In 2020, Israel received 20 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), -40.8% compared to 2019. This figure comprises 32% family members (including accompanying family). Around 26 000 permits were issued to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Russia, Ukraine and France were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2020. Among the top 15 countries of origin, France registered the strongest increase (200) and Russia the largest decrease (-9 200) in flows to Israel compared to the previous year.

In 2021, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 2.2% to reach around 1900. The majority of applicants came from China (400), India (268) and Republic of Moldova (190). The largest increase since 2020 concerned nationals of China (320) and the largest decrease nationals of Russia (-270). Of the 7 290 decisions taken in 2021, 0% were positive.

Permanent migration to Israel picked up in 2021 after a COVID-related decline. The Ministry of Immigration and Integration reported 29 000 new immigrants under the Law of Return, back to the 2018 level but lower than in 2019. The leading origin countries were Russia, United States, Ukraine, France and Ethiopia.

The formation of a government in mid-2021 led to several policy changes regarding temporary foreign workers. The main changes were increases in the ceilings and the elimination of the employer levy. The ceiling on the number of temporary foreign workers in construction was increased in 2021, to 30 000 non-Israeli workers and 80 000 Palestinian cross-border workers.

In February 2022, the levy – an employment tax imposed on employers of foreign workers was eliminated. The levy applied to all foreigners employed in Israel, except for temporary workers in care and agriculture. The levy was eliminated primarily to respond to requests to reduce employment costs of construction workers but will also affect lower employer costs of temporary workers and asylum seekers in tourism and services, for example.

The number of temporary foreign workers rose to 104 000 at the end of 2021, up from 98 200 a year earlier. The main sectors of employment were care (57 500), agriculture (23 200) and construction (17 000). There were also 19 200 foreigners admitted for temporary work who were no longer compliant with their permit conditions, mostly workers who entered for care work and either overstayed or left their employers.

The temporary foreign work programme operates increasingly through bilateral labour agreements (BLAs). This procedure does not apply to experts and construction workers employed by authorised non-Israeli companies. As of June 2021, some foreign homebased caregivers arrived under BLA’s. By the end of 2021, 50% of new homebased caregivers arriving in Israel arrived under BLA’s.

As of 31 December 2021, 87 900 Palestinians holding permanent work permits and 12 500 holders of seasonal work permits were employed in Israel, an increase in the total number of active permit holders and of workers over the previous year. The total quotas for these workers were set at 98 250 regular permits and 12 500 seasonal permits. The quota has been largely steady since 2018, although it increased by about 13 000 (to allow additional construction workers) in August 2021.

In December 2021, the government proposed a quota for up to 500 international students to remain up to three years after their studies for employment in the technology sector, on the condition that they earn 150% the average salary after six months employment. This would extend the previous one-year maximum post-study work period, but would apply a salary threshold albeit being lower than the 200% threshold imposed on foreign experts.

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