Distinction between “Business Visitor” and “Foreign Expert Employee” in Israel

This article continues our series of articles dealing with definition of a “business visitor” according to Israeli immigration laws. The first article discussed the Entry to Israel Act, and pointed out the very general definition for the business visitor/tourist B-2 Entry Visa, under Section 5 of the Entry into Israel Law. We have demonstrated that the Entry into Israel Law and the Israeli Ministry of Interior’s regulations differ from those of other western countries, not having a clear definition for the term “Business Visitor” under Israeli law and regulations. As a result, many global and local companies inviting businessmen to visit Israel face uncertainty when dealing with the legality of their guests’ visits.

Many multinational companies and Israeli managers constantly approach our office seeking for a clear definition of the term “Business Visitor.” When the nature of the stay is not exactly a business trip, and the visit is not considered mainly a working visit, it is very difficult to provide an answer. The 21st century involves different working methods, and one person’s business visit can be another person’s work visit.

In this essay we will point out which cases one should apply for a B-2 Business Visitor Visa and in which one should apply for a B-1 Working Visa. The  latter is a much more complicated procedure, involving advanced preparations and many requirements of the Israeli Immigration Authorities.  We will present indications for clarifying the nature of the stay, whether it is a business or a work visit, and  specify a list of varied activities that will point to the fact that the specific visit is indeed a “Business Visit.”

In our legal experience, even when a certain company tries to obtain assistance from the Ministry of Interior in advance by specifying the nature of the planned visit to Israel and the activities scheduled for the visitor, and asking for specific guidance for preparing the necessary paperwork, it  will not always receive a clear answer. Due to the lack of clear guidance and definition for the term “business visitor” under Israeli laws, it is not surprising that similar cases are adjudicated differently by different offices and sometimes by the same office, of the Ministry of Interior.

Below is a partial list of some primary advanced indications, showing that the visitor will be entering Israel for work purposes.

  1. Relatively Long duration of stay (usually longer than three months).
  2. Many frequent, consequent entries and exits to and from Israel as a business visitor, indicated by the stamps in the passport, with each stay being relatively long-term.
  3. Family joining-in the foreign expert during his stay in  Israel.
  4. Israeli crew working with the foreign expert.
  5. Anticipated working period within plant premises and / or crew allocated for this visit.
  6. Lodging accommodations for several months, sometimes in a flat instead of a hotel.
  7. Issued Medical Care Insurance while in Israel.
  8. Visitor’s heavy luggage, demonstrating his intention to stay a long period of time.

We shall now refer to several actions of “Business Visit” nature. The list provided below is a list of actions accepted at most of the Western countries as defining a “Business Visit.” For example, United States laws require a proof that the business visitor intends to return to his country of origin and proof of the relation between his visit and his occupation and / or activities outside the States. Also, there is a non-exhaustive list presenting the typical activities of a business visitor, such as: his participation in conventions and seminars; research duties; participation in negotiations processes and signing contracts; commercial or manufacturing orders issuance for goods manufactured outside the States; installment or services for industrial or commercial equipment purchased from a company, based outside the States; training American workers for maintenance of equipment and / or machinery purchasing outside USA, etc.

In most Western countries, the inviting company must prove to the immigration authorities that the visitor will only be entering that country for a certain period of time and that he intends to return to his country of origin after his visit. In the United Kingdom, for example, there is a detailed list specifying relevant requirements.  In our opinion, the list of permissible actions must be an open and detailed one, considering the flexibility of the term “Business Visit.”

Proposed List of Business Visitor Permitted Actions:

  • Participation in conventions and business meetings – including active participation in a as lecturer or participant; attending job interviews or business meetings, including for negotiations purposes, contracts and various documents signings.
  • Training local workers – when it is impossible to hold training process in the visitor’s country of origin and / or outside Israel. For example, when a large group of Israeli workers must be trained by a foreign expert.
  • Examining equipment purchased from an Israeli company – including holding a series of operational tests for equipment purchased from an Israeli company; discussions with Israeli experts while studying the required tests for system evaluation and operation; documenting tests and building working procedures for the tests, under Israeli company’s technicians’ guidance; learning how to use systems and equipment purchased from the Israeli company, including actually experiencing systems and equipment.

All of the above would be permitted only when the training cannot be held in the visitor’s country of origin or outside Israeli borders.

  • Inviting employee of a multinational company to its Israeli representative for short training processes, knowledge and data exchange, or for consultations with the  Israeli representative.
  • Business planning program requiring a visit to the Israeli company’s facilities.
  • Maintenance and system installation visit for equipment purchased from a foreign company within the Israeli representative’s premises.
  • Directors and top executive foreign management officials can actively participate in Board of Directors meetings in Israel, be paid for it, and still be considered business visitors, provided that they are employed by a foreign company.
  • Short visit to Israel for foreign company’s merchandise and / or equipment transfer into Israel.
  • Translators can be regarded as business visitors if employed by a foreign company and if accompanying business visitors as their translators.
  • Academic personality –including academic members accompanying students of learning programs held in Israel.
  • Medical personae doctors and dentists arriving for tests or examinations, important clinical observations, etc.
  • Telecommunications market visitors – working in the telecommunications industry can be classified business visitors if employed by foreign telecommunications companies and entering Israel for covering a specific event, but only if the foreign telecommunications company does not already have a representative in Israel.
  • Religious clergymen – religious clergymen arriving in Israel for a specific designated visit or as part of an organized tour arranged by a foreign company, where there is no local representative in Israel.

 The above list of permissible business activities answers the needs of the commercial business community for current invitations of business visitors to Israel while preserving the local Israeli market and the economical interests of Israel. Many situations have been left unanswered and there will always be a need for more information. It is the opinion of the writers that the authorized list of actions concerning business visits should be an open varied one, with a clear defined basis, enabling a framework for the definition of “Business Visitor.”

Written by Adv. Dotan Cohen of DC Law Offices, law firm specializing in the immigration laws of Israel, the U.S.A., Australia, and additional countries. The office also provides legal support to many Israeli and global companies in the provision of Work Permits to foreign experts within the commercial and business sectors.