Tel Aviv launches ‘soft landing’ services for international businesses, workers

White City looks to entice foreign firms and entrepreneurs with guide to setting up shop in Israel as tech industry struggles with a lack of skilled employees

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Participants at the DLD Digital Conference, Israel's largest international tech gathering, Tel Aviv, September 27, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Participants at the DLD Digital Conference, Israel's largest international tech gathering, Tel Aviv, September 27, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Tel Aviv municipality released a “soft landing” service guide for international corporations and entrepreneurs in an effort to entice more high-skilled foreigners to the city.

In the new English-language guide, released last month, the city touts its informal, egalitarian work culture, safety, lifestyle and family-friendly amenities.

It outlines information on Israeli workdays, holidays, payment practices, banking, corporate taxes, research grants, recruiting and setting up legal entities, including branch offices and subsidiary companies.

The document also includes a guide to incentives provided by the Ministry of Economy’s Investment Promotion Agency, which fast-tracks international investments.

Tel Aviv has nearly 2,000 startups, one for every 290 residents, the highest concentration in the world, and has the most engineers per capita of any city, according to the guide.

There are over 100 international research and development centers already in the city, including offices of Amazon, Google, Alibaba, eBay, Facebook and PayPal. The White City has seen a growth in international centers of 30 percent in the last three years.

“Over the past decade, our city has been experiencing a unique phenomenon. From a local economic hub, serving mainly the Israeli market, Tel Aviv has become an international hub, attracting talent and companies from all over the world,” mayor Ron Huldai said in a statement.

The city credits its investment in Tel Aviv’s infrastructure and outreach efforts for the growth in international activity, calling itself “the startup city of the startup nation.”

Office buildings in central Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The soft landing guide includes information on several programs set up specifically to draw in foreign tech workers.

The city launched a pilot program offering innovation visas for international entrepreneurs who wish to develop tech projects in Israel. For up to two years, foreigners can stay in Israel, and are hosted at a “landing pad,” which provides connections to the Tel Aviv tech scene, including co-working spaces, workshops and courses.

A relocation program, called BETA, offers senior tech workers the opportunity to test the waters in Tel Aviv by living in the city and applying to jobs through a streamlined visa process. BETA also gives assistance with housing, accounting, Hebrew, a $20,000 relocation bonus, yearly flights home and a paid cell phone package. The program is sponsored by Israeli tech companies hoping to entice foreign talent to Tel Aviv.

At the same time, a “Back to Tech” program by the Israeli Innovation Authority connects Israeli companies with citizens returning from abroad who are looking to find work in the high tech industry.

The effort comes as Israeli tech companies struggle with a shortage of skilled workers, according to a report issued last month by the non-profit Start-Up Nation Central and the Israel Innovation Authority.

There were some 18,500 vacant tech positions in the Israeli economy as of July 2019.

Companies are increasingly outsourcing jobs to other countries to fill the gap, but should be turning to junior workers and under-represented population groups, the report recommended.

Israeli tech workers represent a growing share of the national workforce and their wages are well above the national average.

The number of multinational research and development centers in Israel surged by 143% in 2019. Foreign experts account for less than 1% of the workforce, the report said.

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