New visa to Israel – B-5 visa – Moving to Israel as an American investor
The United States and Israel have a unique relationship. As allies, they cooperate in the political, military and economic spheres. American politicians often declare that the US was founded on “Judeo-Christian” values, to emphasize the connection to Israel and the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, this cooperation does not extend to guaranteeing freedom of movement between the two allied countries. Israel citizens need to apply for a tourist visa in advance at the US embassy in Israel in order to enter the US. The visa application process takes time, costs money and not all applicants get the visa. Many young Israelis seeking a tourist visa to the US are actually denied due to fear of illegal work and settlement in the USA. Also the Israeli immigration authorities are strict and US citizens may be denied entry to Israel with no recourse when attempting to visit Israel.
Visiting and living in Israel
Many lovers of Israel find it difficult to secure a permanent residence or even long term visa in the Holy Land. Opportunities to immigrate to Israel are generally only available to Jews and family members / spouses of Jews and Israeli residents.
Messianic Jews face an even greater impediment from the Israeli immigration authorities (Misrad Hapnim). Messianic Jews are often denied the right to make Aliyah due to having “converted” to Christianity. Christians and Messianic Jews are sometimes even prevented from visiting Israel because they are suspected of being active missionaries, entering into Israel on a mission to convert the Jewish population. As the Border Control and Ministry of Interior are not answerable to authorities outside Israel, they are rarely required to prove that their suspicion has any basis in reality.
A solution for those Americans who wish to live in Israel – B-5 Investor visa
Only recently, after many years of speculation and negotiations, on the 1st of May 2019, Israel launched its first investment visa program that allows American foreign citizens to acquire a long term visa in Israel. The B-5 visa allows US citizens to invest in a business in Israel, reside in the country or visit it as often as they wish.
After receiving the visa, the investor and their family members (spouse and children under 21) may live, work and study in Israel with no restrictions. They are free to reside and work wherever they wish, not limited to the business enterprise for which the investment visa is granted.
The B-5 visa conditions – How to get the investor visa to Israel?
The new investment visa to Israel is only available for Americans and is granted only on the basis of a “meaningful” investment. The entrepreneur is required to purchase at least 50% of a “non-marginal” Israeli business. The business enterprise must contribute to the Israeli economy and employ Israeli citizens (or be demonstrably ready to do so soon after the visa is granted).
In addition, the investor can apply for work visas for US citizens who are skilled managers and workers to receive accompanying visas to reside in Israel while working in the Israeli business. Their family members can also reside and work in Israel.
American citizens are now granted an opportunity to acquire long term status in Israel with the new investment visa, which is a step in the right direction.
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Advocate Joshua Pex is a partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm in Jerusalem. He specializes in immigration to Israel.