Israeli Law Series 4 – Immigration Policy
Feb 07, 2018
In Part 4 of this Israeli Law Series, we would like to consider Israel’s immigration law and arrangements relevant to Japanese nationals interested in visiting or working in Israel’s thriving economic system.
In this article, we will look briefly look at Japan and Israel’s investment relations background and investment agreement. Then we will consider Japan’s visa exemption status, and Israel’s immigration laws and the visa requirements for foreign nationals seeking to work in Israel. In doing so we will break down some of the work visa application processes for foreign expatriates seeking a work visa in Israel.
Japan-Israel Relations – Background
Japan and Israel have maintained positive diplomatic relations for many decades with a steady bilateral relationship continuously building. Relations between the nations have deepened not only in a political sense but also in such areas as cultural and intellectual exchange, cooperation in science and technology, as well as bilateral trade. Japan has also made contributions to the Middle East peace process gaining high praise in Israel and Arab countries.
Japan and Israel have borne a number of bilateral agreements over the years and signed a new Investment Agreement in 2017. Israel’s Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, and Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida, signed the agreement in Tokyo on February 1, 2017. The agreement, negotiated over four separate negotiation meetings held between May 2015 and December 2016, is said to further create stable, equitable, favorable and transparent conditions for mutual investments.
This historic agreement is a bilateral investment treaty that establishes terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state, allowing both countries protections for each other’s foreign investments. Such protections include: assurances of fair and equitable treatment, protection against expropriation, and establishing alternative dispute-resolution mechanisms for foreign investors.
Israeli Finance Minister, Moshe Kalon, also described the treaty as symbolizing “the growing economic ties between Israel and Japan” demonstrating “a significant milestone in the liberalization of foreign investments in Israel”.
Kalon went on to describe the treaty and others like it, as well as Israel’s other recent economic achievements, as a means through which Israel has established an attractive investment destination for foreign investors.
Another bilateral treaty arrangement between Israel and Japan that signifies the good relations between the two countries is the 1971 visa exemptions agreement.
Visa Exemption for Japanese Nationals
Unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries, foreign visitors to Israel must obtain a visa to gain entry. Israel has visa exemption agreements with many countries for short visits. Pursuant to the 1971 agreement Japan is one such visa exempt country and therefore holders of normal Japanese passports do not require a visa to visit Israel for a maximum stay of 90 days.
For this reason, a regular visitor, for example on a short-term business trip, or someone conducting research for investment purposes, can stay in Israel on a visitor visa for up to 3 months. Visa extensions are also available upon application to the local Ministry of Immigration office within Israel.
What activities require a work visa?
Generally, one does not need a work visa for activities that can be viewed as “business meetings” such as attending meetings and participating in events such as lectures or seminars. Regardless of the length of time, activities that are more akin to actual work will likely require a work visa. For example, operating machinery, repairing or completing other tasks that are generally performed by workers.
Given the diversity of the modern workplace, some activities may fall in grey areas. Generally, the length of stay will be considered. However, while long frequent stays are likely to make people decide that the purpose of stay is “work” and not “business meeting”, short stays can still be considered as “work” depending on the activities intended.
The source of remuneration is not considered a relevant factor when considering whether a work visa is required.
Foreign Nationals – Working in Israel under the B-1 visa
Under Isael”s immigration law, the B- visa is a work visa allowing a foreigner to work in Israel for an employer. The length of the visa is usually 12 months and can be extended for another year up to the maximum of 5 years. Extensions are up to the discretion of the relevant authorities.
The common type of B-1 visa application is a B-1 visa for “foreign experts” (“Foreign Expert”), which requires unique qualifying elements: the foreign national must demonstrate a high degree of expertise or unique and essential knowledge to the service provided by the applicant, which does not exist in Israel. Furthermore, their monthly salary shall not be less than twice the average salary in Israel (approximately US$ 5,500 per month).
The employment of Foreign Experts in Israel is subject to local labor legislation, including collective agreements (when applicable), and extension orders (which are legislative orders that extend certain provisions of collective agreements to the entire Israeli workforce).
In addition, there is broad legislation which applies specifically to the employment of foreign employees and which regulates different aspects of such employment. This legislation imposes additional obligations on the employer of a Foreign Expert, for example, the obligation to provide the Foreign Expert with appropriate medical insurance as specifically detailed in the applicable regulations. However, it should be noted that there are regulations which exempt an employer of a Foreign Expert from the above, provided that the Foreign Expert holds one of the following positions: (a) one of the two most senior managers of the company in Israel; (b) a senior representative of a foreign corporation; or (c) a senior employee in a position requiring a great degree of personal trust.
The Permit and Visa Application Process
The immigration regulations have undergone significant changes over the years and therefore it is wise to always consult a professional to obtain the latest regulatory requirements.
At the time of this article, as a general principle, an applicant must prove that there is no Israeli citizen suitable for the job position. The application must also provide information regarding the position in question, such as: the proposed salary, professional qualifications, and background of the applicant.
The following are general steps in obtaining a B1- work visa:
1. Application by the employer to the Work Permit Unit operated by the Ministry of Interior.
The Permits Unit is entrusted with the task of granting a permit to an employer to employ foreign employees. During this first stage, it is the employer who needs to provide most of the documents. The employee is required to provide his personal details, such as a copy of the first page of the passport, their resume and academic degrees and diplomas. The process can take between eight to twelve weeks from the filing date. If successful, the permit should be collected in person from the Ministry of Interior.
The following documents should be submitted to the Permits Unit:
- Application Form for the Issue of a Permit to Employ Foreign Expert (with all necessary details completed)
- Statement Form completed by the employer and confirmed by an Israeli lawyer. Also requires a separate certification by a lawyer or auditor that the signatory of the application form is a duly authorized representative of the employer. If the statement is to be signed outside of Israel, it should be signed before (i) an Israeli consul with consular notarization or; (ii) In the presence of a foreign (non-Israeli) notary with apostille confirmation.
- Copies of diplomas or certificates attesting to the employee’s education and C.V. If the diploma is not in Hebrew or English, it will need to be translated into Hebrew or English and certified by a notary. For a profession that does not require academic education, an approved copy of the brokerage license of the private brokerage company that engaged the employee in his country, and/or a confirmation from the local labor office that such engagement was conducted lawfully.
- Updated printout specifying the details of the employer from the Registrar of Companies, Registrar of Partnerships or business registration, as the case may be.
- Copies of Form 102 of the National Insurance Institute with respect to the three months preceding the date of submission of the application.
- Copy of the first page of the employee’s passport.
- Accountant’s confirmation that the company is currently actively engaged in business.
- Employee’s resume
- Letter describing the company, its activities in Israel, the reasons for its need to employ the employee, and the employee’s qualifications, e., academic background and experience.
- A duly signed power of attorney from the company to the law firm (in instances where the company chooses to apply via a legal representative).
- Application fees
2. File a visa application at the Ministry of Interior‘s Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration (PIBA)
Once the Permits Unit issues the permit, a separate application should be submitted to the relevant PIBA Branch, determined by geographical locale, which is the authorized entity to issue the requested visa.
It is important to note that this is a multi-step process.
Prior to Arrival in Israel
The employer, as the party which invited the foreign employee, applies to the PIBA Branch for the employee to receive an entry visa for work purposes. In the case of a new visa, the employee should be outside of Israel at the application stage.
The documents required to be attached to the application to be submitted to the PIBA Branch are as follows:
Application Form for Entry Visa to Israel: this provides details regarding the employee, and should be signed by the employee, the company, and stamped with the company stamp.
- Application Form for the Extension of Permit of Residence / Change of Visa Category: this provides details regarding the employee and should be signed by the particular employee
- Copy of the first page of the employee’s passport
- Copy of the permit from the Permits Unit
- A signed power of attorney from the employee and the company to the law firm
- Letter from the law firm describing the company, its activities in Israel, the reasons for its need to employ the particular foreign employee and the employee’s qualifications, i.e., academic background and experience
- Application fees
It should be noted that a local entity or a branch registered in Israel as well as a foreign company which does not have any subsidiary or branch registered in Israel, may file an application to employ foreign employees.
Once the visa (usually a one-month employment visa) has been approved by the PIBA Branch, an invitation letter is then sent to the relevant Israeli representative at the consulate in the applicant’s home country. The invitation letter is valid for 3 months only.
After Receiving the Invitation Letter
The employee can then contact the consulate for the visa. The consulate issues a list of requirements, which can be ascertained prior to the visa approval. The requirement lists vary between the consulates but generally, the following listed documents are required by the consulate office:
- A verified certificate of good conduct/ police record
- Certification of medical examinations performed in clinics or hospitals recognized by the mission (the certification must cover, inter alia, normal results in tests for tuberculosis, hepatitis, and AIDS) and the results of general blood tests
- The Israeli Ministry of Interior approval
- Application for Entry Visa form
- 2 passport photos
- Letter from the employer confirming the hire
- Flight itinerary
- Original passport
- Fingerprint and photo would be taken at the consulate
The passport should be valid for at least two years and have at least three empty visa pages for the stamps of the PIBA Branch.
Convert and extend the single entry B-1 visa to multiple entry visas
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, the employee is directed to the PIBA Branch office at the airport, where they should obtain a stamp, extending their employment visa for the entire period recommended by the Permits Unit (usually a 12 month period in total). The services are provided by the PIBA Branch at Ben Gurion, on a “24/7” basis (excluding Friday nights and Sunday mornings).
Soon after arrival in Israel, the employee should then apply to the PIBA Branch to receive a multi-entry visa, which is required in order to prevent the employment visa from expiring when the employee leaves Israel. Also, a work permit from a local PIBA Branch should be obtained within two working days from entry.
- Actual attendance by the Foreign Expert, the employer or a representative.
- Application for a change of visa.
- The passport of the Foreign Expert (valid for at least 6 months).
- Photocopy of the Work Visa.
- Payment of the necessary fees.
In the case of renewal of a work visa (while it is still valid), the employee can extend their employment visa during their stay in Israel. This process will require making only one visit to the PIBA Branch offices.
Expedited procedure for 45 days work visa
There is an expedited procedure (to be processed within 6 working days) which allows entities to apply for a Foreign Expert to come to Israel for up to 45 days each calendar year from date of entry. This procedure is only available to a list of visa-exempt countries (including Japan).
This visa is limited to a period of 45 days per year; it is non-transferable; non-extendable and can only be changed upon re-entry to Israel. This visa is suitable for Foreign Experts tasked with completing a specialized temporary role. The application may be rejected and be transferred to the regular route; in such event, supplementary documents and application fees may be required.
2018 – Preferential treatments for “high-tech companies”
In 2018, the Israeli government introduced new rules giving foreign professionals hired by “high-tech companies” faster processing time for visa applications. If a company fits the criteria of “high-tech companies” set by the new rules, its foreign employees (if they fit certain criteria) may benefit from the expedited procedure.
There are three situations:
- Foreign professionals’ application will be processed within 6 working days for a work permit for a period of up to one year.
- Foreign academic graduates’ application will be handled within 30 working days.
- Work permit for a foreign expert and spouse for a period of more than 90 days will be handled within 21 working days.
Each situation has different requirements regarding necessary documents. Please contact us if you want to find out more about the criteria to be deemed a “high-tech company” and the criteria for the expedited procedure to be applicable.
We thank the contributions and support from Mr. Gilad Majerowicz and Mr. Roy Hayun of Herzog Fox & Neeman (www.hfn.co.il) in creating this article.