Organise a visa
There are various rules regarding visas, but perhaps the most important one to note is that all Jewish people are entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. For non-Jewish immigrants, it’s highly likely your employer will assist, if not complete, your visa paperwork. There are a range of different visas, and the process can be quite complex – and lengthy. You don’t need a visa in advance to enter as a tourist, as you’ll be granted a 90 day tourist visa upon arrival. Make sure you have at least one blank page in your passport for your entry visa – you’ll still get a stamp even though you don’t have to apply beforehand. For long-term visas, there are a couple of options, which will depend upon your circumstances. As previously mentioned, all Jewish people have the right to settle in Israel. If this applies to you, you’ll need to start the process of Aliyah, which will be done here in Australia by the Jewish Agency. If you’re non-Jewish, it’s likely you’ll need a B/1 work visa. Your visa will be handled by your employer, as they are effectively sponsoring you to be in Israel. This does mean the process can start while you’re still in Australia as it can take some time. Liaise with your new employer about what they need. It is also important to have this in place before your belongings arrive from Australia. You need to provide your passport with your visa. If your employer has already submitted your work visa request, you can receive your shipment, but will have to leave a deposit with Customs until your visa is actually issued. In every case, shipment for someone with a work visa, requires a Bank Guarantee, which is returned upon export of the goods out of Israel
TIP: Always carry your legal paperwork with you, plus a form of ID. Security is taken very seriously in Israel and you don’t want to get in trouble for not having your documentation.
Have a valid passport
It goes without saying really, but make sure your passport is valid – and isn’t due to run out. You don’t want to need to make an emergency flight home, or long queues to get an appointment at the embassy. If you’re worried your passport is due to run out, don’t leave it until the last minute, head over to the Australian Government Passport Authority for all the details you’ll need about renewing – or applying for – a passport. It’s also worth knowing that if you’ve got stamps in your passport from other Arab countries, you may spend a little more time in the airport as boarder police often perform extra checks – this is all straightforward.
TIP: Have at least six months’ validity on your passport before you travel. You don’t want to have to leave quickly – or arrange for an emergency replacement.
Pets must be microchipped, and vaccinated for rabies. The vaccination must have been given no sooner than 30 days and no later than 12 months before arrival. Israel does not accept two or three year vaccinations. If travelling with an unvaccinated puppy or kitten under three months of age, they must be vaccinated within 5 days of entering Israel.
Your pet must be accompanied by an official veterinary health certificate issued no more than 10 days before arrival, signed by a government-approved Australian vet. If you are importing more than two dogs, you will also need an import licence issued from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
If your pet is over three months old, it will also need to be accompanied by a declaration that it has been in your possession for at least 90 days prior to arrival.
While this sounds like a lot of hard work, it really does pay to be organised – if your furry friend has all of the relevant documentation and confirmation of health, then they won’t be subject to quarantine. Make a start by checking out the relevant certificates, and where to obtain import permits, from the Australian Department of Agriculture website: www.micor.agriculture.gov.au
TIP: Contact King & Wilson who can arrange all the pet paperwork and transportation for you.
In Israel, the currency is the Israeli Shekel, or New Israeli Shekel as it’s also known. Given the exchange rate, and comparatively high cost of living compared to some wages, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research in to the cost of living so you know roughly what to expect in the first few months. Cities such as Tel Aviv will be more expensive.
TIP: Download an exchange rate mobile app for the early days of your arrival so you know exactly how much things really cost.
If you’re living and working in Israel, it’s fairly easy to open a bank account. All you will really need is your passport as proof of ID, though depending on the bank, they may ask to see a copy of your employment contract or proof of pay. While you’re still in Australia, it’s worth getting copies of recent bank statements to help the process along. Israeli banks offer their customers credit cards fairly easily, however opening a credit card account in Israel usually requires a large initial deposit of around $1,000 AUD. Plus you’re often restricted to using them solely in Israel so you might still want to keep an account open back at home – just remember you’ll need to transfer funds to pay off your monthly bill. International credit cards are widely accepted here though. While you might be used to paying for everything at home using your debit or credit card, you might want to consider using more cash – banks here not only have a monthly account charge, but they charge you for every transaction, which is why most people try to pay as much as possible with their credit card where there is not a fee for every transaction.
The main banks are:
Bank of Israel www.boi.org.il
Bank Leumi www.english.leumi.co.il
Bank Hapoalim www.bankhapoalim.com
You’ll find branches throughout the country, though all also offer telephone and internet banking.
TIP: Keep your bank statements. By law you need to save them for seven years.
Taxes in Israel are also very straightforward. You’ll have social security and health insurance deductions taken from your pay each month. Both you and your employer with contribute to social security payments. The amount you’re taxed is based upon your earnings and can vary between 25%-50%. Recently tax incentives have been introduced for new immigrants to encourage Aliyah – or the right of return. As an expat you’ll only be taxed on your income from Israel, however if you are a Jewish person returning under Aliyah you will be subject to tax on world-wide income, including rental from property in Australia or elsewhere. This is worth knowing if you’re not planning on selling your property at home although for the first 10 years after making Aliyah, you will be exempt from reporting and pay.
VAT– or value-added tax is applied to most goods you’ll buy. It currently stands at 17%. However, the import costs of home-comforts such as food brands you recognise mean you’ll end-up paying a lot for something that may have been quite cheap at home.
TIP: If you are self-employed make sure you get a local accountant. Tax laws are complicated in Israel and late or incorrect filing can lead to fines.
Although you will contribute to the health system through taxation, you should know that you are only entitled to an extensive amount of public services and healthcare. Most people also have private medical insurance for the duration of your residency in Israel. This is often arranged by your employer, either as part of your relocation package, or as a monthly deduction with their preferred partner. This is becoming less common practice now – and it’s even more rare to have your company cover your spouse and family, too. You also can’t make health insurance payments during your first year living in Israel. It’s worth considering whether you want to put some money aside privately to cover emergencies – but we would recommend having a comprehensive travel insurance policy that also covers you for this period.
If you’re making Aliyah, you’ll get the first year of your healthcare covered. After this you’ll need to apply for one of the health plans offered by the state. You’ll need to register with one of the four main providers:
They all offer practically the same services including consultations with a doctor, prescriptions and hospital stays including maternity services. For an at-a-glance comparison of all the services, the Ministry of Health website has some useful information: www.nbn.org.il
Healthcare is Israel is very good, with medical facilities generally being of a standard you’d expect at home. Nearly all medical staff speak excellent English. There is also no difference in the standard of care between public and private healthcare – you’ll simply benefit from shorter waiting times for consultations and procedures.
TIP: You’re not allowed to make health insurance payments during your first year in Israel, so make sure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover you.
Tel Aviv or bust
The cost of living varies in Israel, and it’s likely that your home will be your biggest expense – this is especially true if you’re living in a major city such as Tel Aviv, or in areas with lots of expats. Apartments are the most common types of home, especially in cities, though houses are available. You will notice that the newer the accommodation, the more facilities you’re likely to have. Many new apartment complexes have communal maintained gardens and swimming pools – some even have a fitness suite.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa are popular with English-speakers and there will be many expat communities in these cities. Rehavia and Talbieh in Jerusalem are the most sought-after neighbourhoods, with the affluent Northern Suburbs and the beachfront in Tel Aviv.
TIP: Research the city you are thinking of heading for, and check it matches your personality, family needs or work industry.
To rent or buy:
Many people moving to Israel choose to rent – at least at first. Rental prices have maintained a steady price over the last few years, so it is still very much a popular option. House-prices have increased significantly over the last few years, which has in part been due to the many tax changes. Although buying costs may have risen, stamp duty is no longer in force in Israel, which has helped to bring costs back in to a reasonable range in some places. Plus if you are making Aliyah, you will often find you will be granted additional subsidies on the cost of your rent.
If you are renting an older home, you may also need to invest in an air-conditioning unit. Also before you start your house-hunt, you’ll need to know the jargon so you don’t get a surprise. A ‘one room’ apartment is what you’d call a studio, with ‘two rooms’ being one-bedroom, one sitting room. It is possible to rent through a private landlord or an agency, though you’ll usually be subject to fees with around one month’s rent going to the agency – on top of any deposit you pay. Most rental agreements start at one year, though many landlords are flexible about this.
If you decide you wish to go ahead and make a purchase, you might want to obtain a ‘pre-approval’. This is a letter from your bank or lending authority stating how much they will allow you to borrow. By doing this, you’ll also save on paperwork later as you already know your borrowing limit. You’ll need a lawyer to assist with paperwork, but also licences if you are planning on buying a house that is not built yet. It’s worth remembering that property development in Israel is complex, in part due to the often violent conflict, which often means that buildings are rarely completed on time.
TIP: Most of the rental contracts are in Hebrew, so you must make sure you have someone who can translate it for you so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
The Hevrat HaHashmal is the Israel Electric Corporation, and they look after all the electricity. You have two choices of tarrif for your new home – a flat rate or a variable. It’s not surprising that many homes opt for the flat rate as the variable is, well, too variable. There are seasonal rates, in addition to peak, regular and low rates within these. All of the rates will vary depending on what day it is.
Most homes are not connected to a gas mains, and if you have gas cooking facilities in your home, you’ll usually connect your gas by a canister. You can arrange delivery of these to your home, though you will usually need to go and buy the first one, with a small deposit. You should only get gas canisters from one of the major licensed suppliers (from whom you paid the deposit), and never from someone operating out of a storefront and they will take your empty bottles away and replace them with new ones. Be aware that there are restrictions in place for older, high-rise buildings regarding the type of gas and size of bottle you’re allowed.
Mekorot is the national water supplier, however it is likely that your bill will come from the local council or a subsidiary company who will supply the water to you as it is the local authorities who set the tariffs. These tariffs are based on your monthly consumption of the property, and it’s common for apartments to have their own water meters for you to keep track of usage – and make sure you’re not paying your neighbour’s bill, too!
Utility bills usually arrive every two months and will come in Hebrew. It’s a good idea to have a Hebrew-speaking friend or colleague to have a look over your first bill or two, to ensure you’re on the correct tariff and that your details are correct. Unless you’re buying a house that is yet to be built, you’ll find they are all connected to a supply of water and electricity.
TIP: Change the account name for your utilities provider when you move in – you don’t want to be charge for the previous occupant’s usage.
The internet service is reliable and also fast. WiFi is common in public places such as coffee shops and hotels, though this is often in cities rather than more rural areas. This is particularly useful when you first arrive and you’re waiting to get connected at home. Internet cafes are still readily available throughout many cities and their suburbs. There is no restriction on internet access, with English-news and social media sites all readily available.
There are two main providers:
Bezek: www.bezeqint.net/english Bezek offers a more basic service, with just internet only, while HOT has the option of TV and landlines also. Both offer a “triple” package + the mobile carries also offer a triple package of internet, land line and cable TV package. At present they do not have an English-language website. It’s worth comparing prices depending on what you think your usage will be. If you want to contact family back home how are yet to embrace social media or Skype, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how cheap calling abroad from a landline is. The price is the same at any time of day and is much cheaper than making international calls on your mobile.
That being said, mobile phones are the most popular form of communication in Israel. Again they are open-access so apps such as whatsapp will enable you to keep communication costs low. There is a lot of competition for your mobile business, so prices are extremely low – some say among the lowest in the world. In addition to internet services, HOT also have a network. Other providers include Cellcom, Orange, Rami Levy, Golan and Pelephone.
Have a look at the prepaid Israel website, as some of the providers do not have an English-language websites. www.prepaidisraelisim.com
You can choose between pre-paid and monthly contracts depending on the amount of usage you need. If you’re bringing your handset from Australia, first check that it will be compatible using the website below. If it is, you’ll need to pay a one-off charge to change your sim. This is usually around 100 shekels.
TIP: If you’re bringing your Australian handset with you, make sure it’s unlocked and use www.willmyphonework.net to check it will work with your Israeli carrier.
There are several providers of cable television in Israel: HOT, YES, Partner, and Cellcom. Shop around, as there are plenty of packages. Nearly all have a number of English-language TV stations or shows. They will often have Hebrew subtitles – but they’re not dubbed. Netflix is available directly or as part of some of the cableTV companies.
Buses form the most extensive transport network in Israel, with great services both city and inter-city travel. A standard fare in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is NIS 5.90.
Jerusalem has a number of routes that overlap, meaning you’ll rarely have to wait long. All buses in Jerusalem are operated by Egged, who have an English language website to help you navigate your first few journeys: www.egged.co.il
There are several bus operators in Tel Aviv, with the main one being Dan. As a small city, you’ll find the bus service quite comprehensive here. The English language Dan website has information on how to get where: www.dan.co.il
Bus stops are marked by metal yellow signs, with route numbers and destinations. These of course are in Hebrew, but many have English translations on the reverse.
While it is generally easier to get around by bus, Tel Aviv has four major stations along the east of the city. Jerusalem has two stations, with a high speed route to Tel Aviv which is due to open in 2018. Again, most people use cars or buses to get around. Trains across Israel are all run by Israel Railways, whose English language website will help you navigate your route: www.rail.co.il/en
The Jerusalem Light Rail runs between Mount Herzl and Pisgat Zeev. It is a convenient way to travel into the city centre, connecting with park and ride facilities. A single fare costs NIS 5.90. A light rail is also planned for Tel Aviv, with a phased opening starting in 2021.
Sheruts are shared vans, which run constantly throughout Israel. Faster than ordinary buses, and only slightly more expensive, they are rather like a shared taxi. They will pick you up and drop you off anywhere on their prescribed route, which often follow those of public buses. They will stop if there are seats available – you can try holding up your fingers to indicate how many you need, and passenger on board will do likewise to indicate how many are available.
Taxis are available in all cities, and operate even during Shabbat. By Australian standards they’re cheap, but you should still insist on the meter being turned on unless you have agreed a fixed rate before the start of your trip. The big taxi app in Israel is Gett www.gett.com/il, where calling a cab costs NIS 5.00, with added charges of around NIS 4.00 for each piece of luggage.
It may be worth investing in a Rav-Kav smartcard, which covers all public transport in many major cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, A personal card uses your data to provide you with discounts, and you can load it with various types of tickets depending on what you need. You just need to visit a Rav Kav service point or the nearest Al Ha-Kav issue station, with your ID card or passport. The card is free of charge, if you want a personalised one. Or you can also apply for an anonymous card, for NIS 5.00, which does not use your data to provide discounts but can accumulate savings as you load it with tickets.
TIP: Buses and trains do not run on Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) except in Haifa. You will have to use a taxi or a sherut.
Getting a driving licence
One of the reasons public transport is so popular is due to the crowded roads and frequent traffic jams. It’s not uncommon for expats who have held a driving licence for a long time to decide to take a few lessons when they arrive in Israel, simply to get used to the roads here.
You can drive with your Australian licence for up to a year before you need to exchange it. To exchange, you’ll need an up-to-date driving licence that’s at least six months old and your passport, plus copies. You’ll need to arrange a medical check-up, which includes an eye test. You can then trade your Australian license for an Israeli license. The final step of the process is that you need to pass a brief test – as ‘vehicle control capability text’ with an official driving instructor. The fee is payable at the post office, currently 70 shekels, but keep in mind you are not allowed to use your own car for the driving test, and an instructor may charge upwards of 200 shekels for loan of theirs.
TIP: You have a full year to exchange your Australian licence for an Israeli one – we’d suggest exchanging as soon as you can.
The school system is Israel is focused on establishing a good knowledge of Jewish life and heritage, while strengthening the notion of civic duty and the importance of community. Primary education may be more relaxed that what your child is used to in Australia, as the local community very much influences the atmosphere of the classroom. Teachers and head-teachers are usually addressed by their first names and uniforms are not common. In primary school in particular, the ethos of learning through play and creativity is very much a focus of the classroom. Hebrew is the main language spoken is schools, though for older teens who attend one of the teacher training colleges, they may have Arabic lessons. English is taught from first grade.
Public schooling is free and offered to anyone between 5-15 years old. You will, however, have to pay for textbooks and supplies such as stationary. Secondary schools are independent and therefore run by committees and public bodies.
Many expats opt for private schooling for their children so that they can be taught in English. Although the cost of private education is expensive, it is less so than sending your little ones to a private school in Oz. The process of application requires your child to go through numerous tests in key areas including Maths and English. Interviews for the limited places available are not uncommon.
International schools are another popular option for expats, as they tend to offer the same – or similar – curriculum to what your kids are used to back home. The fees are more expensive than private schools, and you will find that the classes are made up on many nationalities whose families wish them to follow an internationally-recognised qualification. You’ll find international schooling is only an option for those in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
TIP: Start researching schools as early as possible, particularly if you want your children to continue their Australian curriculum.
Maternity leave in Israel is considerably shorter than in other countries – at just 3 months. Perhaps it is because of this that there are so many childcare options for those with young children.
A metapelet is a childminder who will only look after your child, either at your home or theirs. This is a good option if you have a young baby. If you have a toddler, you may prefer them to go to a childminder who looks after 3 or 4 children at a time, this will not only help your little one’s socialisation skills, but will help them to make friends in their new home.
From the age of 3, you can enrol your little one in kindergarten. Again there are public or private options available. Kindergarten is compulsory from the age of 5, whichever route you choose.
You’re not going to be able to work at all without having your paperwork in order. Whether you’re hoping to land a job before you arrive or are wanting to scope out the market when you’re here, use this time to polish your CV.
If you’re recruited from Australia, you may find you’ll be offered a generous relocation package, but if you’re already in Israel, there’s not the same incentive from potential employers to try and lure you across the globe. However, given some of the complex visa rules, this doesn’t mean that the company won’t assist you in getting legalities in order, have a clear list of questions regarding remuneration that you can ask.
Think about your language skills, too. In bigger cities English will be commonplace, but you’ll still find it is not as common as you might think. Plus employers do like their staff to have some Hebrew language skills. So, to get ahead of the game, you might want to start brushing up on your languages while you’re still in Oz. Once you arrive in Israel, you can keep this up, with some companies offering language classes.
Most expats arrive with a job, if only because it’s the easiest way to get other essentials like a house, utilities, and in some cases, a bank account. IT and the technology sector is quickly becoming the biggest employer in Israel, with lots of funding for research into conservation and alternative energies. Some of the more traditional occupations such as farming and textiles are not-well paid, and some have now been outsourced to other countries. Medical tourism is growing in Israel, and there are often roles for medical staff who are English-speakers; it’s an added advantage if you speak other languages, too. The medical sector extends to research and medical equipment.
Israel is a rich country, so it comes as no surprise that the financial sector is another large employer, whether through traditional banking or emerging business funding opportunities for companies who wish to conduct business here.
TIP: Ensure you have certified copies of your essential documents and qualifications.
Book your flight
The earlier you can book your international flight the better price-wise. If you can travel outside the school holiday peak season, you’ll save money too. This usually means travelling around February to March, May to June, late July to mid-September, or mid-October to mid-December. The sooner that you can lock down your moving date the better so you can plan ahead and save. Check out this Australian Government education resource for school holiday dates.
Cull the clutter
Packing up your life and starting a new one is a good chance to cleanse. Don’t stick everything you own into boxes and transport the lot to your new home. Take the time to cull! There are a few good reasons for this.
You may have been hanging on to old heirlooms from a previous life that don’t need to make the journey across the world. If the planned move is unlikely to be forever, then consider storing a few old boxes with a friend or relative or utilising King & Wilson’s long term storage services. You can revisit your old university text books again one day when you resettle back home. Or if the move to Israel might be indefinite, ask yourself whether you need eight boxes of old cassette tapes from the early 90s before you realised that CDs weren’t a passing fad… and while you’re there, how about that CD collection?
For more on minimalist packing check out this interesting perspective from Forbes.com.
Tip: Cull unnecessary belongings and possessions before packing boxes
Contact Your Employer
As part of your move to Israel, you will need documentation from your employer to ensure your belongings get through customs. You will need to provide:
- A packing list – this does not need translating into Hebrew and you don’t need to value your possessions.
- Letter from your employer confirming your position and start date.
TIP: Make copies of your packing lists and documentation from your new employer.
10 Weeks Before Moving Day
Give yourself plenty of time to plan the logistics of packing. A good international removalist, like King & Wilson will be your best friend in this regard – they won’t want you leaving this to the last minute either. A few things to think about 2-3 months out from the big day:
• Put together a folder or box for all documents and receipts relevant to the move.
• Create a floor plan for your new home to get a sense of how many of your large sized furniture or appliances you may need to get rid of.
• Your belongings will be arriving by sea; however, it only takes a couple of weeks for your boxed-up life to arrive in Israel. You may therefore only need to pack some additional clothing, linen, towels and key crockery and key kitchen utensils in your flight luggage. You may also consider pre-arranging excess baggage as it is much cheaper to book in advance than turning up on departure day with more than your baggage allowance. King & Wilson offers a smaller air shipment service to cover off this need as well.
• If you haven’t done so already, and you’re able to, get yourself an Israeli bank account, and if possible start to pay a little in to it so you have a cushion when you arrive.
Tip: Start a conversation with international movers now rather than later
6 Weeks Before Moving Day
Now you are edging closer to the big move, you want to start ticking off what will and won’t make it on the journey. For example:
• Take an inventory list of all items around your home that will need to come with you.
• Hold a garage sale or take advantage of any local market stalls or jumble sales
• If you are not wanting to ship your car across, then start the process of selling your vehicle on Carsales or a similar online classifieds service
• Begin getting any paperwork you need for bringing your pet, make any necessary vet appointments and have any vaccinations your animal needs.
• Start to compile your paperwork: things like CV copies, letters of recommendation, health certificates, medication lists. Basically, anything you might need to register for a service, or secure a house/job.
4 Weeks Before Moving Day
With less than a month to the move, you need to start getting your hands dirty and actually packing a few things away, particularly items you are not using day to day:
• Collect moving boxes and packing supplies. Or if you move your home with King & Wilson, simply use the international shipping cartons provided.
• Start by packing things you don't use much currently like extra dining or kitchen utensils and seasonal clothing. Visit this resource from Energy Australia on the right way to pack when moving house or this interesting blog post on the subject by Frugal Mama.
• Donate the things you don't need (or that you haven’t been able to sell off).
• Think about consuming your pantry stocks and frozen goods as well as home cleaning products, shampoos and soaps.
Tip: Start by packing the things you do not use day to day
1-2 Weeks Before Moving Day
Eek! You are merely days away from the move now and need to be thinking about leaving behind a clean, empty home for a new inhabitant. You also need to think about tying up loose ends at home, the flight and what you need for your first days in Israel:
• Confirm all your travel arrangements.
• Finish packing your essentials.
• Clean and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before you move, turn off all the pipes and make sure you didn't leave any appliances on.
• Cancel the newspaper subscription, contact Australia Post to redirect your mail to your new address in Israel, disconnect your utilities like the electricity, gas and internet.
• If you know your new address in Israel, you may wish to pre-arrange your utilities connection. A specialist international moving company like King & Wilson can arrange this for you.
• Say your goodbyes, provide your new contact details and travel itinerary to your family and friends.
Tip: Don’t forget to redirect the mail to your Israeli address.
On Moving Day
You’ve made it to the big day. The job now is mainly to get out of the way of the professionals and focus on your breathing:
• Let the professionals do their thing. A good removalist will take care of packing your belongings carefully and thoroughly.
• A good international shipping mover will also cover off all the necessary shipping documentation to facilitate prompt customs clearance and quarantine inspection once your belongings arrive in Israel.
Get to the airport, put on those noise cancelling headphones and relax for 3 hours or so in anticipation of your new adventure!