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November 18, 2015 8:33 am

Israel Easing Visa Restrictions for Foreign Entrepreneurs

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

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Aerial view of Tel Aviv, from Israeli startup WikiAir, which shows the world free hi-res aerial photos of Israel. photos. Photo: WikiAir.

Aerial view of Tel Aviv, from Israeli startup WikiAir, which shows the world free hi-res aerial photos of Israel. photos. Photo: WikiAir.

The percentage of foreign employees in Tel Aviv startups is far below global and Silicon Valley averages, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Just 2% of Tel Aviv startup staff are foreign, while those figures are 29% globally and 5% in Silicon Valley, California, according to a recent report by Startup Compass Inc. — a bench-marking tool that allows CEOs to view their own metrics in the context of peer companies.

Part of the explanation for this is that there is a strict quota on the number of work visas given out to non-Jews, and that includes those reserved for the spouses of Jewish or Israeli partners, according to the report.

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Israel recently introduced a visa for entrepreneurs to work in the country for at least two years to open high-tech firms, as part of reforms introduced by the Israeli Economy Ministry. Still, according to Tel Aviv-based tech blog Geektime, only about 50 of the visas will be available in the first batch, approved on Sunday.

Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson told Geektime, “We expect an immense response on the part of entrepreneurs as this program helps them develop ideas and establish unique startup companies.”

Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, the Tel Aviv Municipality and Israeli academic institutions have been lobbying the government to relax visa restrictions for at least 5 years.

Jon Medved, a veteran Israeli venture-capitalist and CEO of OurCrowd, said it was critical to keep Israel open to foreign entrepreneurs, to ensure the Jewish state stayed on the cutting edge of high-tech.

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