By Amit Acco, Partner Kan-Tor & Acco (Israel) and Manal Abed Associate Hussam Attereh Group For Legal Services (Palestine)
We have recently been asked by many US clients of options for US and other nationals to be able to travel to Israel and work in the West Bank. The number of times we’ve been asked about the matter undoubtedly signifies economic progress within the Palestinian Authority, which brings foreign investments and projects into the West Bank.
Among these projects, we see a rise in governmental projects as well as private investments in the Palestinian economy, health, infrastructures, and mote. To name a few:
- USAID: Projects include the construction and rehabilitation of roads, clinics, schools, community facilities, water systems, distribution networks, and sanitation systems.
- UNDP – assistance to the Palestinian People, and in particular through its “High Impact Micro-Infrastructure (HIMII)” initiative, this economic stimulus initiative is focused on ready to implement projects to provide Palestinians with quick and tangible improvements in support of political negotiations
- Massader: Massader is leading the development of the first Palestinian independent power production (IPP) unit in Jenin, to supply the basic electrical energy needs of the Palestinian market.
- Palestinian Partnership for Infrastructure Trust Fund: projects for infrastructure development, related capacity building, and institutional development in the water, urban development, and energy sectors.
- World Bank project to increase access to high-speed broadband services in selected Palestinian areas and enable the development of selected e-government services.
These projects and others raise the need to relocate foreign nationals to the west bank, bringing knowledge and expertise that is not readily available in the Palestinian Authority. The transfer of unique knowledge and expertise is a part of today’s globalization and can be found in any part of the world.
The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: Areas A, B, and C. The distinct areas were given different statuses, according to their governance pending a final status accord:
Area A: Full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority.
Area B: Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.
Area C: Full Israeli civil and security control.
When approaching legal advice regarding work visa compliance for foreign nationals, one needs to apprehend and consider the two distinct legal immigration systems that have an overall combined effect: both the Israeli and the Palestinian.
While the work is to be done in the Palestinian authority, one must acknowledge that the entry to the West Bank must be made through Israeli border controls, whether the entry is through the Ben Gurion Airport (main international airport of Israel) or in case the entry is from Jordan. Therefore, it is correct to argue that Israel controls the entry into the West Bank.
Typical Foreign Expert Need Scenario
A West Bank Palestinian tire company in Ramalla purchased a production line for one of its manufactured components in Germany. To be able to install and commission the new production line, the German company needs to send a group of well-experienced technicians for 60 days works in Ramallah which is in the West Bank.
The question that arises in this scenario is the type of visa that these technicians need to enter Israel, cross to Ramallah, and later be working in Ramallah. As mentioned, the answer will be a combination of both the Palestinian and Israeli immigration labor systems.
Requirements from the Israeli Side
Under Israeli law, a pre-entry B-2 visitor’s visa is granted upon entry to the nationals of Germany, who wish to enter and stay in Israel for a non-work-related purpose (hereinafter: “visa waiver program”). This includes the purpose of visit, tourism, business meetings. Employment is NOT permitted in Israel with a B-2 visitor visa.
Since the engineer’s work is expected to be done at the Palestinian territory “Area A” which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Immigration law does not require an Israeli work visa to be obtained for the technicians. Nevertheless, as the entry into the West Bank is controlled by the Israeli Border Controls, the employer will need to apply for permission to cross and enter Area A for the work.
The relevant body in Israel that administrates the entry to the West Bank Area A is the COGAT (Coordination of Government Affairs in the West Bank and Gaza). The COGAT is responsible for coordination and liaison with the Palestinian Authority. The unit reports to Israel’s Minister of Defense.
The COGAT instructs any employer that would like to send foreign nationals to work in the west bank, to obtain a re-entry permit to allow entry into the West Bank Area A. processing time is varied from 1 month to 3 months, depending on the geopolitical situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Due to the delicate situation among parties, the process may sometimes be even put on hold.
Requirements under Palestinian Law
Under Palestinian Law, foreigners (non-Palestinians) are allowed to work in Palestine only if granted a work permit by the Palestinian Ministry of Labor pursuant to article 14 of the Labor Law.
The Ministry of Labor grants work permits for foreign nationals after verifying the applicability of the required conditions specified in Resolution no. 45 of 2004 issued by the Palestinian Council of Ministers, where the Ministry examines that the foreigner does not compete with the Palestinian national workforce, the actual need of the foreigner’s work, and that his/her qualifications and experience are proportional with the profession applied for.
Permit application processing time usually takes about one month before issuance. The issued permit is of a one-year validity, yearly renewable after filling a special form for this purpose accompanied by an approval of the employer and all other required documents by the Ministry.
Kan-Tor & Acco a leading Israeli Firm, cooperates with the Hussam Attereh Group, a leading Palestinian Law Firm in the transfer of foreign nationals into the West Bank. The Hussam Attereh Group Can also provide all required business, tax, and labor laws for the foreign companies operating within the West Bank.