DHS announces the opening of applications for visa-free travel to the US for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the start of visa-free travel for short-term visits to the United States for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals following Israel’s acceptance into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Starting today, Thursday, October 19, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can begin applying for travel authorization to the United States through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA).

On September 26, 2023, DHS, in consultation with the State Department, included Israel in the US Visa Waiver Program, which allows eligible travelers to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through ESTA. These authorizations allow successful applicants to travel to the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without first obtaining a US visa. Israeli citizens and nationals with valid B-1/B-2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.

Participation in the VWP requires that any citizen who wishes to enter the United States without a visa be from a country that grants US citizens and nationals the privileges that we would grant to their citizens and nationals. Israel has committed in writing to the United States that all American citizens traveling on an American passport may seek entry into Israel, regardless of national origin, religion, or ethnicity. The United States continuously monitors program compliance by all visa waiver program countries, including Israel, to ensure that they remain in good standing with all program requirements.

Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must have a biometric passport book. Travelers holding non-biometric, temporary or emergency travel documents or travel documents from a country not listed in the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible for Visa Waiver Program travel and may instead apply for US visa. ESTA applications can take up to 72 hours to process. The ESTA application will only be available in English at this time and will be available in other languages ​​no later than November 1, 2023.

ESTA is an automated system that helps determine eligibility for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and whether that travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. After completing an ESTA application, travelers are notified of their eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. DHS uses data from the application to screen travelers before granting permission to travel to the United States. As part of this verification process, information that identifies suspected or known law breakers and other affected individuals will be provided to appropriate law enforcement, national security authorities and/or counterterrorism agencies.

Individuals traveling under the Visa Waiver Program for Planned Stays exceeding 90 days may be determined inadmissible to the United States. Individuals determined to be inadmissible will be denied admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. In addition, persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program who exceed their authorized period of stay will be subject to removal under the Visa Waiver Program and will not be eligible for future travel under the Visa Waiver Program.

Traveling with a visa may still be the best option for some travelers, such as those who would like to stay in the United States for more than 90 days or those who believe they may wish to extend their stay or change their status , once they are in the United States.

ESTA applications can be found at esta.cbp.dhs.gov or download the “ESTA Mobile” app through the iOS App Store or Google Play Store.

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