Immigration for non-citizens into Israel is governed by the Entry into Israel Law (1952).  Since the 1990’s, hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers have come to Israel to be employed in various capacities as temporary workers. The regulation of employment of such workers is governed by the Foreign Workers Law (1991) (FWL) and Israeli employers in certain industries can employ these migrant, or “foreign,” workers as part of their workforce. Under the FWL, a “foreign worker” is defined as a worker who is not an Israeli citizen or a resident of Israel. (FWL sec.1). According to the FWL, the Minister of the Interior may grant entry into Israel (by visa and visitor’s residence permit) to a Foreign Worker who “is about to be admitted for work as a worker.” Temporary residence for a Foreign Worker is initially capped at three months. The Minister of Interior has the power to extend such a visa for up to five years, provided that the visa is first extended for no more than two years, and then in one-year increments thereafter. 

Permits for employment of Foreign Workers can be issued for the following industries: (1) construction; (2) agriculture; (3) nursing care; (4) hotel work; (5) ethnic cooking; and (6) welding and industrial professions. Restrictions can be imposed on such permits by the Minister of Labor and the Minister of Industry—limiting the kind of labor allowed; setting compensation restrictions; and establishing requirements for an employer to track and register the worker’s attendance record.

Foreign Workers in Israel are entitled to working conditions on par with citizen employees, which include private health insurance and housing (for migrant workers, provided by the employer). Foreign Workers are also entitled to a weekly rest period of 36 hours (typically over a weekend), and 14-21 days of paid vacation yearly. Following three months of working for one employer, a worker is also entitled to nine paid religious holidays—as set by the Jewish calendar or the employee’s own religion, according to the employee’s preference. Employers in Israel must provide most Foreign Workers with monthly wage slips and a copy of their employment contract, in a language the employee understands, which contains: the employee’s name and name of the employer; a job description; the term of the employment period; compensation, pay dates and applicable deductions; working hours and rest days; paid vacations, holidays and sick days; and information on housing and health insurance.

Foreign Workers in Israel cannot be paid lower than the prevailing minimum wage. In a five-day work week, employers must pay overtime to Foreign Workers after nine hours in a day, and in a six-day work week after eight hours in a day. Live-in caregivers are not entitled to overtime pay, but their minimum wage is substantially higher than the norm to compensate. An employer that seeks a worker visa for an employee must include with the application a medical certificate from a home country medical institution recognized by the Israeli Minister of Health confirming that the worker is not a carrier of certain communicable diseases, and that the examination was done with the employee’s consent and the consent of the employee’s home country’s health authorities.

Employers in certain industries will be faced with requirements specific to that industry. In connection with nursing care, both employers and employees must register the worker as a caregiving employee in Israel. Although typically recruiting firms cannot be used to recruit Foreign Workers for employment in Israel, certain “nursing companies” can be a conduit to finding nursing caregivers. Although these companies may be responsible for payment of some of the caregiver’s wages, the “employer” for the purposes of Israeli law remains the person requiring their nursing care. Some workers may be required to pay a recruitment fee to agencies both in Israel and their native country as well. Notably, private employers in the caregiving field need not provide Foreign Workers with monthly wage slips. Additionally, work schedules in the caregiving industry may vary from typical break period practice. Unlike employers of nursing caregivers, employers of Foreign Workers in the construction and agriculture arenas will be faced with national quotas on worker visas. Notably, a worker visa is issued only for a specific trade—employment under such a visa in another field is a violation of the terms of the visa.

With more than half a million Foreign Workers from various countries currently employed in Israel, Israeli employers are well served to stay abreast of the laws and regulations concerning Foreign Workers to protect their business interests and maintain the integrity and legality of their workforce.