Israeli citizens and nationals who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can now apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
In light of Israel’s inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Program, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has officially launched visa-free travel for qualified Israeli citizens and nationals, making short-term trips to the United States more accessible.
Effective from Thursday, October 19, 2023, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can begin the process of seeking permission to visit the United States through the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Israel’s formal acceptance into the US Visa Waiver Program occurred on September 26, 2023, allowing eligible travelers to apply for travel authorization online via ESTA.
It’s important to note that Israeli citizens and nationals holding valid B-1/B-2 visas can still enter the United States for business and leisure purposes.
As part of the reciprocal arrangement of the Visa Waiver Program, Israel has officially pledged in writing to welcome all US passport holders for entry into Israel, irrespective of their country of origin, religion, or ethnicity.
Key Points about US ESTA and Visa-Free Travel Rules
- Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), eligible travelers can visit the US for up to 90 days for tourism or business without the need for a US visa. Travelers must possess a valid biometrically enabled passport.
- ESTA is an automated system designed to assess an individual’s eligibility to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program while considering any potential risks to law enforcement or national security. Travelers receive their eligibility status after submitting an ESTA application.
- Travelers with intentions of staying in the United States for longer than 90 days or those considering extending their stay or changing their status should obtain the appropriate visa.
- The DHS conducts verification of travelers using the application data before granting travel permission to the US. Information about individuals with a criminal history or those of concern will be shared with relevant law enforcement, national security, and counterterrorism agencies as part of the screening process.
- Travelers with temporary, emergency, or non-biometric travel documents, as well as those from nations not included in the Visa Waiver Program, must apply for a visa for entry into the United States; ESTA is not an option.
- Travelers under the Visa Waiver Program found exceeding the 90-day limit may face ineligibility. The program may deny admission to those who do not meet the criteria.
- Additionally, individuals who overstay their allowed duration will be removed from the program and lose eligibility for future participation.
How to Apply for ESTA
- ESTA is available as an online application and costs $21 per applicant. Applications can be submitted at esta.cbp.dhs.gov or through the “ESTA Mobile” app, downloadable from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store.
- It’s important to note that all travelers seeking visa-free entry, including children, must apply for and obtain ESTA authorization.
- The processing time for ESTA applications can take up to 72 hours.
- Initially, the ESTA application is available in English, with plans to introduce additional languages by November 1, 2023.