Israel – Clarification of Rules for Short-Term Work Travel and for Israel-China Ten-Year Multiple-Entry Visa

Recently published articles in the Israeli press have misleadingly advised that, pursuant to a “new” regulation issued by the Population and Immigration Authority, almost every business visitor who comes to Israel for business, even for a short period, is required to have a work visa rather than a tourist visa.

To avoid further misunderstanding, the following summarizes the regulations relating to short-term business travel:

  • There are no new regulations. The short-term employment authorization (SEA) regulations were published in early 2015 for a temporary trial period, were extended to total stays of up to 45 days per calendar year in October 2015, and become permanent as of August 2016;
  • A business visitor who travels to Israel for business meetings, negotiations, passive training, and other activities that are not productive, can continue to travel under a visitor visa.
  • Any productive work to be done in Israel (including, but not limited to: hands on tools, hands on job, installation work, providing active guidance, inspections, management of work, repair work, supervision or consultancy etc.), regardless of the length of stay or location of the payroll, require a work visa prior to entry.
  • The SEA program allows for work activities in Israel for up to 45 days total in a calendar year.
  • Instead of the standard B1 work visa process (a work permit application, followed by a work visa application prior to entry) successful applicants for an SEA permit will obtain an expedited work permit approval allowing them to enter Israel and work immediately, with no further applications.
  • A separate application, must be submitted prior to each entry, as well as in the case of changing travel dates. The processing time for SEA applications is 6-10 working days from submission, approximately 8 weeks faster than a standard consular B1 visa. A completed affidavit form, declaring details of the short-term employment, to be signed by the Israeli company representative and notarized, must be submitted with the application.
  • Once in Israel SEA holders can start work immediately, but within two working days of entry they should apply for a B1 work visa at the MOI, which should be issued within two working days. Multiple entry permits are an available option within the permitted period.
  • The SEA permit applies only to visa waiver nationals. Individuals who are required to obtain visitor visas at the Israeli consulate prior to entry (including Indian, Chinese and Turkish nationals), cannot apply for work authorization under the SEA programme.

Israel-China Ten-Year Multiple-Entry Visa

Earlier in 2016, Israel and China signed a ten-year multiple-entry visa agreement. The agreement came into effect and was published officially on December 1, 2016. Previously, both Israeli and Chinese tourists and business visitors were required to obtain a single-entry visa.

Under the new visa program, a Chinese national holding an ordinary passport can request a multiple-entry B2 visa for a period of up to ten years at any Israeli embassy or consulate worldwide. A Chinese national traveling to Israel with a ten-year visa will be able to stay in Israel for up to 90 consecutive days on each visit, and for no more than 180 days each year, starting from the day he or she enters Israel. The visa will be valid for up to ten years, but will expire six months before the Chinese passport expires. The visa cannot be transferred to a new passport.

This new ten-year multiple-entry visa does not allow any productive work to be done in Israel (including, but not limited to installation work, inspections, management of work, repair or maintenance work, supervision or consultancy etc.). Senior officials at the Ministry of Interior have clarified that unauthorized employment under this visitor visa, regardless of the duration of the work and place of salary payment, constitutes a criminal offence.

Applications must be submitted at the relevant consulate. Average visa processing time is five working days from receipt of the application in full at the consulate. Among other documents, the individual must provide:

  • A signed statement acknowledging the intent to exit Israel on time and that employment is prohibited in Israel;
  • An original confirmation letter from the applicant’s work place;
  • a bank statement (for three months minimum), unless the applicant’s passport contains a valid visa from the United States or Schengen countries or if the applicant is a registered resident of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Chengdu;
  • A formal invitation letter from the Israeli company/institute/organization. In the consular publication, it was also stated that the Consul has the right to require an interview with the applicant or ask for additional materials to make a comprehensive evaluation of the application. For complete guidelines please visit the consular website by clicking here.

Employers sending foreign nationals to Israel for business or work should check with their immigration provider whether the applicant requires a visitor visa or a B1 work visa, or qualifies for the SEA program.  Employers sending Chinese nationals to Israel for frequent business trips should consider applying for the new ten-year multiple-entry visa.