Asylum Seeker Deposit
When ‘infiltrators’ work in Israel, their employer is required to set aside part of their salary to a special deposit. As of 2020, the portion is 16% of the asylum seeker’s Israeli salary. This deposit is kept until the foreign worker with the 2(a)5 permit leaves the country. How to withdraw the Asylum Seeker Deposit when the worker leaves Israel?
The law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh assists asylum seekers and their respective employers in Israel to function legally. In other articles, we explained regarding the rights of asylum seekers and how to employ asylum seekers without breaking the law. Additionally, we explained the legal background to the asylum seeker deposit, and how to withdraw the deposit during the coronavirus pandemic. Attorney Joshua Pex explains about what the asylum seeker deposit is and how to obtain it upon leaving Israel.
Why is some of the asylum seeker’s salary set aside in a deposit?
According to both Israeli Law and International Law, a person recognized as a refugee receives the right to live and work freely in the country in which they received the recognition. But the vast majority of ‘infiltrators’ that enter Israeli as tourists or that crossed the border illegally and submit a request for asylum, do not receive official refugee status. If they are not immediately deported after their interview with the RSD unit, like asylum seekers who enter the country from the former Soviet Union countries, they remain in the country with a “blue paper” – a 2(a)5 permit. The holder of this permit is not a Permanent or a Temporary Resident of Israel; merely “residing” in Israel while their status is being clarified.
Asylum seekers from countries such as Sudan or Eritrea usually receive ‘collective protection’. Their status isn’t checked on a personal level; rather, anyone that can prove they are the citizen of that country, is granted the status of ‘release under restrictive conditions’ and effectively a kind of permit under article 2(a)(5) of the Entry into Israel law. The Supreme Court decision on the matter determines that although asylum seekers are not legally permitted to work, the country will not enforce this prohibition with relation to employers, de facto enabling asylum seekers to work and make a living.
Regardless, most asylum seekers in Israel aren’t expected to remain in the country and definitely not to retire here. Therefore, an employer contributing to a pension fund or similar fund, won’t assist an asylum seeker. Moreover, such contributions would send the opposite message to the one the State of Israel is seeking to put across.
The deposit is a pension benefits replacement that encourages leaving Israel
The asylum seeker deposit serves a number of purposes. It replaces the pension stipend, severance pay, and other payments that an employee receives upon termination of employment. It provides the asylum seeker with a significant sum of money upon leaving Israel to establish their life elsewhere.
Finally, the deposit serves as an incentive for asylum seekers that would otherwise seek to delay their leaving the country. The asylum seeker will receive the entire sum of the deposit, with the deduction of 15% expenses and income tax, only if they leave Israel at the determined date.
How does the employer set aside the funds in the deposit?
Funds for the deposit are set aside via the Online Deposit Payment for Infiltrator Form. One can use this online form to pay the deposit retroactively, for past months.
All deposit funds are held in designated accounts at Mizrahi Tfahot Bank (Bank 20, Branch 618). The accounts are managed by the Deposits Unit in the Service Administration for Employers and Foreign Workers. This is the Unit the asylum seeker turns to to receive permission to withdraw the deposit.
Can the employer withdraw some of the funds in the deposit?
As detailed above, the deposit can be considered as replacing employer deposits toward pension funds or severance pay. If the employer thinks the employee caused their business financial harm, personal harm or harm to their reputation, they can deduct from the employee’s current salary or sue them for damages. It should be emphasized: the employer cannot withdraw any sum from the infiltrator’s deposit.
On the other hand, we emphasize once more that the State can deduct funds from the deposit if the asylum seeker does not leave the country on the required date. If they leave more than six months after the date, they will receive only 67% of the sum of the deposit, after a 15% deduction of management fees and income tax. If they leave within a month of the required date, they will receive the 67% before leaving, and the remaining 33% after leaving (with 15% deduction). If they leave between one month and six months of the required date, they will receive 67% upon leaving, and a portion of the remaining 33% – a smaller portion as the number of months the asylum seeker remained in Israel increased.
How can one check the funds have been fairly deposited?
The employee can use the Online Service on the Population and Immigration Authority Website. The service is free.
What happens if the employer is not contributing money to the deposit?
It’s important to remember there is no ‘grey zone’ in legally employing asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is an employee just like any foreign worker (includes the right to minimum wage, paid vacation, sick leave, and all the rights of an employee in Israel). If the employer legally registered the employment, the asylum seeker has the rights of any employee in Israel; if the employer is withholding these rights, they can file a case in the Labor Court and receive the funds or compensation they are entitled to. In extreme cases of violation of worker rights, the employer may be fined or even criminally charged.
Of course, if the asylum seeker is employed ‘under the table’ illegally and without a permit, then the employer may receive a heavy fine if it can be proved.
What needs to be done to release an asylum seeker deposit?
The request to release money can be submitted by filling in an online form or by filling in the form by hand, in one of a number of languages, and sending it by mail to the Deposits Unit. The request must be submitted approximately 10 days (no less than 7 but no more than a month) before leaving the country. A copy of an up-to-date passport and a copy of a flight ticket must be attached to the request.
After submitting the request, you will be sent a payment form that must be submitted at the bank at the airport, on the day the worker is leaving the country. The deposit may be received in cash, or to a foreign bank account that is registered under the worker’s name.
What about a worker that left the country without receiving the deposit?
The deposit may be sent to a foreign bank account within two years of the worker leaving Israel. The worker must send the Deposits Unit confirmation of ownership of the account to which they want the money transferred. If the request is submitted by a attorney in Israel, the worker must give them power of attorney.
What about the family of asylum seekers who died in Israel or after they left Israel, without receiving the deposit?
The heirs of an asylum seeker that worked in Israel have the right to receive the deposit funds. These heirs may be the spouse children, parents, or other heirs by law. To receive the deposit funds they are required to follow the procedure of inheritance in Israel when the testator dies abroad. Of course they must also prove their family connection to the deceased.
Contact us for Legal advice and representation
Asylum seekers or employers of foreign workers that are facing legal issues – we are at your service. Whether the subject is Labor Law or Immigration Law, the Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Firm will be happy to assist you. We can help submit appeals on rejection of requests for asylum, or to approach employers and prepare a submission to Labor Court regarding salary payments or deposit payments. Call us to set up a meeting with an attorney in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.