Israel’s Population Immigration and Border Authority (“PIBA”) has published its annual review of immigration statistics for 2012.
These statistics point to a number of notable developments, including the following:

• 3,890,000 foreign nationals were admitted to Israel in 2012. The overwhelming majority of these admissions were made in tourist status.
• The greatest number of approved work visa petitions were for health care workers (46,000), followed by agricultural workers (24,000) and construction workers (8,000).
• PIBA approved a total of 2,200 “B-1” work visa petitions for foreign experts.
“Foreign Experts” are the equivalent of H-1B employees in the U.S. and are commonly employed in Israel’s high tech, biotech and other related industries. These overseas workers are granted temporary stay in “B-1” work visa status. Regrettably, the 2,200 approvals represent a drop of almost 100 from the previous year.

This negative statistic is an expression of PIBA’s increased scrutiny of eligibility criteria in Foreign Expert cases, a trend which has also led to increased processing times (up to 90 days in some cases).

PIBA also reports that over 10,300 foreign nationals entered Israel without inspection in 2012.

This statistic is a dramatic reduction from last year’s number of 54,500 and evidences the Israeli government’s aggressive efforts to stem the stream of illegal immigrants to the country. These efforts include: erection of a border fence in the desert where Israel meets Egypt; robust monetary incentives for voluntary departure by those illegally present in the country; increased sweeps of urban areas by the Israeli immigration police; and enhanced enforcement of existing employer sanctions.

Like the new administration in the United States, the new Israeli government will place immigration reform high on its list of priorities for 2013.

With thanks to Jennifer Schear of Liam Schwartz & Associates who alerted us to the increased scrutiny of “Foreign Expert” B-1 applications and the state of immigration in Israel today. Reposted with article and title redacted.