The long-awaited news is finally here. The Department of State has announced the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) effective November 30, 2023.
Beginning on that date, citizens and nationals of Israel will be able to apply to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days, without first obtaining a U.S. visa by applying on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (known as ESTA). ESTA travel authorizations are generally valid for two years upon issuance.
Israeli citizens with valid B1/B2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.
The move will also benefit U.S. Citizens, considering that Israel has updated its travel policies to allow all U.S. citizens to request entry to Israel for up to 90 days for business, tourism, or transit without obtaining a visa. Israel has also granted Palestinian-Americans both living in the West Bank and the United States, the ability to enter Israel visa free, and fly in and out of Ben Gurion airport without restrictions.
Israel will join 40 other countries in becoming part of the Visa Waiver Program.
In the announcement, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas remarked, “This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations’ collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities. Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure.”
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all program requirements.
The program allows for comprehensive security partnerships between the United States and designated countries that meet strict requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management. These requirements include confirmation that a country issues secure travel documents, extends visa-free privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity; works closely with U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities; and for initial designation, has a rate of nonimmigrant visitor visa refusals below 3% during the previous full fiscal year.
Who may not qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Program?
If you were previously denied a U.S. visa, your ESTA application may be denied, and as a result you may not be eligible to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. In such case you may apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to gain admission to the United States.
Additionally, certain nationals are not eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. This includes the following travelers who must obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States:
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Cuba on or after January 12, 2021 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
- Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
For more information about this announcement please click here.
Contact Us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.
- Joint Statement on the Designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program
- Federal Register: Designation of Israel for the Visa Waiver Program
- Visa Waiver Program
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Application
- October Visa Bulletin
- Employment-Based Fourth Preference (EB-4) Announcement
- Adjustment of Status Filing Dates from Visa Bulletin
- USCIS Processing Times
- USCIS Announces End of COVID-Related Flexibilities
- Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
- Youtube channel
JOIN OUR NEW FACEBOOK GROUP
Need more immigration updates? We have created a new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments related to COVID-19. Follow us there.
For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.