The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared on Thursday the initiation of visa-free travel for brief visits to the United States, now accessible to qualifying Israeli citizens and nationals due to Israel's acceptance into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
As of October 19, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can start the application process for travel authorization to the United States via the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The start of the program comes about two weeks earlier than had been expected.
On September 26, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the State Department, formally included Israel in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. This significant move permits eligible travelers from Israel to apply for travel authorization to the United States through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), streamlining the process.
These authorizations grant successful applicants the privilege of traveling to the United States for tourism or business reasons for a duration of up to 90 days without the need for a U.S. visa. Israeli citizens and nationals holding valid B-1/B-2 visas can continue to use them for their business and tourist trips to the United States.
Participation in the Visa Waiver Program requires countries offering visa-free entry to U.S. citizens receive reciprocal privileges for their citizens and nationals. Israel has formally pledged to the United States, in writing, that U.S. citizens traveling with U.S. passports can enter Israel without any discrimination based on national origin, religion or ethnicity. The United States consistently monitors compliance with program requirements by all Visa Waiver Program nations, including Israel, to ensure they adhere to all established criteria.
Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must hold a biometrically enabled passport book for Visa Waiver Program travel. Travelers with non-biometric, temporary or emergency travel documents, or travel documents from countries not designated in the Visa Waiver Program, are not eligible for this program and should apply for a U.S. visa instead. It's important to note that ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing. The ESTA application is currently available only in English, with plans to offer it in other languages by November 1, 2023.