Israel Opens Its Borders to Foreign Tech Talent
Posted on November 10, 2015
Israel has announced a unique visa program that makes it easier for foreign nationals to work in the country’s growing startup tech and innovation space.
It will allow entrepreneurs to work in the ‘Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean’ Tel Aviv, for 24 months. A specialist visa will be available to business people who want to stay in Israel and start their own company.
Announced this week by the Israeli Ministry of Economy, the Minister of the Interior, and the office of the Chief Scientist, the program will take effect in the next few months after a long campaign of lobbying from stakeholders.
Compass ranked Tel Aviv as the number one tech startup ‘eco-system’ outside of the USA, in spite of the fact that until now it did not have anything like the access to international talent that Silicon Valley has.
Only a week ago Yoram Yaacovi general manager of Microsoft Israel R&D Centre told a group of tech professionals that the country was “running out of geeks.”
The Jerusalem Post writes that this is because Israel cannot ‘import’ engineers and entrepreneurs like other countries, permanent residency for foreigners is unlikely, and work visas have a five-year limit.
The new plan, which was first announced as a serious undertaking by Israel’s government a year ago, relaxes the barriers on the country’s strict labour laws, which makes it easy for people of Jewish descent to live and work there but hard on others.
Such laws have been subject to sustained criticism from economists and entrepreneurs as an inhibitor to Israel’s effort to compete globally as a tech innovator.
“We see a huge amount of foreign companies looking to be part of the amazingly innovative culture we have here,” Hila Oren, CEO and Founder of Tel Aviv Global said.
Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Mayor called the move, “groundbreaking for Israel.” While Minister of Economy, Aryeh Deri, said the Startup Visa would preserve the country’s reputation as a tech centre.
A number of countries including Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, Chile, Ireland, Holland, and Germany have attractive visa options for startup entrepreneurs.
Earlier this year StartupAUS warned of a ‘brain drain’ if Australia did not relax regulatory conditions including immigration laws.