This guide was written prior to the October 2023 escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. The ongoing conflict has markedly affected the safety and advisability of travel to the region. Please consult with relevant authorities and exercise extreme caution when considering travel to Israel and the surrounding areas.
There are numerous visas available for expats moving to Israel, whether they're travelling for tourism, business, work or residency. Those planning to settle in Israel will need to be organised and patient because getting a visa or work permit can be complicated.
Bureaucratic delays are expected, and the duration for visa processing can vary based on the visa type and individual circumstances. Typically, tourist and business visas have a faster turnaround, while residence and work visas can take several months. It's always recommended to start the application process well in advance.
Tourist and business visas for Israel
Israel is a popular tourist destination. Many visitors do not require a pre-arranged visa to enter Israel, and they'll usually be granted permission upon arrival to stay for up to 90 days. But it's worth noting that the border police reserve the right to reduce this period or add restrictions, such as limiting travel within the West Bank, a part of the Palestinian territories.
Holders of normal passports from around 100 jurisdictions, including Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the USA do not need a visa to enter Israel for a maximum stay of three months of tourism.
Before travelling, foreigners must ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of travel, and they must have space for an entry stamp. It is also worth checking country-specific visa requirements with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Many travellers are concerned about receiving an Israeli stamp on their passports, and Israel provides a small entry card upon arrival instead of stamping passports directly. This practice acknowledges concerns about travel to certain countries afterwards.
It may also be possible to extend one's stay in Israel beyond three months. To do so, expats should apply at a branch of the Ministry of Interior in Israel.
It is a common belief that visitors with stamps from Arab countries will be refused entry to Israel on this basis. Although travellers may be subjected to additional questioning from the Border Police, many visitors enter Israel from Arab countries without difficulty.
Student visas for Israel (A/2 visa)
Those wishing to study in Israel should apply for an A/2 visa, valid for multiple entries and exits for up to one year before it must be renewed. The visa must be received before entering the country and may be applied for at the Israeli Embassy in the applicant's home country.
Expats in Israel on a student visa are not permitted to work during their studies. Applicants should provide proof of enrolment and financial support during their studies. After completing their studies, they might be eligible for a work permit.
Residence visas for Israel
Relocating to Israel can be a challenging and complex process, primarily due to the highly bureaucratic nature of the country. There are three situations in which foreigners may be eligible to gain residency in Israel:
- A/1 visas are for people with Jewish roots living abroad who wish to move to and live in Israel (making Aliyah).
- A/5 Temporary Residency Visa is for those contemplating immigration or making Aliyah.
- B/1 visas for those in a genuine relationship with an Israeli citizen can apply after proving their relationship status.
- B/1 visas are also for expats who have a job offer in Israel and whose employer is acting as a sponsor.
Once residency is granted, new residents usually receive a Biometric Residency Card. This card contains personal details, a photo and fingerprints, serving as an official ID during their stay in Israel.
When an individual receives a visa or residency, it's essential to check provisions or processes for children or other family members, especially in mixed-nationality families. Some visa types might have streamlined processes for immediate family members.
Making Aliyah in Israel (A/1 visa)
The Law of Return states that all Jewish people have the right to settle in Israel. The process is conducted by the Jewish Agency and should be completed in the applicant's home country.
Those making Aliyah, especially younger individuals, should be aware that Israel has obligatory military service requirements. It's essential to understand how this might impact residency plans.
Spousal/Dependant visas for Israel (B/1 visa)
According to Israeli law, those in a genuine and monogamous relationship with an Israeli national may remain and work in Israel on this basis. This visa is also available for minor children of A/2 or A/3 visa holders.
Most expat spouses enter Israel on regular B/2 tourist visas and then apply for B/1 work and residence visas once they are in Israel. As this process usually lasts longer than the entry period granted by tourist visas, expat spouses can stay in Israel until their B/1 visa is either granted or denied.
Once in Israel, expat spouses should contact the local Ministry of the Interior to book an initial appointment to submit their documents to apply for a B/1 visa. Both the expat and Israeli partner must be present at this meeting.
To substantiate a genuine relationship with an Israeli citizen for the B/1 visa, applicants often need to provide various evidence. This can include photographs together, correspondence, joint bills or shared travel histories.
After an initial meeting with the Ministry of Interior (approximately three months later), the expat and their partner will be summoned for separate interviews to establish the veracity of their relationship.
Spouses granted a B/1 visa can then work and reside in Israel for one year. The visa must be renewed annually, and renewal applications must provide evidence to show the ongoing relationship.
Some visa or residency paths may have Hebrew language requirements. For spousal visas, there might be expectations for the Israeli partner to demonstrate Hebrew proficiency.
Work visas for Israel (B/1 visa)
Expats can gain residency in Israel if they receive sponsorship from an employer through a firm job offer.
Obtaining a work visa for Israel can be a long and complicated process. There are two different types of Israeli work permits that a foreign worker may receive, although they both fall under the category of the B/1 work visa.
The first is an open work permit, primarily granted to those of Jewish descent or expats in a genuine relationship with an Israeli citizen. The second is a restricted work permit, which limits a foreigner to working for a particular employer who must act as a sponsor.
For more info, have a look at our page on Work Permits for Israel.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Work Permits in Israel provides a detailed overview about obtaining a work visa
►Working in Israel gives expats information about the country's job market
What do expats say about visa options in Israel?
"Non-Jewish residents can have either extended work visas or permanent residence status. In some cases they may also apply for citizenship. The Ministry of the Interior will help in the process, but for complicated cases, a lawyer is recommended." Learn more about the practicalities of expat life in Israel in Aviva's interview.
Are you an expat living in Israel?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Israel. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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