The employment of foreign specialists is a relatively new phenomenon in Israel, reflecting the massive entry of international business to the country. Israeli law has not yet caught up with economic developments in this area, creating a situation in which the statutory framework relating to issuance of work permits for foreign workers is not codified in a unified manner. Rather, various statutes pertaining to this area of law may be found scattered throughout numerous laws enacted by the Israeli "Knesset" (Parliament).
A Bill which has been introduced to the Knesset is intended to consolidate all relevant legal issues into a uniform code of law.
The general rules governing the employment of foreign workers in Israel are found in the Entry to Israel Law - 1952 and the regulations thereto. Other statutes containing provisions relating to work permits include: The Employment Service Law 1959; The Support of Capital Investment Law 1959; and The Foreign Workers Law 1991 (prohibition of illegal employment and assurance of fair working conditions).
Unlike U.S. immigration law, Israeli law generally provides for only one type of work status relating to the employment of foreign professionals and non-professionals: the B-1 visa. Thus, the B -1 category includes blue-collar workers, foreign experts, academic staff and the like. All applications for an Israeli work permit must be sponsored by a local Israeli employer.
B - 1 Procedure
B-1 procedure is comprised of two separate bureaucratic steps: (1) submission of a work petition to the Employment Service (an agency of the Ministry of Labor); and (2) filing of a subsequent visa application (actually, two applications, as described below) to the Ministry of the Interior.
In the scope of a B-1 work petition, the Israeli employer provides pertinent details relating to the proposed employment and the foreign professional such as: job description, educational background, professional experience, proposed salary in Israel, housing arrangements etc. The employer must describe recruitment efforts made to recruit an Israeli professional for the position offered to the foreign professional. The latter criterion - local recruitment efforts - often plays a critical role in the ultimate success of the work petition. Recruitment efforts include classified ads in daily newspapers and industry media, and recruitment applications to the Employment Service and to private personnel agencies.
The B-1 petition is initially submitted to the local Employment Service office with jurisdiction over the place of intended employment. It is recommended however, that the petition be submitted, by the Israeli employer, prior to the foreign professional's arrival in Israel. Following review by the Director of the local office, the petition is then internally routed to the regional office of the Employment Service. At the third stage, the application will be transferred by the regional office to the national offices of the Employment Service, at the Ministry of Labor in Jerusalem. The respective Directors of both the local and regional offices of the Employment Service are authorized to return the B-1 paperwork to the petitioning company with requests for further evidence or with a requirement for additional recruitment efforts.
Processing times for B-1 work petitions currently range from 8-12 weeks. Factors impacting on processing times (and their ultimate success) include current government policy on the import of foreign workers, the uniqueness of the employee's skills, and the extent of prior recruitment efforts made by the company.
Petitions for B-1 classification may be made by way of change of status. As in the U.S., such an application may be denied if it is determined that the applicant entered the country with a preconceived intent to change non-immigrant status.
In the event of denial of a B-1 work petition, an appeal may be lodged with the Board of Labor Appeals. This Board, which acts in a quasi judicial capacity, is composed of senior officials from the Ministry of Labor. Appeals generally include oral argument by the employer or its representative. Decisions on appeals are rendered within 2-3 months.
Upon approval of the B-1 work petition, the Employment Service issues a written recommendation for issuance of a B-1 work visa. Thereafter, the individual submits two applications to the Ministry of the Interior:
1. Application for B-1 classification, based on the Employment Service recommendation.
2. Application for Multiple Entry Visa. The B -1 visa is valid only until the first departure of the employee from Israel. Issuance of a multiple entry visa avoids the necessity to reapply for a new B-1 visa upon each re-entry.
Applications must include, inter alia, proof of valid health insurance covering the term of the authorized B-1 employment.
Like a U.S. Consul, the Interior Ministry has the authority to refuse to issue a work visa application; such a refusal can relate to either or both of the above applications in the B-1 context. In refusing an application, the Interior Ministry is under no obligation to notify the applicant of the grounds for the refusal. As is the case with a U.S. Consul, visa denials are not subject to judicial review. The most common grounds for refusal include: (1) possession of a criminal record in Israel and/or abroad; (2) previous illegal residence or work in Israel; or (3) the making of a false material statement by the applicant.
Note: Employment of Jewish Employees
Under the Law of Return - 1952, every Jew has the right to enter Israel as an immigrant (hereinafter: "Oleh"). The Nationality Law - 1952, automatically confers Israeli nationality on every such Oleh upon entering Israel.
Nonetheless, where a Jewish professional seeks to temporarily relocate to Israel, he/she must obtain a valid B-1 visa.
The employment of a foreign professional without a valid work permit carries with it significant monetary sanctions with regard to employers. Additionally, the managers of repeat corporate offenders are subject to possible imprisonment. An individual found working without a valid work permit is subject to deportation.
Published: I AILA Immigration & Nationality Law Handbook 219 (2001-02).The authors are practicing at the law firm of Kan Tor & Schwartz, specialized in Corporate Relocation law. For Further information please visit www.ksvisa.com