Definition of a Foreign Expert
A “foreign expert” is a foreign worker with unique expertise that cannot be found in Israel. Any company wishing to bring a foreign worker to perform work in Israel is obligated to obtain a work permit and appropriate work visa in accordance with the law and relevant government decisions. A foreign expert is in a separate category from foreign workers in Israel, in which the emphasis is on his higher education, unique knowledge and skills, proven experience in his field of expertise, and his participation in similar projects in other countries.
The unique characteristics of an foreign expert were determined by then-Minister of Labor and Welfare Shlomo Benizri in the 2001 Bukharis Committee, which was chaired by Mr. Jacob Bukharis. The committee discussed the issue of foreign workers and experts in Israel, and determined that a foreign specialist has a preferred status to most foreign workers in Israel, and requires different treatment.
The committee established six unique criteria for defining a foreign expert:
The committee’s recommendations were adopted, and to this day they form the basis for obtaining a foreign expert work permit in Israel.
The Foreign Expert Procedure
The Foreign Workers Law authorizes the chief of the Population Directorate or someone on his behalf to authorize the employment of a foreign expert. Foreign Expert Procedure 5.3.0041 details the process for hiring foreign experts (including engineers, consultants, supervisors, managers, technicians, and foremen), and requires the submission of a detailed application and supporting documents which attest to the need for the foreign expert’s local presencel and the lack of corresponding specialized knowledge in Israel. Submission of an incomplete application can lead to a partial approval of the application or even its rejection, so employers are recommended to consult with a lawyer who specializes in this field.
Employing foreign experts requires the employer to apply for a type B/1 work permit as well as a corresponding work visa. The bureaucratic procedure consists of several steps, and the length of the process varies depending on the type of permit required (a one-year work permit, a three-month work permit, or a permit obtained through the expedited process).
The procedure further states that the work permit and work visa to Israel will be issued before the foreign expert arrives in the country, and that they cannot be issued while the foreign worker is in Israel.
As part of the procedure’s requirements, a company wishing to bring in a foreign worker for a period of more than 3 months is required to pay the foreign expert a monthly salary that will be no less than twice the average salary in Israel (as of 2022, double the average salary is NIS 20,856). In professions where the regular salary is higher than the average salary in Israel, the supervisor has discretion to condition receipt of the permit on the obligation to pay a salary even higher than the above.
The steps for employing a foreign worker in Israel
Applying for a permit and work visa for foreign workers to Israel involves several steps:
The duration of the work permit application process varies depending on the specific visa application procedure.
The various routes for applying for work permits to Israel:
One-year work permits
A company wishing to hire a foreign expert for a period of more than 3 months is obligated to pay him a monthly salary that will be no less than double the average salary in Israel (ie less than a sum of NIS 20,856, as of 2022). This track is suitable for academic and non-academic foreign experts, provided that it is possible to prove the expert’s skills.
The duration of this process is 6-8 weeks, and a significant emphasis is placed on detailing the application and providing the required information and supporting documents. Submitting an incomplete application will lead to significant delays in being issued the requested work permit, and can even lead to the application’s rejection.
Applying for a work visa to Israel includes a consular process, and the foreign expert must report to the Israeli consulate abroad to receive a temporary B/1 work visa. As part of this procedure, it is possible to apply for B/2 visitor visas for first-degree family members (spousse and children up to the age of 18).
Every year, the permit and the work visa can be extended for an additional year, up to a cumulative and maximum period of 63 months in total.
3-Month Israeli Work Permits
This process allows the company to hire a foreign expert for a short period of up to 3 months at minimum wage, without the requirement of paying him double the average Israeli salary. This track is suitable for academic and non-academic foreign experts. The procedure for applying for a work visa to Israel for a period of three months is the same as it is in the one-year procedure, including the 6-8 week duration of the process. Similar to the one-year procedure, the foreign expert must report to the Israeli consulate abroad for issuance of the Israeli work visa. It is not possible to extend the work permit beyond a period of 3 months, excepting exceptional cases
Expedited Process for 90-Day Work Permits
An expedited procedure for applying for work visas to Israel (Procedure 5.3.0040) allows the issuance of work permits within 6 working days for a working period of up to 90 days per calendar year. This route does not include a consular procedure and thus allows the foreign workers to enter Israel with only a work permit and to immediately start performing their work. A corresponding work visa will then be issued in the foreign expert’s passport at the relevant Ministry of the Interior no later than 48 hours after the foreign worker’s entry into Israel.
The permit cannot be extended beyond 90 days (cumulatively) in a calendar year. Therefore, in cases where it is known and/or there is concern that the project will not be completed within 90 days, it is recommended to apply for a longer-period foreign expert work permit from the beginning.
The procedure allows the 90 days defined in the permit to be divided into a number of different employment periods during the calendar year, with each permit requiring the submission of a new application.
This unique procedure is relevant only to citizens of a country who are exempt from a type B/2 visit permit according to the Order of Entry to Israel with a Permit Exemption (1974). These include Western European countries, North America, Japan, South Korea and others.
In general, applying for permits and work visas in Israel for specialist foreign workers is a complex bureaucratic legal procedure, and it is highly recommended to consult with a law firm specializing in the field of commercial immigration. Our office has over 12 years of experience in the field of foreign experts, and during that time we have been issued thousands of work visas for hundreds of Israeli and international companies.