Israel is poised to launch a dedicated immigration visa for tech entrepreneurs “within weeks,” according to Avi Hasson, the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy of the State of Israel.
Several hundred entrepreneurs from around the world will be welcomed to Israel — often dubbed the “Startup Nation” — under the new visa, said Hasson during an interview with Business Insider at his office in Tel Aviv on September 26.
“We need more people to come in and generate,” said Hasson at the DLD Innovation conference the following day. “We’re working with the Immigration Authority and the Ministry of Finance to set up a fast track to bring in entrepreneurs from abroad.”
Israel’s entrepreneur visa has been in the pipeline for more than a year, based on a report from The Jerusalem Post which was published last October.
Hasson added: “We will be launching a new programme in the next few weeks: a visa for entrepreneurs.”
Before being handed a visa, the overseas entrepreneurs must first of all complete a stint at one of 12 accelerators and incubators in Israel. This will apparently help them to navigate their way around Israel’s tech ecosystem, according to Hasson. “After that, you get a visa to set up company and work here for five years,” he said.
Hasson, who is also keen to get more ultra orthodox Jews and women into tech in Israel, was unable to specify exactly how much the visas will cost but he said they should be less than $1,000 (£817).
But some in the Israeli tech ecosystem think that more entrepreneurs is the last thing that the country needs. Moshe Hogeg, cofounder and president of luxury smartphone company Sirin Labs, said the Israeli government should be focusing on trying to attract more highly-skilled engineers, adding that startups have to compete with Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook when it comes to hiring.
Hogeg said there’s more of a need for an engineer visa than there is for an entrepreneur visa. “We’re not building big companies, we’re building small companies,” he said. “The average exit in Israel is $30 million (£25 million). It’s tricky. Right now engineers are very hard hard to get.”
Israel also has 4,000 so-called “specialist visas” for highly skilled people across a variety of industries, with 1,000 of those available to people working in tech.