DHS Announces Expedited Access to Visa Waiver Program for Israeli Citizens

On October 19, 2023, 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 admission into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

Key Information
  • Starting Thursday, October 19, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can apply for authorization to travel to the United States through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
  • The original start date for Israel’s entry into the VWP was November 30, 2023.
  • Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must have a biometrically enabled passport book.
  • Travelers who possess non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents, or travel documents from a non-Visa Waiver Program designated country, are not eligible for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and may instead apply for a U.S. visa.
  • ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing.
  • The ESTA application will be available in English only at this time and will be available in other languages no later than November 1, 2023.

On September 26, 2023, DHS, in consultation with the Department of State, designated Israel into the U.S. 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 purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. 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.

About the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program is designed to enhance the security of the United States and partner countries while encouraging legitimate travel and commerce. VWP countries must meet strict requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management, including:

  • 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.
Erickson Insights

The start of the Visa Waiver Program for Israel comes in the midst of an ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. More information on the VWP can be found at www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program.

The situation in Israel, Gaza, and the region is ongoing and subject to sudden change quickly and without notice. Additional information is available on EIG’s dedicated Israel & Gaza Information Report.
Erickson Immigration Group will continue to share updates as more news is available. If you have questions about anything we’re reporting above or case-specific questions, please contact your employer or EIG attorney.