ISRAEL - Changes to Hi-Tech (HIT) Visa Applications Process
Effective immediately, the Israeli Ministry of Interior (MOI) has implemented amended rules for the new “Hi-Tech” (HIT) Visa. Under the amended rules, all applicants must now apply for their HIT Visas through Israeli overseas consular posts. Previously, applicants from visa waiver countries were exempt from consular processing prior to arriving in Israel. In a related change, the MOI has also lengthened the validity period for Short Employment Authorization (SEA) Visas for “Hi-Tech” applicants from 45 days to 90 days.
Hi-Tech (HIT) Visa
The Hi-Tech (HIT) Visa was introduced in February of this year in an effort to attract more foreign tech talent to Israel. The HIT Visa is available only to employees of “Hi-Tech” companies approved by the Israeli Innovations Authority. Benefits of the new visa include initial validity periods of up to one-year, renewable for up to a total of five years and three months, and a streamlined applications process – which had included the waiver of the need for consular processing, which allowed fast processing times of around six business days.
Impact on Application Processing Times
Now with consular processing being required, the previous advertised processing time of six days for nationals of visa-waived countries no longer applies. All applicants, including those from visa-waived countries, should expect processing times of 30 to 45 days.
“Hi-Tech” SEA Visas: Validity Lengthened and Exemption from Consular Processing Maintained
Applicants who are employed by approved “Hi-Tech” companies may still apply for visas through the “regular” Short Employment Authorization (SEA) Visa process. The validity period for SEA Visas has been increased from 45 days to 90 days only for employees of approved “Hi-Tech” companies. With SEA Visas still exempt from consular processing, “Hi-Tech” applicants from visa-waived countries planning to work in Israel for 90 days or less can still receive SEA Visas in six business days. However, for “Hi-Tech” SEA Visas of over 45 days, prevailing wage requirements (double the average salary) will apply.
- Companies in the technology sectors who are currently using the HIT Visa program should plan for the longer processing times. Those companies, and those who are considering using the HIT Visa program, are encouraged to reach out to their immigration specialists for an evaluation of whether the HIT Visa or SEA Visa is most beneficial in a specific case under the amended rules.