udat bagrut graduation exam (תעודת†בגרות†/Matriculation Certificate) in a range of subjects such as Hebrew, English, history, literature, maths, and scripture. If your child is entered for this exam and wishes to attend university in your home nation, check the grade equivalencies with destination universities (for example, British universities may ask for at least three subjects at levels 4 or 5). Students applying for Israeli universities will also need to take the Psychometric Entrance Test (פסיכומטרי), equivalent to the US SAT, which covers quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and English.

The type of school that you choose will depend to a large degree on your personal religious views: schooling here in Israel is divided between religious and secular education. In a non-religious school, your child will not receive so much instruction in the Jewish religion, so you will need to decide whether this is a critical factor for you or not.

Expect to find more emphasis on cultural values in the public school sector than is found, for example, in American schools. There is a uniform curriculum throughout the system, but each school is allowed to select study units and teaching materials. These are provided by the Ministry of Education. Every year, a special topic of national importance is issued to schools to be studied in depth. Themes include Hebrew, democratic values, immigration, the history of Jerusalem, peace, and industry.

Some schools are specialised, so you may encounter agricultural and technical schools or schools for military preparation (Israeli students are expected to join the Israeli Defence Force for a period after graduation). Comprehensive schools may offer particular skills-based subjects, such as mechanics or graphic design.

Children who do not attend one of the types of schools above come under the Apprenticeship Law: this requires them to study for a trade at an approved vocational school on a program sanctioned by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor in those schools that are affiliated with vocational networks. Such programs have a duration of 3-4 years and consist of two years of classroom study followed by 1-2 years during which students study three days a week and work at their chosen trade for the remainder, such as hairstyling, cooking, mechanics or word processing.

Public schools in Israel are free. If you wish to send your child to the private sector, you will find a range of choices, from schools which run on an American or British curriculum and which are taught in English, to schools which are organised according to the French system. You will need to pay fees, which vary from school to school. Enrolment procedures also vary between schools but spaces can be limited and it is advisable to make enquiries as early as possible if you wish to secure a place for your child.

As an example of the private sector, the Jerusalem American International School is a branch campus of the Walworth Barbour American International School and is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Annual fees are in the range of:

• US$11600 for preschool
• US$16900 for kindergarten
• US$19400 for middle school

You may also need to pay registration fees and capital fund fees for school maintenance, for example, computing equipment. Some schools do not ask for a registration fee, but may ask you for a deposit. Make sure you check with the school for a precise breakdown of exactly what you will need to pay.

Check with the school, too, to see what documentation is needed for your child’s enrolment. For a public school, this is:

• identity number (Mispar Zehut) of the child and the parents (passport numbers may be accepted in lieu)
• proof of residence via a copy of the Arnona (municipal tax) statement that includes the family’s name. If you are renting, you may need to provide a rental contract.

If you are not in the country during the registration period, you can give power of attorney to an Israeli citizen, provided that you and your child have a Mispar Zehut and proof of residence.

For a private school, your child will need an interview and may need to take tests, such as proficiency in English and maths.

Hours for preschool through 9th frade are 8:00 am – 3:00 pm from Monday-Thursday, with school finishing at 12:15 pm on Fridays.

The school year begins on September 1st. For elementary students it ends on June 30th, and for middle and high school students it ends on June 20th.

The OECD ranks Israel 39th in the world when it comes to education. Just under half of all Israeli Jews (46%) hold post-secondary degrees, but Arabic schools lag behind and education in Haredi schools may not go as far as it could in equipping children for modern employment, thus affecting the statistics. Although Israelis are highly educated, the country nonetheless has one of the lowest productivity levels and highest poverty rates in the developed world. You may therefore find that one of the international schools provides a standard of education which is closer to US or British norms.

Expats report that education in the country is relatively relaxed and informal in style, but PE tends to be geared towards the expectation of military service, which is a feature for young Israelis. Parents are encouraged to become involved in school life. You may find that school dinners are not provided, so you will need to provide a packed lunch for your child.