By Michael Decker
The law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh helps Israeli business owners acquire work visas for foreign expert workers. The purpose of this article is to provide helpful tips on dealing with the obstacles involved.
Many Israeli business owners would like to employ foreign citizens. Foreign employees often have skills and knowledge that aren’t available on the Israeli human resource market. In addition, many immigrants want to work with friends and colleagues they’ve known abroad, both for personal reasons and to utilize established professional connections. Of course, both reasons are also mutually compatible and complementary—helping a skilled friend get a well-paying job that will help your business thrive is both a good deed and a blessing.
Unfortunately, Israeli immigration and labor legislation both place barriers in the path of any business owner who wants to employ an expert foreign worker. The intent is to ensure that foreign experts are never employed in a position that could have been occupied by an Israeli citizen. Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh specializes both in immigration and in labor law issues. Our law office in Jerusalem is located next to the Ministry of Interior's permit department. Our team has accumulated vast experience on the subject of foreign worker permits, and we would like to point out the most important aspects of obtaining a B/1 work visa for a foreign expert.
Anyone who wishes to employ a foreign citizen in Israel must demonstrate that said employment is both necessary and a net positive for Israeli economy. The main obstacles to hiring a foreign worker for the average business are: the need to prove that the foreign expert possesses special skills that cannot be found among Israeli workers; the necessity of said skills to the functioning or development of the employing enterprise; the expert’s ability to teach these skills to local employees; and the requirement to pay a foreign expert at least twice the median salary in Israel. Overall, the Israeli immigration office treats foreign experts more as a burdensome necessity than as welcome guests. They are expected to quickly use their skills to improve an Israeli business, convey their expert knowledge to local workers, and depart – all within a scant few months.
There are certain areas of employment in Israel in which the requirements are relaxed; certain human resource companies have a license to import foreign employees for certain occupations "in bulk." Caretakers, agricultural workers and construction workers are the most popular imported occupations. However, the average business owner would need the help of an immigration lawyer to demonstrate the necessity of an individual worker's skills and swiftly complete the process of obtaining a visa.
In addition, there are some tricks that will help you acquire a foreign expert visa that are not mentioned in the text of the appropriate law. For instance, it always helps to have a recommendation from the relevant Israeli ministry, stating that the foreign expert has the knowledge and skills to benefit Israeli economy. For example, a foreign worker in a local tour company with working knowledge of a specific language and culture should receive a recommendation from the Ministry of Tourism, while a foreign athlete may be recommended by the Ministry of Culture and Sport.
Furthermore, the employing business needs to submit documents by its CPA to demonstrate that it has its finances in order. Large companies will have a better chance to receive the foreign expert visas, but small businesses can get by as well if they submit a solid request.
The law does acknowledge that supervisors, managers and project leaders may have to stay in Israel for an extended period in order to be productive and justify their employment. Recent changes to Ministry of Interior procedures allow also hi-tech professionals to extend their visas for up to a year, and even bring along their family. Combined with the relatively recent unveiling of the expedited procedure which allowed Israeli business owners to bring in foreign experts to handle local projects in an expedited manner (within a week, as compared to a few months for a regular request), we hope to see a trend of extended flexibility and reasonable treatment of both employers and employees in future legislation.
Jerusalemite Michael Decker is a partner in Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh and a member of the Israeli Bar Association since 2008. Decker serves as chief legal counsel for several leading commercial firms, with areas of expertise including real estate, business, commercial, nonprofit and Israeli immigration law, and significant litigation experience. He is a Co-Founder of IJA, Israeli Justice Alliance whose aim is to fight anti Semitism on an international level and protect the religious freedom of minority groups in Israel while maintaining Israel’s character as a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. His involvement in several petitions before the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice has had a real impact on Israeli legislation.
Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Offices can be reached at 02-990-3180 or through their website, www.lawoffice.org.il.