Foreign nationals work in the West Bank Palestine
Many US customers have recently asked us about options for US nationals and others to travel to Israel and work in the West Bank. The number of times we have been asked about this undoubtedly signifies economic progress within the Palestinian Authority, which brings foreign investment and projects to the West Bank.
Among these projects, there is a rise in government projects as well as private investments in the Palestinian economy, health, infrastructure and mote. To name a few:
- YOU SAID: Projects include the construction and rehabilitation of roads, clinics, schools, community facilities, water supply 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 recovery initiative focuses on ready-to-implement projects to provide the Palestinians with rapid and tangible improvements in support of political negotiations
- massage: Massader is leading the development of the first Palestinian Independent Power Generation Unit (IPP) in Jenin, to meet the basic electric power needs of the Palestinian market.
- Palestinian Infrastructure Partnership Trust Fund: infrastructure development, related capacity building and institutional development projects in the water, urban development and energy sectors.
- World Bank project to increase access to high-speed broadband services in selected Palestinian areas and to enable the development of some e-government services.
These and other projects raise the need to relocate foreign nationals to the West Bank, bringing in knowledge and expertise not readily available within the Palestinian Authority. The transfer of unique knowledge and expertise is 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 separate areas were given different statuses, depending on their governance pending a final status agreement:
- Area A: Full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority.
- Area B: Palestinian civilian control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.
- Area C: Full Israeli civilian and security control.
When approaching legal advice regarding work visa compliance for foreign nationals, one must understand and consider the two distinct legal immigration systems that have a combined global effect: both Israeli and Palestinian.
While the work must be done within the Palestinian Authority, it must be recognized that entry into the West Bank must be through Israeli border controls, entry through Ben Gurion Airport (the main international airport from Israel) or in case the entry is from Jordan. Therefore, it is correct to say that Israel controls entry to the West Bank.
This map illustrates the border situation. All entry to the West Bank is controlled by Israel, including from Jordan.
Typical scenario of needing foreign experts
A West Bank Palestinian tire company in Ramahallah has purchased a production line for one of its German-made components. To be able to install and commission the new production line, the German company must send a group of experienced technicians for 60 working days to Ramallah, in the West Bank.
The question that arises in this scenario is what type of visa these technicians need to enter Israel, move to Ramallah, and later work in Ramallah. As mentioned, the response will be a combination of the Palestinian and Israeli immigration work systems.
Requirements from the Israeli side
Under Israeli law, a B-2 pre-entry visitor visa is granted upon entry to German nationals who wish to enter and stay in Israel for non-work related purposes (hereafter: “visitor program”). visa exemption”). This includes the purpose of the visit, tourism, business meetings. Employment is NOT permitted in Israel on a B-2 visitor visa.
Since the work of the engineer must be carried out in the Palestinian territory “Area A” which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli immigration law does not require obtaining an Israeli work visa for technicians. However, as entry to the West Bank is controlled by Israeli border controls, the employer will need to request permission to cross and enter Area A for work.
The competent body in Israel that manages entry into Area A of the West Bank is COGAT (Coordination of Governmental Affairs in the West Bank and Gaza). COGAT is responsible for coordination and liaison with the Palestinian Authority. The unit reports to the Israeli Defense Minister.
COGAT requires any employer wishing to send foreign nationals to work in the West Bank to obtain a re-entry permit to allow entry into Area A of the West Bank. The processing time varies from 1 month to 3 months, depending on the geopolitical situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Due to the delicate situation between the parties, the process can sometimes even be suspended.
Requirements under Palestinian law
Under Palestinian law, foreigners (non-Palestinians) are only allowed to work in Palestine if they have obtained a work permit from the Palestinian Ministry of Labor in accordance with Article 14 of the Labor Law.
The Ministry of Labor grants work permits to foreign nationals after verifying the applicability of the requirements 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 national Palestinian labor force, the real need for work of the foreigner and that his qualifications and his experience are commensurate with the profession sought.
Permit application processing time usually takes about a month before issuance. The permit issued is valid for one year, renewable each year after completing a special form for this purpose accompanied by an approval from the employer and all other documents required by the ministry.