There are a number of visas available for expats moving to Israel. Those planning to settle in Israel need to be organised and patient because the process of getting a visa or work permit can be fairly complicated. Expats are advised to apply well ahead of time, as bureaucratic delays are common.
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.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America do not need a visa to enter Israel.
Before travelling, foreigners must ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of travel, and it must have space for an entry stamp. It is also worth checking country-specific visa requirements with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It may also be possible to extend one’s stay in Israel beyond three months. In order 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 do 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, which is 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.
Residence visas for Israel
Relocating to Israel can be an extremely difficult and complex process, largely 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 reserved for people of Jewish descent (making aliyah)
B/1 visas are granted to those in a relationship with an Israeli citizen
B/1 visas are also for expats who have a job offer in Israel and whose employer is acting as a sponsor
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.
Spousal 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.
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 will be allowed to 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.
After an initial meeting with the Ministry of Interior (approximately three months later), the expat and their partner will be summoned for separate interviews so that veracity of their relationship can be established.
Spouses granted a B/1 visa will then be able to work and reside in Israel for one year. The visa will need to be renewed annually, and renewal applications will need to provide evidence to show that the relationship is ongoing.
Work visas for Israel (B/1 visa)
Expats can gain residency in Israel if they receive sponsorship from an employer in the form of 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, which allows a person to work without restrictions and is only granted to those of Jewish descent or to expats who are in a 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.
*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
'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?
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