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In this article we review generally an area that has grown increasingly important in recent years, the subject of what types of visas and permits are necessary for foreigners who wish to work in the country.
Visit Visas: All foreign nationals, except those from countries that do not require entry visas from Israeli citizens, must obtain valid entry visas to enter Israel. Citizens of certain countries may obtain visas at the port of entry. Foreign nationals may enter Israel under transit visas, visit visas, temporary residence visas or permanent residence visas.
Transit visas are issued for transit purposes only. They are valid for five days and are renewable for an additional 10 days (maximum total period may not exceed 15 days).
Visit visas are divided into the following categories:
B1: For foreign nationals who wish to work and receive remuneration in Israel on a temporary basis.
B2: For foreign nationals who wish to visit Israel for any purpose other than paid or unpaid work. This is the typical tourist visa.
B3: For foreign nationals whose entry status is not clear. This visa is of limited duration (one month) until the entry status is clarified and the entry visa is reclassified. The duty of reclassifying the entry status rests on the foreign national granted the B3 visit visa.
B4: For foreign nationals who wish to volunteer (work without earnings) in Israel.
Citizens of the following countries are generally exempt from obtaining transit and class B2 visit visas:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Central African Republic, Channel Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.
In general, all visit visas, with the exception of B1 and B3 class visas, are valid for 90 days and are renewable for an additional two years (the maximum total period is 27 months).
Other than an application form and payment of a small fee, no specific documentation is needed to obtain a visit visa.
Application takes place at an Israeli consulate or at a special unit of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Transit and visit visas may be applied for in groups. Both B1 and B4 class visas may be applied for by the employer.
Work Permits: A foreign national may work in Israel only if he or she enters the country with a permanent residence visa, a temporary residence visa or a B1 or B4 visit visa.
An applicant for a temporary residence visa for employment must file the following items:
* Recommendation of the Ministry of Industry and Trade
* Employee's certificate of valid medical insurance
* Employment contract
* An employer's undertaking assuring the employee's departure on termination of the employment contract
* The employee's accurate personal data, including his or her passport number
* Proof of the employee's social security registration
* Letter of an Israeli employer, or other Israeli party, explaining the reasons why the employee's presence is needed
* Affidavit on a specified form concerning the above items
A B1 visa may be granted on a case-by-case basis to self-employed foreign nationals to work in an Israeli business. Detailed rules apply to employers and employees regarding, among other things, pre-arrival medical examinations, as well as housing and medical care.
For a B1 visa application, the registration fees payable to the Ministry of the Interior are approximately $1,100.
Residence Visas: Temporary residence visas are divided into the following categories:
A1: For Jewish foreign nationals only who wish to obtain Israeli citizenship. The A1 class visa is valid for three years.
A2: For foreign nationals who wish to study in Israel.
A3: For members of the clergy who are invited to Israel by a religious institute. The institute must apply for the visa.
A4: For the spouse or children (under 18 years of age) of an A2 or A3 class visa holder.
A5: For foreign nationals wishing to stay in Israel for any reason other than those listed above.
A permanent residence visa is granted for an unlimited duration of stay. Applications are considered by the Ministry of the Interior on a case-by-case basis. An application may be filed after several years of temporary residence.
Family and Personal Considerations: A B2 visa may be granted to the spouse and children of a foreign national who receives a B1 visa. In these cases, the duration of the B2 visa corresponds to that of the B1 visa.
Foreign visitors who hold valid foreign or international drivers' licenses may drive a car legally in Israel for up to 12 months per visit to Israel. If a visit exceeds 12 months, the visitor must pass a short vehicle control test and receive an Israeli drivers' license. Different rules apply to commercial vehicles.
For further details on all the above, it is advisable to consult lawyers or other professionals specializing in visa matters.
The writer is an International Tax Partner at Ernst & Young Israel