What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?
The main category used by companies to transfer skilled staff is the B-1 expert category. B-1 can also be used for high-level managers of both Israeli and foreign companies. The B-1 expert visa, for those with proven high level of expertise or essential knowledge that is not available in Israel, also includes an ‘expert wage’ salary obligation (more than double the Israeli average salary as base salary and changing over time). The B-1 expert category is divided into two levels: high-level experts in a field requiring an academic background or experts with no academic background, including, but not limited to, qualified workers such as expert welders and chefs. This subcategory has an additional burden on the employer asking for work permits to be issued. This may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- deposit of a bank guarantee at the airport prior to the visa issue;
- additional affidavits and statements signed by the employee and the applicant company’s general manager;
- an Israeli bank account to be opened for the employee for the payment of his or her salary; and
- a contract of employment signed by the employer and employee, in English and in a language the employee understands, aligned with Israeli labour laws and including confirmation by an Israeli attorney that the agreement complies with Israeli law.
In May 2018, a new experimental procedure was issued for B-1 work visas for experts in high-tech and cyber companies (high-tech work visa). The procedure allowing an expedited procedure for experts is also available under the existing expedited process and allows:
- extending the 45-day procedure, for high-tech and cyber company experts, to up to 90 days per year;
- an expedited process for work permits for up to one year;
- the issue of work permits to foreign students with Israeli academic qualifications; and
- work permits for the expert’s spouse.
A business visa category applicant is issued with a B-2 visitor visa, which covers all manner of visit activities, including tourism.Procedures
What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?
The following are the immigration-required procedures that should be addressed for a B-1 expert category work permit:
- step one: a request must be filed for an ‘in-principle working approval’ to be examined by a special committee within PIBA. The authorities’ processing time is about one to two months from application. If the application is for an expert with no academic background or in a field that does not require an academic background, the authorities may issue a list of additional requirements allowing approval to be issued (see question 6). Approval for a 45-day visa, and for a high-tech work visa, is issued within six working days of submission;
- step two: after receiving the in-principle working approval, a request to issue a B-1 work permit will be submitted to the regional PIBA office. Once approved, the Ministry of the Interior will issue and send an ‘invitation to enter Israel’ to the Israeli consulate in the expert’s country. The expedited process for a 45-day visa allows the expert to enter Israel and the work visa is issued after entry to the country;
- step three: the expert collects his or her invitation at the Israeli consulate. The consulate issues a work permit with a single-entry visa valid for 30 days. After receiving the visa and invitation, the expert can enter Israel, activate the work permit and start working immediately; and
- step four: upon arrival, a full-year work visa will be issued at the airport. Shortly after entry, a request for a ‘multiple-entry visa’ should be submitted and issued at the regional office of the Ministry of the Interior that issued the visa and invitation.
The expert may not leave the country until this process is finalised (which may be within a few days of arrival). Leaving the country prior to the completion of the process may require a new invitation to be issued.Period of stay
What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?
Each B-1 work permit is valid for up to one year. Extensions are available for up to one year at a time, allowing no more than five years and three months in total.
A procedure launched in January 2014 allows the in-principle approval to be issued for a period of two years under specific criteria. The B-1 work permit shall be issued for one year at a time under the two-year in-principle approval and shall require an extension after one year within the ‘approval’ coverage.
Extensions beyond five years and three months are rare and should demonstrate a significant contribution to the Israeli economy. Additional and special procedures and approvals are needed to obtain work permits beyond the limit of five years and three months.
The expedited 45-day visa allows a maximum of 45 days in Israel per calendar year. The high-tech work visa allows a maximum stay of 90 days under the expedited procedure. Similar to standard expert (B-1) applications, standard high tech visas are valid for one year at a time, for up to five years and three months in total.Processing time
How long does it typically take to process the main categories?
Processing usually takes one to two months from submission for approval and an additional month for the visa issue procedures, including the Israeli consulate step in the expert’s home country.
The expedited 45-day visa requires six business days’ processing for approval (step 1) and an additional visa issue after entry to Israel.Staff benefits
Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?
The employer is committed to the employee or expert’s benefits, including health insurance, suitable housing or residency and compliance with Israeli labour law regulations.
These commitments are part of the employer’s undertakings upon the submission of a request to employ a foreign employee or a foreign expert.
Health insurance must cover the employee’s entire stay in the country and needs to meet Israeli standard health insurance. Housing requirements are also included in Israeli regulations allowing for living and washroom space, etc.Assessment criteria
Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?
There is a list of criteria that the authorities examine upon receiving an application from a skilled worker or expert. The criteria to be considered are whether:
- the expert has special skills that cannot be found in Israel;
- the base salary or wage is more than double the average Israeli salary, to determine the employee is an expert;
- the expert contributes to the Israeli economy and creates a need for new positions to be filled by Israeli employees;
- the expert passes knowledge and experience to the local Israeli employees;
- the expert demonstrates a high level of education and a high level of experience; and
- the expert should have a high managerial position and a high-level position of development in his or her industry.
Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?
All skilled workers and experts should follow the same general B-1 work permit procedures. All applications must be sponsored by an employer - either Israeli or foreign.
A new investor visa (B-5) for US investors in Israel was introduced in 2016. The B-5 Israel investor visa permits the investor and several key workers in the business and their families to work and live in Israel.
The minimum amount of investment required to receive the B-5 Israel investor visa is undetermined; however, it must be substantial. In the United States, this is normally considered to be at least US$100,000, but the actual amount required will be determined by the value or cost, or both, of the business. Applications for the Israel investor visa must meet the following conditions:
- the investor must invest a substantial amount of his or her own money into a new or existing Israeli business;
- the investor must own at least 50 per cent of the business;
- the business must be for profit;
- it must be shown that the business will provide income significantly in excess of what is needed for the livelihood of the investor and his or her family; and
- the business must have a plan to hire Israeli workers.
Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?
In 2016, a new investor visa (B-5) for US investors in Israel was introduced. The B-5 Israel investor visa permits the investor and several key workers in the business and their families to work and live in Israel. See question 16.Highly skilled individuals
Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?
In May 2018, a new experimental procedure was issued for B-1 work visas for experts in high-tech and cyber companies (high-tech work visa). See question 10.Ancestry and descent
Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?
There are special routes for individuals based on ancestry or descent under the Jewish origin or law of return processes, as well as for those with Israeli parents.Minimum salary
Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?
Yes. One of the criteria to determine that a skilled worker is an expert is by paying the foreigner a base salary or wage that should be more than double the average Israeli salary (expert salary). The employer and signatory are committed to this criterion and an accountant should confirm that the employer met this criterion upon application for a work permit extension.
The authorities may address the employer at any time and request evidence of monthly payslips to meet this criterion.
The expedited 45-day visa does not require the expert salary to be paid during assignment, neither do applications for a visa for up to 90 days.Resident labour market test
Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?
There is no general quota and there is no need to actually search the market for local skilled workers. The application, however, should explain and demonstrate that such skilled workers cannot be found in Israel. The authorities may ask for an additional explanation on this matter.
There are a few categories under quota for employment, including construction, agriculture, nursing and caregivers and the restaurant business.Shortage occupations
Is there a special route for shortage occupations?
No.Other eligibility requirements
Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?
An expert category application needs to demonstrate that the expert has unique and special knowledge and experience that is not available in Israel.
Newly hired employees can be issued with Israeli B-1 work permits. The employer-employee relationship history is not needed.Third-party contractors
What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?
The employer is the entity who should submit the application for a work permit. The employer may be an Israeli entity or a foreign entity. The Israeli authorities examine the application and prefer a direct employer-employee relationship to exist, allowing the work permit to be issued to the entity actually employing the expert.Recognition of foreign qualifications
Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?
There is no assessment, equivalency or recognition of qualifications. However, a diploma, certificate of qualifications or expertise recognition should be provided and presented.