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15 February 2019
Israeli and international organisations seeking to employ foreign workers in Israel in management positions or in positions that require special expertise or training must apply for a foreign expert work permit (B/1 permit) from the Population and Immigration Authority.
The employment of foreign workers without a proper work permit constitutes a criminal offence, which may lead to fines and other criminal penalties against employers and their senior management, as well as against the employees.
The application process for a foreign expert work permit is complex, may take several months and requires:
There are several different categories of work permits for foreign experts, which determine the different conditions and criteria for obtaining a work permit.
Employers in Israel should apply for suitable work and residence visas for foreign experts, which will ensure that they can work and enter Israel freely throughout their employment.
Foreign experts are covered by all labour laws in Israel. In addition, employers of foreign experts must provide them with medical insurance and suitable housing.
In the era of globalisation, there is a growing requirement for companies and business organisations to relocate foreign workers to perform various tasks that require knowledge, expertise or proven management capabilities (whether these tasks are permanent, long-term or temporary). For example, according to data published by the Population and Immigration Authority, there were 2,500 foreign expert workers employed in Israel in 2010, while in 2017 around 6,000 foreign experts were working in Israel.
In order to employ foreign workers in Israel, employers must obtain special work permits from the Population and Immigration Authority's permits unit. Further, an appropriate work visa (B/1 visa) must be issued to the employee, which will be issued only once the employer has been granted the relevant permit.
In general, a foreign workers' permit in Israel is granted to employers within certain sectors of the economy (eg, construction, agriculture, nursing and the restaurant industry). An organisation that wishes to employ a worker in Israel in a different industry must apply for a work permit under the 'expert permit' category.
The process for obtaining a permit to employ a foreign expert is complex and, therefore, it is recommended that employers conduct the procedure accompanied by a lawyer with experience in the field.
Expert with 'expert remuneration'
This is the main category for the employment of foreign workers in Israel outside of the sectors listed above. This permit is intended for employees with a high level of expertise or who possess essential and unique knowledge that employees in Israel do not possess. As part of the application for such a permit, employers must present proof of the employee's expertise, including academic degrees and special qualifications.
A criterion for the employment of a foreign worker under this category is that their wage is above a threshold of at least double the average wage in Israel (ie, approximately NIS19,000).
This permit is generally granted on an annual basis and should be renewed annually.
Foreign experts arriving in Israel for a short period of up to 90 days
This category is suitable for workers that come to Israel to carry out temporary and time sensitive tasks, such as installing systems or replacement parts or conducting repairs. The requirement to pay double the national average wage is waived for short-term permits, and they are therefore also suitable for workers who are paid a lower salary.
Permits are granted for 90 consecutive days. If a permit holder leaves Israel during this period, they must apply for a new permit.
Foreign experts working in Israel for a cumulative period of 45 days in a calendar year
Unlike the 90-day permit granted for a continuous period, this permit is granted for a cumulative period of 45 days a year which does not have to be continuous. The process for issuing this permit is relatively short compared to other categories. In theory applicants can enter Israel one week from the date of their application. This category is relevant only to workers from countries whose citizens do not need an entry permit to Israel under the Entry into Israel (Visa Exemptions) Order (eg, the United States, Canada, EU member states, Japan, Hong Kong, Russia and South Korea, among others). Chinese workers are not eligible for this permit.
Managers, senior representatives or employees in a position of trust within a foreign or international company
This permit is relevant solely to the most senior employees in an organisation (ie, employees who direct the organisation's strategy, who can supervise and manage and have the authority to hire and fire employees). It is possible to employ up to two employees in Israel under such a permit.
The advantage of this permit is that the employer may be exempt from paying an annual foreign worker fee of NIS9,620 per year. However, the Population and Immigration Authority is strict in granting such permits and it is necessary to prove that employees are part of an organisation's senior management.
Employees of high-tech and cyber companies
This permit is relevant to companies recognised as being 'technologically advanced' by the Innovation Authority and that want to employ workers from countries whose citizens are exempt from an entry permit to Israel under the Israel (Visa Exemptions) Order. The salaries of such employees must be equal to at least double the average salary in Israeli (approximately NIS19,000). There is an expedited application procedure (the permit is supposed to be issued within a week) and the scope of the documents to be submitted is limited. In contrast to other work permits, this permit allows the spouses of foreign experts to apply for a general work visa in Israel which allows them to work in any field.
Other sectors that can apply for foreign workers' permit
The following can apply for a foreign workers' permit:
The procedure to obtain a work permit for a foreign expert is complex. The following sections set out the process's general framework, but there are differences depending on which permit has been applied for and expedited procedures for some permits.
First step – employer application for permit to employ a foreign worker
Employers apply to the Population and Immigration Authority's permits unit. The application should specify the specific need to employ the foreign expert and include CVs and references confirming the applicant's expertise. In addition, this application must be accompanied by various documents, including:
There is an application fee of approximately NIS1,200. The approval process for this application takes between one and two months.
Second step – application for entry visa for foreign experts
Employers should apply to one of the authority's offices. The application involves completing and signing various forms and there is a fee of approximately NIS9,800 for a 12-month permit. In the event that a permit is issued for a shorter period, the fee is reduced pro rata. The application process takes between one and two weeks.
Third step – receiving a one-time entry visa from an Israeli consulate
Following the approval of a work permit, the Population and Immigration Authority will allow the relevant consulate in the expert's country of origin to issue a one-time entry visa.
Consulates in certain countries require employees to present various certificates and documents (eg, certificates of good standing or vaccination books). Employers should check with the relevant consulate ahead of time to ascertain what documents are required for a visa and to avoid unnecessary delays.
The one-time visa is granted for one month, during which the foreign expert must enter Israel.
Fourth step –issuing a multiple entry visa
The foreign expert should enter Israel with the visa issued to them at the consulate. Upon entry into Israel, the working visa period will be extended by the period granted under the foreign worker's work permit.
A separate application for a multiple entry visa must be submitted to the authority for the foreign worker to enter and leave Israel without any restrictions on the duration of their permit. The application process involves completing and signing various forms and paying a fee of approximately NIS175.
The total time required to complete the process is about three months. The total fees for a work permit for one employee for one year are approximately NIS10,000.
Foreign experts are covered by all labour laws in Israel, including legislation concerning minimum wage, annual leave, sick leave and pensions. Further, employers of foreign experts must:
If the expert's salary is not paid in Israel and they have the benefit of an employment agreement outside Israel, it is recommended that the terms of their employment in Israel are set out in a separate employment agreement.
Employers must keep records of such documentation to prove that these duties have been fulfilled.
Does every business visit to Israel require a work permit?
In the current economic and globalised climate, foreign representatives often come to Israel for various business purposes (eg, consulting, negotiations, business meetings, lectures and training). In such cases, the question arises as to whether such representatives are foreign experts who are required go through the long and complex procedure of obtaining a work permit, or are business travellers authorised to carry out their activities in Israel with a regular tourist visa (a B/2 visa). This is a complex question, and answers often fall in a grey area. According to the Population and Immigration Authority's regulations, a work permit is required for foreign experts who "carry out a temporary and time-sensitive task that requires special expertise or skill, such as repairs of equipment supplied by the company employing the foreign expert". The regulations state that a work permit is not required for foreign nationals who wish to stay in Israel for a short period to seek investments, participate in negotiations or attend business meetings.
Can a business entity without a branch or presence in Israel apply for permission to employ a foreign expert?
Yes. In this case, the employer must attach a notarised power of attorney to the application that has been apostilled or authenticated by an Israeli consulate abroad, authorising a representative in Israel to handle the application.
What would happen if a foreign worker was caught without a work permit?
The employment of a foreign worker in Israel without a valid work permit constitutes a criminal offence which may lead to fines and other criminal sanctions on the employer and its management, as well as on the employee. The Population and Immigration Authority conducts a strict enforcement regime, which has grown in scope in recent years and applies to both large and international organisations operating in Israel. Therefore, employers are recommended to apply for work permits and not risk potential fines or other penalties.
Must the foreign expert's salary be paid in Israel?
No. Insofar as a foreign expert is being paid an expert's salary (equivalent to at least double the national average wage in Israel – around NIS19,000), there is no obligation that wages be paid in Israel, but the salary paid must be at least equal to the expert's salary threshold.
Would a manager be considered a foreign expert?
There is a special application route for a manager or senior representative of a foreign or international company, but this process is relevant only for employees within the organisation's most senior managerial level. However, it is possible and acceptable to apply for permission to employ workers at a lower managerial level under the expert category, noting the employee's special training and experience, and presenting suitable CVs and references.
Can a foreign expert obtain a work permit without sponsorship?
No. For a foreign expert to obtain a work permit in Israel, they must be sponsored by an employer that wishes to employ them and has already received a specific work permit for such an expert.
Are work permits transferable?
Work permits are not transferable. Therefore, a foreign expert cannot be replaced by another person under the same permit. If an employer wishes to replace a foreign expert they must make a new work permit application.
Is there a restriction on the number of foreign workers that can be employed under the expert category?
A work permit for a manager or senior representative in a foreign or international company can be granted for up to two employees. A 90-day work permit can be obtained for up to 300 employees. There is no limit to the number of employees that can be employed as experts concerning the other categories. However, each application is subject to the authority's discretion, which examines, among other things, whether there is a real need to employ the experts in Israel. Employing a large number of employees under the expert category may raise questions and the employer will have to prove that there is a real need to employ them in Israel.
Are Jewish foreign workers required to obtain a work permit?
An employee's religion is irrelevant and any foreign worker who is not a citizen or resident of Israel must have a work permit. However, Jewish employees undertaking Aliyah (immigration to Israel) may be eligible to receive a work permit.
Can foreign experts stay in Israel when applying for a work permit?
There is nothing to prevent foreign experts from being in Israel at the initial stage of the process where the application for a work permit is submitted to the Population and Immigration Authority's permits unit). However, when an employer applies to the authority for an entry visa for a foreign expert, the employee must remain outside Israel.
Can family members of the foreign experts accompany them?
Yes. Foreign experts can apply for a visa for their spouse and children up to the age of 18. In such cases, the spouse and children must present marriage and birth certificates that prove the family connection to the foreign expert. Family members will be issued a visa allowing them to stay in Israel, but are not allowed to work. No entry visa is granted to family members of short-term visa holders.
For how long is a work permit granted and can it be extended?
Apart from special permits for a defined duration (eg, 45 days and 90 days), a work permit will generally be issued for one to two years and can be extended if necessary.
How can a work permit to employ a foreign expert be extended?
In order to extend a work permit, employers must apply to the Population and Immigration Authority's permits unit. The extension process does not require a foreign expert to go to an Israeli consulate and takes about one month.
Is it possible to extend a work permit indefinitely?
The maximum employment period of a foreign worker in Israel is 63 months from the date of issue of their first work permit. Special and exceptional circumstances may apply to certain foreign experts. Such an application must be submitted at least six months before the expiration of an existing work permit.
Can foreign experts enter and leave Israel freely for the duration of their work permit?
As part of the work permit application process, foreign workers are issued a multiple entry visa that allows them to enter and exit Israel without restriction. The work permit of any foreign worker who leaves Israel without a valid multiple entry and exit visa will be cancelled. Therefore, it is important to ensure that a multiple entry visa has been issued and remains valid throughout the employment agreement of foreign experts.
Do foreign experts pay income tax in Israel?
Foreign experts are liable for income tax in respect of income generated in Israel. Under certain conditions, they may also be entitled to living expenses (eg, housing, meals and flights) for tax deduction purposes. Employers in Israel are subject to withholding tax.
For further information on this topic please contact Amit Bechler at Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co by telephone (+972 3 694 4111) or email (email@example.com). The Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co website can be accessed at www.fbclawyers.com.
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