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Types of Residence Visas in Israel: The Complete Guide

Michael Decker

Stuart Safft

I am delighted to report that my wife and I have just obtained our Israeli citizenship. We will be forever grateful for all of the help, guidance and support which Ariel Galili of Decker, Pex, Ofir & Co. provided through this process.
I am a Jewish, 80-year-old American, and my wife is not Jewish. We had started the process on our own back in November 2020 via the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh, but soon became entangled in the delays and often-changing regulations due to Covid-19. The pandemic also caused delays in obtaining the required apostilles for various documents from various state agencies and the US State Department.
We found Decker, Pex, Ofir & Co. On the internet and began working with Ariel in late November 2021. Ariel did a superb job of leading us through the process, helping us to understand which documents were essential, which would most likely be required, and which, though included on the list of required documents, were rarely required. He helped us several times to understand what was likely and unlikely to occur as “the next step.” Helping us manage our expectations was extremely useful to us.
Besides his knowing the laws, regulations and procedures, Ariel also made us feel that he was truly interested in helping us to successfully work through this process in as smooth, timely, and frustration-free manner as possible.
My wife and I strongly recommend anyone planning to go through this process seriously consider hiring Decker, Pex, Ofir & Co. and, specifically, Ariel Galili.

In Israel, there is a wide variety of entry and residence permits, such as tourist visas and work visas, which differ from each other in how they are obtained and in the rights that they grant. If you are interested in inviting visitors or foreign workers to Israel, keep reading to see exactly what you need to do.

Our law firm specializes in immigration and entry visas to Israel. In this article, lawyer Michael Decker briefly explains about the various types of entry and residence visas that exist in Israeli law, and in what situations each one may be obtained.Israeli visas

Work Visas for Foreign Citizens in Israel

We all know that an employer who wants to invite foreign workers to Israel, for whatever reason, has to go through bureaucratic procedures vis-à-vis the immigration authorities. The goal of the State of Israel is to maintain a balance between two seemingly conflicting interests: on one hand, to give priority to Israeli citizens in matters of work and livelihood, and on the other hand not to forget that we live in a global era, where foreign citizens can do things that Israelis cannot, such as bring unique knowledge and services not available in Israel, and perhaps even help strengthen the economy as a whole.

For regular employees, such as nursing, construction, and agricultural workers, the procedure for issuing a work visa is very specific. In contrast, when inviting foreign experts specializing in the fields of academia, high-tech, medicine, and cyber, the required bureaucratic procedure is different. This is also true for short-time workers coming for only a few weeks. In other words, the bureaucratic procedure varies depending on the needs of the employer, the conditions in the application, the period of stay in Israel, and the required expertise. In any case, there are different types of residence visas for different needs.

Types of Residence Visas – A Detailed List

Have you ever heard of the Entry into Israel Law? As its name implies, this law determines the conditions under which foreign citizens may enter Israel. The question is: what rights do an entry visa actually grant the foreign citizen who holds it? Does It only grant the right to stay in Israel, or also determine whether the stay may be short-term or long-term? Below are listed the main types of residence visas in Israel:

  • B/1 work visa – This type of visa is relevant for foreign workers, because it allows the holder to both reside in Israel and work there. To issue this visa, the employer must first submit an application with the Ministry of Interior for inviting a foreign worker even before the worker arrives in Israel. If eligibility for a visa is determined, the employer will receive a work permit for their foreign worker, and the worker will receive a B/1 visa. The visa is valid for one year, but can be extended for a maximum period of five years, except in special cases of foreign workers in the nursing industry. The visa cannot be issued after the worker is in Israel, so it is not possible for the worker to come to Israel with a B/2 tourist visa and then begin the procedure for obtaining a B/1 work visa.
  • B/1 expert visa – This type of visa is for foreign experts. It cannot be held by manual workers, but only by senior workers at jobs that require unique expertise, a specific professional background, and professional certificates. Only if all of these criteria are met, the visa is approved. Many academics and researchers, high-tech workers, engineers, and journalists who come to Israel go through this process and receive a residence and work visa. The criteria for being considered a “foreign expert” and being eligible for an expert visa are a salary that exceeds twice the average salary in the Israeli market, specific professional skills required for the job that the expert worker was invited to do, creating new jobs in the economy, and specific knowledge not available in Israel. Also, the expert must be invited by a resident of Israel who is not a manpower contractor. As stated above, after a bureaucratic process vis-à-vis the foreign workers’ independent subsidiary unit at the Ministry of Labor, this status is approved.

Special Types of Visas That Are Not Regular Work Visas

  • B/3 “doubtful status” visa – This type of visa is for people whose status is unclear and in doubt; therefore, the residence permit granted to them in Israel is for one month only instead of three months.
  • B/2 tourist visa – This type of visa is for tourists and visitors. Those who hold a tourist visa may stay in Israel for up to three months, and apply for an extension in specific cases. However, they are prohibited from working in Israel.
  • B/4 visaThis visa serves as a permit for volunteers to stay in Israel. The permit is granted for volunteer work only, not paid work.
  • B/5 investor visa – This visa is for American citizens who wish to invest in Israel. After receiving the visa, the investor and their family members may stay in Israel with no restrictions.

Study Visas and Settlement in Israel

These visas are for anyone interested in settling in Israel or considering it, with or without regard to the process of naturalization in Israel. There are several types of such visas:

  • A/1 visa – This visa is for those who are entitled to immigrate to Israel based on the Law of Return who wish to live and work in Israel prior to immigrating.
  • A/2 visa – This visa is given to higher-education students coming to Israel for the purpose of academic studies.
  • A/3 and A/4 visas – These visas are for clergymen and their families.
  • A/5 visa – This visa serves as a temporary residence permit for those who are in the process of obtaining Israeli citizenship not on the basis of the Law of Return.

Work Visas Are Granted to Employers, Not to Their Foreign Workers

Since there is much confusion regarding work visas, we hereby emphasize that these are granted only to employers, and serve as a permit to hire foreign workers in Israel. Work visas are never granted to foreign workers who wish to work in Israel. In other words, foreign workers receive their work permit from their future employer before coming to Israel. A foreign worker is not allowed to first come to Israel and then start searching for a job. The application for a visa is done by the employer, who applies to the Israeli Ministry of Interior for a visa that will allow him to invite the foreign worker to Israel, and the employer is the one who must provide justifiable reasons for inviting the foreign worker and prove that the worker has expertise not available in Israel.

So What Do You Do If You Wish to Invite a Foreign Worker to Israel and Are Unsure What Type of Residence Visa You Need?

As you can see, there are many different types of residence visas. All of these visas require a complex bureaucratic process vis-à-vis the authorities. To make sure that you are following all the rules correctly and lawfully, we recommend that you hire an expert experienced immigration lawyer who knows all the details of the law and can assist you with every step of the process, including preparation of all the necessary documents, advice regarding the type of visa relevant to your case, and solutions for every issue that may come up until successfully obtaining the desired work visa.

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