Israel – Covid-19 – Immigration update

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Update : December 17th, 2020

Mandatory quarantine can be shortened for some travelers from “red” countries

What is the change?

The Israeli government announced that travelers from high-risk “red” countries can shorten their mandatory quarantine from 12 days to 10 days if they meet certain requirements.

To qualify for the shortened quarantine, travelers from red countries must register the location of their quarantine with the Ministry of Health database upon their arrival.

  • Travelers must undergo an initial PCR test for COVID-19 as soon as possible after entering self-isolation. Tests must be conducted at a drive-through testing site or designated location for those in quarantine.
  • A second test must be performed nine days after entry to Israel and at least 24 hours after the first PCR test.
  • If both tests are negative, a notification will be sent to the individual informing them they have been cleared to exit quarantine after 10 days.

Israel is slowing easing quarantine restrictions after a second nation-wide lockdown that lasted for months.

A shorter quarantine period could help facilitate movement of people within Israel for work and business purposes.

Update : November 04th, 2020

Pandemic requirements for entry of foreign experts updated

What is the change?

Applicants for Israeli work permits will no longer need a “necessity confirmation” from the government of Israel in order to apply for a work permit.

  • The requirement for a “necessity confirmation” will be dropped to expedite work permits to foreign experts. “Necessity confirmation” is a letter from the employer informing the government why there is an urgent and essential need for the entry of the foreign expert to Israel.
  • Foreign experts who arrive from a “red location” country for seven days or less will still have to meet the requirement.
  • Foreign experts with approved entry who are entering Israel from a « red location » country must self-isolate for 14 days. Those from “green location” countries do not have to self-isolate
  • Self-isolation health forms need to be sent via email to the Ministry of Health prior to the arrival of the expert to the Israeli border control. Foreign experts from both “red” and “green location” countries need pre-authorization from the Immigration and Population Authority in order to board their flight to Israel.
  • In exceptional cases, a foreign expert from a “red location” country may be given special permission to leave self-isolation after entering Israel for the purpose of carrying out vital and essential work for the Israeli economy. This permission must be granted by the relevant government ministry and is limited to seven days.

The “necessity confirmation” requirement was put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to limit infections.

The change in requirements should make obtaining a work permit faster.

Update : October 22th, 2020

Easing of restrictions on outbound flights during lockdown

What is the change?

After weeks of a nationwide lockdown that restricted air travel, the Israeli government has announced it will loosen requirements for flights departing from Israel.

Key Points:

  • Travelers can purchase tickets for departing flights without restrictions.
  • Arriving flights remain restricted to only pre-scheduled flights.
  • All travelers must have negative COVID-19 results from a test performed within 72 hours of their flight.
  • Travelers arriving in Israel from “green location” countries will not need self-isolate but are subject to lockdown restrictions.
  • Travelers from “red location” countries are still required to self-isolate for 14 days. Afterwards, they must follow all lockdown rules.

Up until now, only travelers who had purchased tickets before Sept. 25 had been permitted to take flights out of Israel during the lockdown.

This is the first easing of restrictions since a national lockdown was imposed in September due to rising COVID-19 infections. The Israeli government continues to consider whether it will relax other restrictions.

Update : October 16th, 2020

Some visas will be automatically extended because of pandemic

What is the change?

Israel’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) has announced that certain visas will be automatically extended until Nov. 30 because of the ongoing, nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

  • The following visas will be extended if they have an expiration date of Sept. 24 or after:
    • A-1 visas – temporary residency for eligible individuals under the Law of Return
    • A-2 visas – interns, students, yeshiva students
    • A-3 visas – religious clerks
    • A-4 visas – dependents of A2 and A3 visa holders
    • A-5 visas – temporary residents
    • B-1 visas – general B-1 work
    • B-1 visas – foreign experts
    • B-4 visas – volunteers
  • There is no need for these visa holders to contact the MOI, as the visa extensions are automatic.

Visa expiration dates have been extended previously because of quarantine measures and the closure of consular services. Israel is in the midst of a nationwide lockdown imposed last month after the COVID-19 infection rate began to rise.

At this time, the Ministry of Interior will only accept urgent cases, and only for individuals who scheduled an appointment at the MOI prior to the lockdown.

Update : October 1st, 2020

Full lockdown in place for next two weeks

What is the change?

The Israeli government has instituted a full lockdown of “nonessential” businesses and services as the number of COVID-19 cased continues to climb.

Key Points:

  • The lockdown began Friday, Sept. 25, and will run through Sunday, Oct. 11. This period coincides with the time during which Israel is celebrating the Jewish high holidays.
  • Ben Gurion International Airport will remain open but only for pre-scheduled flights.
  • Inbound travelers must have negative COVID-19 results from a test performed within 72 hours of their flight.
    • Travelers from “green location” countries will not need to self-isolate under entry rules, but will be subject to the lockdown.
    • Travelers from “red location” countries are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • During the lockdown, “nonessential” businesses and services will be closed. Grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants operating exclusively for take-out will be exempt.
  • Officials have not yet said how the lockdown will affect Ministry of Interior operations, including the operations of the ministry’s work permit unit. Offices are currently closed for the high holidays, and operations may be limited when they reopen.

Employers should anticipate travel and processing delays during the lockdown, particularly given that it coincides with the holiday period.

Update : July 21th, 2020

Entry procedures for foreign nationals updated

What is the change?

The Israeli Ministry of Interior has released updated coronavirus instructions for entry to Israel.

Key Points:

  • Foreign nationals will not be allowed board to flights to Israel without pre-entry approval issued by the Ministry of Interior.
  • People entering Israel must sign a promise to remain in home isolation for 14 days.
  • All foreign nationals must present health insurance that specifically covers COVID-19 upon entry.
  • Any foreign national leaving Israel before the end of the 14-day isolation period must have special permission. Those who leave without such permission may be barred from future entry.

Additionally, foreign nationals holding a one-year B-1 expert visa and their families can now travel to their home country and return to Israel with a pre-approved application for re-entry. The COVID-19 re-entry application must be submitted and approved at the Ministry of Interior prior to departure.

Israel has taken a number of steps to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including closing borders to non-Israeli citizens/permanent residents in March. The government has also recently announced the automatic extensions of B-1 work visas held by foreign experts. This extension is not applicable, however, to B-1 (Jewish) Israeli work visas.

Israel continues to take aggressive steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. While entry rules have eased somewhat, foreign travelers must be sure to follow applicable entry and exit procedures in order to avoid adverse immigration consequences.

Update : July 10th, 2020

B-1 work visa extensions

What is the change?

Israel recently announced automatic extensions of B-1 work visas held by foreign experts.

Key Points:

  • B-1 Israeli work visas held by foreign experts that expired between March 10 and June 30 will be automatically extended three months from the expiration date.
  • B-1 Israeli work visas held by foreign experts that expired between July 1 and Aug. 31 will be automatically extended for 10 weeks from the expiration date.
  • The automatic B-1 visa extensions apply to all foreign expert work visa sub-categories:
    • Forty-five day Israeli work visa (SEA).
    • Three-month Israeli work visa (STEP).
    • One-year work visa.
    • Hi-Tech 365 visa.
  • The automatic extensions apply unless the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has notified the visa holder otherwise. They also apply unless the MOI has canceled the visa or refused to renew it before the automatic extension.
  • Foreign experts who plan to stay in Israel longer than the automatic visa extension period should apply for a visa extension as soon as possible.

Initially, visas were automatically extended in March until June 30. The B-1 work visa automatic extension is good news because it provides relief to foreign experts working in Israel.

Update : March 19, 2020

Borders closed, visas automatically extended in response to COVID-19 pandemic

What is the change?

Israel’s borders are now closed. Additionally, the Ministry of the Interior has automatically extended visas until June 30.

All foreign nationals who are not Israeli citizens or residents of Israel will not be able to enter the country. Foreign nationals currently in Israel will have their visas automatically extended without having to visit an MOI office.

  • Implementation time frame: Visa extensions: March 12; border closure: immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5, and General B-1 work visas.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals planning travel to Israel or currently in Israel on one of the above visa.
  • Business impact: Companies should anticipate significant disruptions to employee mobility and plan accordingly. However, they will not have to extend visas for foreign national employees currently in Israel, saving both time and resources.

Israel’s Population Authority has stated that foreign nationals for whom Israel is “the center of their lives,” are exempted from the border entry ban. Further, extraordinary permission to enter may be granted to foreign nationals working in emergency services in the health and energy sectors. B-1 work visas for foreign experts still require submission of an extension application 60 days prior to expiration.

The border closure will significantly disrupt business activity and employee mobility. The automatic visa extension, however, is good news for employers and their foreign national employees, as businesses deal with the uncertainty and challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, and BAL will provide additional updates as information becomes available.

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