Employing Foreign Experts in Israel
How may companies and organizations in Israel employ foreign experts? Foreign experts are a special case of foreign worker employment. Despite the policy that puts a limit on the number of foreign workers, companies and organizations in Israel that wish to employ foreign experts with specific areas of expertise may request a special permit to do so. The request must include proof of the need for the foreign expert and the lack of Israeli workers with the relevant knowledge base. We present a legal guide on the topic of employing foreign experts in Israel by lawyer Michael Decker, a partner of our firm who specializes in immigration to Israel and labor law.
WHEN ARE FOREIGN EXPERTS NEEDED IN ISRAEL?
Israel is considered to have a strong economy with several prominent employment fields, the most important of which are the manufacturing and high-tech industries. However, companies in the Israeli market cannot always rely only on local workers. There is sometimes a need to employ foreign workers with a specific specialty. This need arises when no specialist can be found within Israel, or when the foreign expert has special experience or expertise that are needed for the job.
Inviting a foreign expert to Israel is usually complicated and involves a great deal of bureaucracy. The policy in Israel tends toward employing local workers rather than foreign workers, and the quota for foreign workers in the various fields of occupation are therefore limited by law. However, foreign experts may be employed via a more flexible procedure (compared to fields of occupation in which the quota of foreign workers is limited) that allows inviting them to Israel and receiving work and stay permits for them, although the process may still be challenging. To get the required permits, it is important to act in accordance with the law and regulations. Companies who do not follow the rules may receive sanctions such as high fines and even prosecution for employing foreign workers against the law. Below we list the various options and the requirements for employing foreign experts in Israel.
IN WHICH FIELDS MAY FOREIGN EXPERTS BE EMPLOYED?
As opposed to other industries (such as nursing, agriculture, and hotels), in which the requirements for employing foreign workers are very specific, the regulations for employing foreign experts are more general and may apply to many fields of employment, including academia, medicine, engineering, niche industrial fields, and even the arts. However, specific regulations have recently been set for more industries. For example, several years ago, regulations were decided upon for employing foreign experts in the high-tech and cybernetics industris due to the increasing number of requests for foreign experts in these fields. A special procedure was also created for employing foreign diamantaires.
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIVING A PERMIT TO EMPLOY A FOREIGN EXPERT FOR A SHORT PERIOD?
The conditions for employing a foreign expert depend on the type and length of employment. The requirements may become more complex the longer the period of employment is or for other reasons. In general, the process for receiving a permit to employ a foreign worker in Israel includes two stages: first of all, an employment permit must be arranged for the employer before the worker comes to Israel. After that, if the employment permit is received, a stay and work permit must be arranged for the foreign worker after their arrival.
If the employment period does not extend beyond 90 days a year in total, an expedited procedure exists for receiving an employment permit. The procedure applies only to workers from countries whose citizens are exempt from visit visas to Israel under the Entry into Israel Order (such as the European Union countries, the USA, Canada, Britain, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea). The threshold conditions for approval of the request include proving that the foreign expert is needed in Israel for a temporary job that requires special expertise. An example of this is fixing a specific product or equipment as part of the service provided by the foreign manufacturer. The request will be approved at the discretion of the Population Authority, as long as the request meets the conditions of the expedited procedure and no other of the Authority’s regulations prevent the approval.
The documents that are required for this purpose include an application form, a copy of the foreign passport (valid for at least 6 months from the end of the requested employment period), and certificates of the foreign expert’s special training or expertise. If the certificates are in a language other than Hebrew or English, a translation of them must be submitted, as well.
If the permit is received through this procedure, the employer / expert / power of attorney representing them must arrive at the Population Directorate offices to apply for a work license. They must submit the application form, along with the foreign expert’s passport and a copy of the permit, and pay a yearly fee and a license fee (as listed in the Ministry of Interior’s fee table). If the request is approved and the need arises, the foreign expert may also receive a visa allowing them to enter Israel multiple times as long as the visa is valid.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYING A FOREIGN EXPERT FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME?
In addition to the option discussed above of employing foreign experts for short periods of time, regulations exist for employing foreign experts for longer periods of time. These regulations allow Israeli companies to request foreign experts for several years, up to 63 months in total. The regulations stipulate conditions for specific cases, such as senior workers or trust workers at foreign or international companies operating in Israel, academic professors or researchers, senior staff at foreign flight or maritime companies, medical experts, diamantaires, foreign photographers, foreign journalists, and foreign artists.
Besides these cases, a general procedure exists for employing experts at “expert salary.” In such cases, which are the most common when employing foreign experts, it must be proved that the worker has special expertise or critical knowledge that are needed for the job. Additionally, it must be proved that their salary will be at least twice the average amount paid to employees in the market. The value of employee stock options (ESOs) or shares is not considered part of the salary for this purpose. This procedure is even more complex than the usual procedure, and the requested permit will generally be granted for up to a year. Extending the period of the permit requires submitting an additional request at least 60 days before the original permit expires. Considering the bureaucratic complexity of the procedure in these cases, it is highly recommended to seek the aid of a lawyer who specializes in immigration to Israel and in labor law and can guide you throughout the process.
WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF FOREIGN EXPERTS IN ISRAEL?
Foreign experts have all the rights of foreign workers in Israel, although some of the rights are affected by the conditions of the employment. The rights of foreign workers in Israel include proper living conditions, salary rights such as overtime payment, one rest day a week, and lawful dismissal. For further details regarding these and other rights, see our article on the rights of foreign workers in Israel.
Employing foreign experts in Israel – CONTACT A LAWYER SPECIALIZING IN IMMIGRATION TO ISRAEL AND LABOR LAW
In this article we have described the various ways to employ foreign experts in Israel and the required procedures. For any further questions, or for legal advice or assistance, you are welcome to contact our firm and we will be happy to help. Our lawyers, who work at our offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specialize in immigration to Israel and labor law. They have extensive knowledge and experience in applying for stay and work permits in Israel, and in representing companies and workers from Israel and from abroad vis-à-vis all the authorities and courts.