Extending a work permit for an expert foreign worker in Israel
The State of Israel does not support foreigners coming to Israel to work in jobs that could have been filled by local workers. However, the state permits the employment of foreigners with exceptional professional skill or education when they are necessary for various companies in the Israeli economy. A foreign worker’s visa is issued for a limited period each time, with the expectation that they will finish their work in Israel and leave the country to return to their home abroad. Yet a foreign worker can work in Israel for up to 5 years, and even more in exceptional cases, if the employer in Israel applies and the Ministry of Interior agrees to extending the foreign expert’s employment permit.
Our office deals with the process of obtaining and extending work permits for foreigners in Israel. In this article, attorney Joshua Pex will explain the procedure that an expert foreign worker already residing in Israel must go through in order to extend their residence visa.
Who is considered an expert foreign worker?
As of the end of 2022, there were 108,516 legal foreign workers residing in Israel, including 6,457 expert workers. The latter are foreign workers who have a unique expertise that is not available in Israel, and they reside in Israel under a B/1 specialist work permit.
Expert workers have education, knowledge or talent that gives them a unique expertise in their field, which is difficult or impossible to find in the Israeli labor market. Many of the foreign experts are engaged in development and management positions, and most of them have some level of academic education and/or extensive professional experience before arriving in Israel. Specialist workers may be researchers, workers in the medical industry, diamond dealers, foreign artists, workers in the high-tech field, representatives of a foreign military, chefs, and more.
In order to obtain a B/1 expert work permit, the employer must obtain an employment permit from the permit division of the Directorate of Service for Employers and Foreign Workers, and issue a B/1 expert work permit together with a description of the profession approved for employment. This must all be done even before the worker arrives in Israel.
The permit is only issued for a restricted period of time, but if the employer sees fit, they can apply to extend the foreign worker’s stay for additional years. To obtain this extension, the employing company will have to meet a number of requirements, presented in detail below, along with supplying the other documents necessary to extend the work permit.
What happens after the expert worker arrives in Israel?
A work permit approved for the first time will be valid for two years for a foreign worker specializing in a specific field, and for only one year if it is a field that does not require prior academic education.
In addition, the Population and Immigration Authority is entitled to cancel the permit given to an expert foreign worker and the employer if something unusual is found in the employee’s data, for example non-compliance with the procedures or conditions of the permit or the provision of partial or false information, or if a public authority has issued a reasoned recommendation to cancel the permit.
Is it possible to extend a B/1 expert work permit?
Yes. The work permit can be extended for maximum periods provided that the cumulative period of the worker’s stay in Israel does not exceed 63 months of work, except in unusual cases which will be detailed later. The application procedure includes several steps which we will explain in the following paragraphs.
How do you apply for extending a foreign expert’s employment permit?
The application to extend a B/1 specialist work permit is submitted for the first time by the employer to the permit division of the Directorate of Service for Employers and Foreign Workers, up to 60 days before the expiration of the current work visa.
The extension application for extending the foreign expert’s employment permit must be submitted with the following documents attached:
- Application to extend a work permit for a foreign worker
- The company’s registration certificate
- A certified copy of the 102 forms submitted to the National Insurance Institute for Israeli workers.
- Confirmation by an accountant that the company employing the worker is an active entity and that no comment regarding a going concern was registered against it in the last year.
- A letter explaining why the foreign expert’s expertise is necessary, with documents and letters of recommendation supporting the request. It is advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration to Israel to update and polish the letter in accordance with the legal requirements.
- Payment of a fee.
- In applications for the extension of an existing permit for a foreign expert, under “specialist fees” an Appendix C, a special report by the accountant, must be attached.
- When the application is submitted by a foreign company without a branch in Israel – a legal power of attorney must be attached, authorizing the applicant to handle the application on behalf of the employer.
It is recommended to save the reference number received after submitting the application for the purpose of identification and tracking the status of the application.
Is it possible to extend the work permit beyond 63 month?
As a rule, the answer is no. However, if the employer does wish to extend the foreign worker’s stay in Israel beyond the 63 months stated in the regulations, they will have to submit a special request to the permit department at least six months before the permit expires.
The employer must attach to the application proofs regarding the foreign specialist’s unique contribution to the economy, market, culture, sports or society.
Approval of the application requires consultation with the Minister of Finance and the approval of the Minister of Economy and Industry. If the extension is approved, the expert’s visa may be extended for limited periods beyond the aforementioned 63 months.
If the employer does not submit the application for the special extension by the appointed date, the worker will have to leave the country when the work permit expires. Continuing to stay in Israel, or returning to it, after the last work permit has expired is possible only when the special request has been approved.
It is important to note that if the special request is not submitted within 6 months before the expiration of the foreign expert’s permit, the worker will have to leave Israel upon the expiration of their permit and will only be allowed to return if the special request for an extension of the residence period is approved.
After the work permit expires, foreign workers are generally prevented from returning to Israel.
How can I maximize the chances of a foreign employee in my company continuing to reside in Israel?