Israel overhauls regulations for foreign experts
22 Dec 15
IMPACT – HIGH
What is the change? The Israeli government has announced significant new regulations for the employment of foreign professionals that take effect immediately.
What does the change mean? The regulations tighten many aspects of the criteria, documentation and procedures for companies sponsoring foreign experts for B-1 visas.
- Implementation time frame: Immediate.
- Visas/permits affected: B-1 visas for foreign experts.
- Who is affected: Israeli companies sponsoring foreign employees for B-1 visas. The regulations do not apply to the separate B-1 work visa for Jewish decedents.
- Impact on processing times: Processing times may be longer during the initial implementation. The regulations set processing times of 21 days for an initial confirmation of receipt and a decision within an additional 30 days unless the application is forwarded to another ministry for advice, in which case there are no guidelines on time frames. Additional requirements, including police and medical clearances, are likely to lengthen document preparation time.
- Business impact: The new documentary requirements, salary payment details and stricter filing deadlines for extensions add to the administrative burden on employers and foreign employees.
- Next steps: The regulations take effect immediately, but the Ministry of Interior is expected to issue clarifications that may further explain or refine them.
Background: The regulations consolidate the rules regarding B-1 foreign experts under one set of immigration regulations for the first time. The key changes are:
Jobs requiring academic qualifications: Jobs deemed to require academic qualifications will be distinguished from jobs that do not. While the ministry has not defined its criteria, it is expected to apply a common-sense approach based on whether the job traditionally requires an education or not. For instance, inspectors, programmers and engineers normally require academic qualifications and skills, whereas machine and other installation technicians typically do not.
Salary requirements: Companies hiring foreign experts in jobs that do not require academic qualifications have new requirements: They must pay the employee through an Israeli bank account and produce confirmation by an Israeli lawyer that the applicant’s employment contract is in full compliance with Israeli labor law, and upon visa extension they must show proof of the bank transfers and the employee’s exclusive access to the account.
Employers are required to pay all foreign experts double the average salary to foreign experts, regardless of whether the job requires academic qualifications. The Ministry of Interior may also require more than double the average salary in professions where the average salary is higher than double the average salary.
Family members: Foreign experts staying less than three months can no longer bring family dependents to Israel. For those staying longer than three months, foreign experts in positions requiring academic qualifications are allowed to bring family members to Israel as a right, while foreign experts in jobs that do not require academic qualifications may request to bring family members, but the decision is at the discretion of authorities.
Police and medical clearance: Foreign nationals applying for visas at an Israeli consulate must obtain a police clearance issued in the last 12 months and a medical clearance issued in the last three months by a medical facility approved by the consulate. Consulates have the authority to request additional information.
Processing times: Work permit applications will be initially confirmed by authorities within 21 days of submission and may be forwarded to other ministries for review. A decision will be issued after an additional 30 days following review by the other ministries.
Previous travel: The Ministry of Interior will check visa applicants’ entries and exits from Israel, especially in the previous 12 months, to make sure they did not overstay or work before issuance of the visa. Foreign experts intending to work in Israel therefore should limit travel before obtaining their work visa.
Extensions: Work permit extensions must be submitted at least 60 days before expiration of the current visa. Extensions beyond five years and three months must be submitted at least six months before expiration of the current visa and must demonstrate extraordinary circumstances. If the extension application is not filed at least six months in advance, the employee must depart Israel and can re-enter only after the extension is approved. It should be noted that if a foreign expert previously worked for a year in Israel, and five years and three months has elapsed since the first day of work, he or she must also file six months in advance of the proposed start date.
Changes to employment: Significant changes to the foreign employee’s work – including but not limited to changes to salary, job duties or location, early termination, or changes in management structure – must be reported to the Ministry of Interior within seven working days.
Foreign companies: Foreign companies sponsoring a foreign expert must provide a notarized power of attorney certified by an Israeli consulate authorizing a local representative to submit the work permit application on their behalf.
Passport validity: The required validity period of an applicant’s passport has been shortened to one year and three months from the date of application. However, BAL recommends that applicants’ passports be valid for the previously required two years and three months.
BAL Analysis: The regulations bring numerous changes that generally tighten the process and require additional paperwork. Employers should prepare for potentially longer timelines, especially given new police and medical clearances that can take several weeks to obtain, depending on the home country.
This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Israel. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.
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