Israel is a land of diversity and contrasts. It retains its sense of tradition and religion while at the same time embracing a modern, 21st-century character. People from all over the world call Israel home, but they come from a variety of different cultures and ethnicities and may speak different languages. International citizens are drawn to the country on account of its strategic location and robust economy.Israel’s capital city is Jerusalem, a destination that is steeped in historical significance, but the major city of Tel Aviv is the one that is particularly popular with expats due to its cosmopolitan atmosphere. The city has a vibrant business culture with numerous startups and businesses emerging on a regular basis. It also sports a rich cultural life and a thriving nightlife. It is known for its beautiful beaches and cafés. Tel Aviv is a safe and comfortable destination for expats.
In 2016, the Israeli immigration authorities established a new series of rules pertaining to the employment of foreign employees in the country, which immediately impacted on the employment of foreigners in professional and administrative jobs and also differentiated between the various authorizations needed for acquiring work permits based on the specific requirements of each role.
There are legal restrictions applicable on all foreign employees employed in Israel. The entry of foreign workers into Israel begins with the issuance of a work permit. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor issues these permits. The employment permit is compulsory, along with a B-1 form and residence visa. Also mandatory is a police clearance conducted during the past year, and medical clearance from a local clinic.
Israel has no quotas that restrict the number of work permits issued to foreign experts each year. Permits are issued to experts in several ways based on the employees’ requirements and the law in Israel. The process of issuing a work permit to a foreign expert follows an expedited procedure as compared to a non-professional migrant worker. Each work permit application is processed individually according to Israeli policy, whereas applications of non-professional migrants are processed collectively and therefore involve a longer processing time.
With regard to work permits, there are some obligations that must be fulfilled by employers. When an expert worker is being employed to work in Israel, all national labor laws and rules apply to the worker and they must be implemented in the work contract. This includes health insurance, reimbursement for transport fees, and other social benefits that are compulsory according to the country’s labor laws. The processing duration for a work permit can be up to three months.
Unless all the necessary paperwork is prepared and implemented, an expert is not permitted to work in Israel. However, they can enter into a training process with an employer. In order to expedite the process, employers are keen to showcase the professional’s expertise in the particular field, ensuring that all relevant paperwork will be processed as part of the application.
The new regulations also pertain to the salary of a foreign worker, which must be a minimum of double the average salary in the country, in the worker’s specific field. The regulations maintain that the salary cannot include housing expenses and overtime payment, as these must be separate in the employment contract.
The most important changes that the new regulations have brought about pertain to the specific criteria that differentiate between experts with academic degrees and experts who do not require an academic degree for their field of work. If academic certification is not required, the employer is obligated to make the employee’s salary payment through an Israeli bank account, for which only an authorized representative can perform transactions. In these cases, it is also not possible to obtain extra permits for family members.
Perhaps the most important regulation with regard to employees without academic degrees is that signed legal documentation is mandatory, and an attorney representing both sides must oversee this. This documentation specifies the work agreement, the worker’s salary, employment terms, and assurance that the worker will not start working for another employer during their stay in Israel.
Work visas for expats
Expats can obtain a work visa once they have an employment offer from an Israeli company. Only a work visa is required for those who are planning to work in the country for a period of under 30 days. This visa applies to lecturers and others who will only be doing a short stint in Israel. Expats who will be working in Israel for more than 30 days require a work visa to facilitate their initial entry and then a work permit to reside and work legally in the country. Work visas and work permits are to be acquired in the expat’s home country.
One way of applying for a work visa in Israel is through an employer. This can be a more challenging path and is based mostly on an expat’s circumstances.
Firstly, it is necessary to have a job at the company or business that is willing to apply for the work visa for the expat. This can sometimes be complicated, as many employers do not consider candidates who don’t already have a visa. There are certain skills that are in demand in the country and expats who demonstrate these skills will find the visa application process easier. Those who do acquire a work visa through their employer are legally tied to that company, so if they lose or quit the job, they won’t have a visa anymore. If this happens, expats must inform the Ministry of Interior in Israel, which provides a temporary visa that is valid for up to a month while they look for a new sponsor.
The Israeli employment process can be slow and is known to take up to six months. This may make it difficult to find a new sponsor before the validity period of the temporary visa is up.
Expats can also apply for a visa through their partner or spouse. This is an easier process and the visa enables expats to work wherever and in whichever industry they choose.
The process of applying for a work visa in Israel is as follows:
• Obtain the necessary documents from the home country
• Visit the Ministry of Interior in Israel in the local area and collect the appropriate forms
• Collect all other relevant documents and letters
• Submit the application
• Attend the application interview
• Make the payment for the visa costs upon receiving the visa
The process of applying for a visa can start in an expat’s home country, but in Israel they must apply for the visa in person. The entire process can take anywhere between two to four months and expats need to arrive in Israel and stay on a valid B-2 tourist visa during this period.
In order to obtain a work visa, the expat and the employer must submit forms to the government of Israel. The Israeli employer must put in an application at the Ministry of the Interior and the expat must submit all relevant paperwork to an Israeli consulate. The required documents differ from one country to another, but most consulates request the following documents:
• A valid passport
• Application for a visa for entry into Israel, filled in
• A certificate of medical examination
• A declaration of the collection of fingerprints
• A certificate of good conduct
• Two passport sized photographs
• A signed statement from the employer that they wish to hire the expat
When an expat arrives in Israel, a visa stamp valid for 30 days will be placed in theirpassport. It is possible to obtain a work visa extension from the Ministry of the Interior during an expat’s stay in Israel. Extensions are necessary for those who will be permanently working in the country. An extension must be sought within 30 days of entry into Israel. Extensions are valid for one year. Expats with work visas can obtain temporary residence visas for their spouses and children. These are known as B2 courtesy visas and have the same validity as work visas. Expats should apply for temporary residence visas at the same time as their work visas.
Work permits for longer stays
The process of acquiring a work permit is long and involves more than one department of the Israeli government. Each department is required to examine the documentation, hence multiple copies of the documents are required. There are several steps involved in obtaining a work permit, which must be renewed annually.
To obtain a work permit, an expat and employer must submit an application to different governmental departments. The employer serves as an official sponsor for the work permit and must initially apply to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor. The application must include details about the expat’s prospective salary and position in the company. The application is usually processed in 4 to 8 weeks.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor then issues the Ministry of Industry with a recommendation letter. This is the time when the expat must apply for a work permit at the nearest consulate, which examines the documentation and recommends the expat to the Ministry of Industry. If the departments approve of the application, the consulate issues a work permit to the expat. The application for work visa and work permit should be made simultaneously. Work visas enable entry into Israel and allow for a stay of 30 days, beyond which an extension is required. Extended visas enable an expat to enter the country multiple times and are valid for one year.
Tips on obtaining an Israeli work visa
It is important to be well organized when beginning the visa application process. Compartmentalize the official documents, letters, photographs and other paperwork in a folder. You are not required to submit the folder, but it helps to demonstrate that you are organized in front of the authorities. It will also put your mind at ease to know that you have all you need and you know exactly where everything is located. It is advisable to make copies of everything before you submit them, as in some cases, documents can get lost.
If you don’t have a certain document or letter such as a rental agreement signed by both spouses, you can submit the application anyway. If the authorities see that all other documentation is in order, they may allow the application. This may not always happen, but it is worth a try.
Expats should expect the visa application process to be long and tedious. They may be required to make multiple visits to the Ministry of Interior and spend a great deal of time in the waiting room. It is important to stay patient during this period. Expats who have a Hebrew speaker with them may find the process easier. It is possible that visa applications may remain untouched by the authorities for weeks, so expats should stay persistent and keep calling to let them know who they are. Sometimes the only way to get things going may be to demand to speak to a manager!
Expats who are submitting an application for a work visa through their spouse or partner should know that the once the process begins, they will be called for separate interviews. It is important to ensure that the details provided by both spouses or partners match.
Upon receipt of the visa, it is recommended that expats double-check everything, such as the dates, type of visa and names. Those who are planning to leave Israel at any point require an entry visa along with the work permit. The application for both should be made at the same time.
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