Whether you’re interested in making Israel your new home for the proximity to the falafel in Tel Aviv or the shrines across Holy City, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about how to move to Israel right away and what it takes to secure long-term and permanent residence (if you qualify).
How to Move to Israel
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What are the fastest ways to move to Israel?
Moving to Israel is tricky because permanent residency is granted on a case-by-case basis only. Those who are Jewish or married to an Israeli citizen have the best chances of securing permanent residency. While you can definitely visit as soon as you want with a valid passport, you can only stay for up to 90 days. After that, things might get a bit sticky.
But while Israel may be one of the more difficult countries in the world to move to permanently, there are still a few ways to obtain visas that are more accessible to those of us moving from the United States:
Aliyah for Jewish Migrants
Any person born to a Jewish parent, or those who have formally converted to Judaism can immigrate to Israel under a process known as ‘Aliyah’. As a Jewish person, under the Law of Return, you can return to Israel and receive all the rights of an Israeli citizen.
This agreement with the Israeli government allows all Jews to live, work, and settle in Israel as soon as they receive their Aliyah—and this even includes a Sal Klitah (or a settling stipend), part of which you receive at the airport when you land. (The rest will arrive in six monthly installments.)
You can learn more about opening your own Aliyah file at the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Joining a spouse in Israel
If you’re joining your spouse who is already living in Israel, you too, can apply for an A/4 visa. This will allow you and any of your children (if they’re minors) to join your spouse in Israel…but that’s about it. You won’t be able to work or study in Israel using this visa, and it’s only good for a maximum of one year. In order to do those things, you’ll need to apply for an employment or study visa.
If you are married to an Israeli citizen, however, things are a bit different. You probably still won’t receive permanent residence or citizenship right away—but once you do, you’ll have a whole lot more rights and abilities in Israel, including the ability to work and go to school.
Employment in Israel
The most popular visa for employment in Israel is the B/1 work visa. You’ll already need a job offer (and work permit for jobs longer than 30 days) from an Israeli employer in order to be eligible for this type of visa, and you’ll have to be working in one of the qualifying fields. These include:
- Specialist work in academic and non-academic fields
- Vocational experts working short-term positions
- High-tech workers
- Post-doctoral research fellows
- Foreign journalists
- Foreign scientists
Studying in Israel
If you want to study full-time in Israel, you can do so using an Israeli A/2 student visa. You’ll need to show proof of admission into an educational institute (also known as yeshiva), proof of payment for tuition, and a valid passport for the duration of your stay—among other things. Generally, these permits are good for up to a year.
In order to submit the applications for any of these types of visas, you will need to do so in person at either the Israeli embassy, the US consulate in Israel, or at the local Population and Immigration office once you arrive in Israel.
Permanent residence and citizenship in Israel
Both permanent residence and citizenship in Israel are pretty hard to obtain—unless you’re Jewish. And because the Israeli immigration authorities only approve permits for permanent residence on a case-by-case basis, you’ll need a really good reason for relocating.
There is one exception though. As of 2019, US expats and business owners who are not Jewish (or related to any Jewish/Israeli person) can obtain permanent residence in Israel using the B/5 Investor visa, but you have to learn whether you qualify by contacting your closest Israeli consulate.
As a foreign national, you have the right to choose between making yourself a permanent resident of another country, or a citizen. When you become a permanent resident of another country, you agree to live and work there—but retain your original citizenship (or nationality). This means you probably can’t vote, own property, or hold office in your new country. When you become a citizen of another country, however, you renounce your citizenship to your original home country and all the associated rights…unless you’ve got dual-citizenship.
Temporary residence, to permanent residence, to naturalization
Be aware, traveler, that the process to becoming a citizen of Israel is quite long and takes many years—if ever at all. In order to make Israel your forever home, you’ll need to go through three processes:
- Temporary residence. You’ll need to apply (and be approved for) an A/1 class visa, granted by the Ministry of Interior to foreign citizens. This is a renewable visa that allows you to develop residency for one to two years at a time.
- Permanent residence. You can only obtain this if Israeli immigration officials have approved your specific case for permanent residency (and you already have an active A/5 class visa).
- Per the Israeli government, in order to qualify for naturalization (or Israeli citizenship) in Israel, you’ll need: to be a permanent resident, have a permanent residence permit, be married to an Israeli citizen, and be settled and sharing a household with your spouse in Israel.
Although you have a much better chance of becoming a permanent resident or citizen of Israel through marriage, residency isn’t an easy or quick process. While immigration authorities review a couple’s case, they will grant the foreign spouse a temporary residence visa, valid for up to one year. From there, the spouse will have to continue getting the visa renewed annually until they complete the immigration processes and interviews—usually five years—at which point the spouse can finally decide to either become a permanent resident or citizen of Israel.
So how much does it cost?
While this might come as little surprise, we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t admit that moving to Israel is probably going to be on the pricier side…considering it’s got one of the highest costs of living in the world. And while you’ll get a lot more support as an Aliyah migrant, heading to the Middle East is probably going to put some pressure on your pockets either way. Let’s talk about it:
Moving to Israel
Moving to Israel will come with its own unique challenges and associated costs, but in general there are a few main things that will contribute to the overall cost of your move:
Type of Fee
|Visa and immigration||$250 or less|
|Transportation (flights, transit)||$800-$1000|
|Household goods (professional moving)||$1000-$3000|
|Customs, import and VAT||18% for items over $75|
Living in Israel
The cost of living in Israel is nothing to scoff at, so make sure to keep your budgeting notebook out while you get used to local prices and haggle culture. Here’s a look at some of the things you probably have to consider once you start living in Israel:
- Dental and vision care. Health care in Israel is universal and free, but doesn’t cover going to the dentist or eye doctor, so you’ll probably have to pay for additional coverage.
- Renting or purchasing property. Purchasing property is difficult, you’ll need at least 25% by law for a down payment, but most banks will actually ask for closer to 40%. And rent will run you around $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment, on average.
- Wage gap. The difference between the cost of living and the amount workers earn is even higher in Israel than it is in North America, which means it can be hard to make ends meet—and there are limited job opportunities paying high wages outside of tech.
- Private school for your kids. Private education in Israel is top-notch, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny—ranging from $11K-$19K. Psst....public education is free, though!
Let us gently remind you: this is only a small sample of factors you may need to consider. There are few things in life that are free, so you’ll surely encounter more expenses as you get settled—whether for a cell phone, or new car. Unfortunately, there are no easy short-cuts…the best way to make sure you’re prepared for the financial challenges that may come with relocating to Israel is by saving up in advance.
It’s technically possible to become a citizen of another country without a lawyer’s help, but getting an expert on board is a great way to ensure you do everything right—despite the additional cost. And especially if you're immigrating with children or a spouse. You can usually locate the resources to find a reputable lawyer on your destination country's citizenship and immigration website. For example, the United States has legal services for those immigrating to the US.
Getting settled in Israel
Alright, now that we’ve covered the more anxiety-inducing aspects of moving to Israel, let’s chat about some of the exciting things you’ll be able to do once you move:
- Enjoy the fantastic weather. Israel benefits from a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, and sunny weather much of the year.
- Savor the food. Israel is known for its delicious local food, including coffee and—you guessed it—falafel.
- Learn more about the Jewish culture. Judaism is a huge facet of day-to-day life in Israel, and there’s tons of history to soak in across the Holy Land.
- Begin to speak the language. The official language in Israel is Hebrew. Don’t worry, many folks also speak English and a number of other languages, like Arabic, French, and German.
- Visit Tel Aviv. Boasting some of the best food in the country, 13 of its own beaches, and nightlife that may remind you of New York or Los Angeles, it’s definitely a hotspot worth checking out.
Moving to another country also means you’ll be integrating into new cultures, and new ways of life. So we should mention some of the Israeli customs you’ll likely encounter when you land in Israel:
- Modest dress code requirements, especially in religious areas
- Restaurants that maintain kosher dietary regulations
- Blunt honesty in conversation. And while there’s a range of religious observances in Jewish communities, more religiously conservative communities have more defined gender roles, which has an impact on conversation.
- The Jewish Sabbath, which closes most stores and restaurants from Friday night to Saturday night every week
- Haggling (or negotiating the price of a product) is pretty common in Israel for anything you can buy, except for cars—even the price of cab fare can be negotiated in Israel.
Long story short: if you’re not Jewish, or related to an Israeli citizen, the chances are pretty slim for making Israel your permanent home. But don’t despair; all is not lost! Israel welcomes visitors and temporary workers at any time, and you can even stay in Israel without a visa for up to three months. With a visa, you can stay even longer. And while it may not be cheap to travel and live in Israel, you’ll find that Israel’s iconic beauty and historical legacy make up the difference.
Can you immigrate to Israel?
You can immigrate to Israel from the US, but it can be difficult if you are not Jewish or related to an Israeli citizen. That being said, you can visit Israel any time, and stay for up to three months without a visa.
Are all Jews welcome in Israel?
Yes, all Jewish people and Jewish refugees are welcome to settle in Israel. So whether you’re an Ethiopian Jew, a Ukrainian Jew, or a Jewish American, you can apply to live permanently in Israel under Aliyah.
Is it easy to move to Israel?
No, it’s not always easy to move to Israel. It is easy to move temporarily, however, especially if you’re moving for work. Long-term and permanent moves to Israel are less likely to be approved, though.
Who is allowed to immigrate to Israel?
Only those of Jewish heritage and Israeli descent are allowed to immigrate to Israel freely. All other immigration circumstances are approved on a case-by-case basis.
How do I become a resident of Israel?
You can become a resident of Israel by applying for a visa and working. You can visit Israel for up to 90 days without a visa, but in order to stay and work, you’ll need to visit the local immigration office and apply. From there, you can apply for temporary residence—and eventually permanent residence, if you qualify.
Is Israel expensive to live in?
Yes, Israel is a pretty expensive country to live in. In fact, it is ranked as the eighth most expensive country to live in behind Switzerland , Japan, and Denmark, to name a few. Between the extremely high costs for housing and property (especially in Tel Aviv), and salaries that are not often commensurate with the cost of living, it can be hard to make ends meet in Israel without a good job.
Is Israel a safe place to live?
Yes, Israel is considered a safe place to live despite being known for its proximity to political unrest. Israel consistently receives high ratings for life expectancy, education, and per capita income. Crime rates are also pretty low in Israel, comparatively.