Israel's Cabinet Approves Plan to Ease Licensing for Immigrant Professionals

Decision will put application process online for medicine, architecture and other fields.

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New immigrants arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Officials realized that they could encourage more immigration by easing concerns about employment.Credit: Moti Kimche

New immigrants to Israel will be able to obtain recognition for their professional qualifications before they even arrive in Israel, under new measures that were approved by the cabinet at its weekly meeting on Sunday.

The steps, which were proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, are part of a comprehensive program developed over the past several months to ease the job-hunting process for new immigrants.

“The plan that we approved today is not only a tool to encourage aliyah but it is a strategic tool to advance the Israeli economy and society,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “Thanks to these and other steps that we will carry out we will be able to bring tens of thousands of additional immigrants per annum, which will significantly contribute to growth in Israel.”

The changes are envisioned as easing the way for people in professions such as medicine, architecture and physical therapy into the Israeli labor force, by allowing them to submit their qualifications and apply for an Israeli professional license online.

Although the number of immigrants rose 2% last year, to about 16,900, immigration is still well below the levels reached in the 1990s, when large numbers of Jews from the former Soviet Union streamed into Israel.

Even the deep recession in the United States and Europe in 2008-09 did not bring large number of immigrants to Israel, although concerns about anti-Semitism in France have boosted the numbers of French Jews arriving.

The effort is being developed by an interministerial committee led by Immigration Ministry Director General Oded Forer, together with the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Harel Locker. The panel was established after officials realized that they could encourage more immigration by easing concerns about employment.

The committee’s other recommendations include setting up an information center for new immigrants and returning Israelis to provide information on professional credentials in their native languages. It would also offer test-preparation courses for the Israeli civil service.

Another program, developed in coordination with the Council for Higher Education, would make it easier for paramedical professionals to undergo retraining to qualify in Israel.

In addition, coordination would increase between medical schools in Israel and foreign countries. In particular, cooperation will be sought with the higher education authorities in France so that Jewish medical students there can complete their residencies in Israel.

For dentists with at least 14 years of experience overseas, applications for Israeli licensing will be significantly eased. Another program is aimed at making it easier for speech therapists from the former Soviet Union to complete their training or retrain for the Israeli licensing exam.

Other plans including publishing clear and transparent rules for foreign-trained engineers and architects to be licensed locally, taking into account years of experience. And the Education Ministry is to present recommendations for lowering the entry barrier for new-immigrant teachers.

The licensing sites are to be made available in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky welcomed the government decision.

"At this precise time, as the numbers of new immigrants reach new peaks, it is essential to remove bureaucratic obstacles that impede their professional integration,” he said in a statement. “The recognition of professional diplomas and degrees by Israeli authorities will allow new immigrants to start exercising their professions from day one, and that is a vital improvement which will provide Aliyah with a new impulse.”

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