How one man successfully made aliya and kept his Silicon Valley job all the way through. A lot of his advice is useful for any
Israel-based freelancers and
anyone considering telecommuting.
This writeup was found on one of the Ultimate List of Mailing Lists For Your Israeli Job Search. The author allowed me to repost an anonymous version.
I made aliya in 2006 and upon landing continued to work remotely for the high-tech firm I worked for in California. I'm going to try to write out some information because now I see a number of people are currently planning to do so also.
Working from Israel for a foreign company takes a little more setup, but I think makes for an excellent soft landing. Having work lets you take your time with everything else and eliminates one of the major “failure points” of aliyah.
I found this very easy, thanks to a great tip from a list co-member.
There is a company called Yeul Sachir which will handle invoicing your “customers” (i.e. pre-aliya employer) in the USA, and you will be their regular employee. They will pay you a monthly salary out of that invoiced money. Also, they can handle setting up a Keren Hishtalmut and pension for you. It will all be deducted from the incoming funds before your “salary” is paid, thus lowering your effective tax rate.
Their fees are very reasonable and they are very knowledgeable. At one point I had multiple people I was invoicing in multiple currencies – no sweat for them. They can also do things like expenses. If you buy a computer, Yeul Sachir will “buy it” and reimburse you for it, essentially the same thing as a tax deduction. You will get the money you paid for it sent to you tax-free. I also had a business trip which I was able to expense.
Your taxes in Israel will be withheld and paid correctly by Yeul Sachir. For your American taxes, you can choose to go it alone. Some of the tax preparation software out there can help. However, I think it's much easier and worthwhile simply to pay for the service of someone more knowledgeable than you – e.g. an accountant – to prepare your taxes for you. It's easier than you think since you're a “regular employee” here and have a stack of paychecks you can hand them, instead of a pile of invoices and payments to the tax authorities.
Most of us have multiple computer systems already. However, it never hurts to ask your company. They let me ship a couple of company systems to continue using from here. When one of the machines later died, they even replaced it.
My company was much smaller than most, so it may be they were more flexible and less paperwork. It doesn't hurt to ask. If they've approved you working in this manner, they should still be invested in making you as successful as possible.
Having good communication with the home office is a must. If they are paying for your cell phone, fine. If not, some VOIP solution is going to come in handy. I used a Vonage system when I first arrived, which worked fine. I then switched to Packet8, and now the entire company is on the Avaya VOIP phone system, so I have an Avaya phone.
It has been a huge, huge help having a local USA number that coworkers could pick up and dial without having to think about calling from their cell phone or from their desk. I was surprised how many people didn't know how to dial internationally: “+972? How do I dial a ‘+'?” 🙂
You will also need to make sure you are available daily to speak with them. This means, be prepared to be working hours in the late afternoon/evening so that you have some overlap. East Coast companies will be easier than West Coast companies in this area.
Be prepared to not know what is going on as well as you used to, and to not be involved in all the meetings. I joined every mailing list they had before leaving. Even though I was in engineering, I joined the sales, marketing, support, etc lists. That way I always found out the information I needed from one source or another.
When I was leaving the USA, I spoke with a coworker about “working from home” and expressed my concerns to him that I may not be able to do it. I thought it would be too easy to be distracted (TV, video games, go out for a swim instead of working) . He told me that he was much more concerned that I would work too much rather than too little. He said he was never worried about how little people work from home (when that is their permanent state).
How right he was. When your office is simply in the next room, it is very easy to “hop in to work” to check email. If someone has a request, you can think to yourself, “well, I'm not doing anything now” and start working on it. Sure enough, an hour (or hours) has gone by. It can get to be a real problem.
I finally had to declare one room of the house the office, and when I am in there I did not interact with “the home.” At the end of the day, I would go out, close the door, and that was that. No more checking email. No more answering the phone. I was “home from work.”
Keep your own personal tally of how many hours you spend working. Also keep in mind that you don't have any commute time, so working 9-10 hours here is roughly the same “time away from home” as when you had to commute in the USA. You also don't have to take a shower or brush your teeth before starting work if you so desire 🙂
The other major problem you will have is integrating into Israeli society. You don't speak Hebrew, and you don't need to get a job so one major motivation for learning is gone. Since you're working already, cramming time for ulpan in is difficult. You do not have Israeli coworkers and you are not leaving the house much.
You will need to be very proactive and force yourself into society and interacting with people or else you will end up a hermit at home. I solved this by getting a private tutor and doing my best to find cultural events to attend. Like cats? Go to the cat show. Like beer? Go to the pub, etc. Don't worry if you're going alone, get out of the house, do something, travel.
Additionally, keep in mind that Israel works Sunday through Thursday but most other countries do not 🙂 I work Monday->Friday. It has its advantages and disadvantages. You lose one weekend day, but gain a work day for the country that you always have off. I go deal with government blah on Sundays, go shopping on Sundays, go to the mall without having to bat away the swarm of teenagers, etc.
Whatever you do, DON'T fall into the habit of also working on Sunday! It's easier than you think! If you are religious this will of course pose larger problems. Also, if you want to party with the locals, it's difficult having to get up for work on Friday morning 🙂
I am still learning all of this stuff as I go along, but this turned out to be a really excellent option for me. It has its challenges, but is vastly outweighed by the benefits.
As of January 1st 2008, the company I originally worked for in the US has now incorporated a branch here and is opening an office. It has taken my career in new directions (I never would have thought I would have been interviewing Israelis for positions here before *I* went on an interview!) and really has made my aliyah significantly easier.
If you are going to quit anyway, why not *ask* if you can do the same? How can it hurt?
Mr. X, from Silicon Valley->Israel
Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.