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News Alert: Israelis and Americans Can Now Visit Each Other's Countries Without A Visa

Rebecca Canales

Founder and CEO

Whittier 360 News Network

In a significant announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a new era of international travel begins as eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can now explore the United States without the need for a traditional visa. This development comes in the wake of Israel's inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Commencing on Thursday, October 19, 2023, Israeli citizens and nationals meeting the eligibility criteria can initiate their travel plans by applying for authorization through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The decision to welcome Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program was made in consultation with the Department of State and became effective on September 26, 2023. This program permits eligible travelers to apply online for authorization to visit the United States through ESTA, allowing them to stay for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes without the need for a conventional U.S. visa. Notably, Israeli citizens and nationals possessing valid B-1/B-2 visas can continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.

Participation in the Visa Waiver Program is contingent on reciprocity, meaning that the country offering visa-free access must also extend similar privileges to U.S. citizens. Israel has explicitly committed, in writing, that U.S. citizens traveling with U.S. passports will be welcomed in Israel without discrimination based on national origin, religion, or ethnicity. The United States maintains ongoing oversight to ensure that all Visa Waiver Program countries, including Israel, adhere to program requirements.

Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must hold a biometrically enabled passport book for visa-free travel. Travelers using non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents or those hailing from non-Visa Waiver Program designated countries will still need to apply for a U.S. visa. It's important to note that ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing, and initially, the application is available in English only, with other languages becoming available no later than November 1, 2023.

ESTA, an automated system, plays a vital role in determining eligibility for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and evaluating any potential law enforcement or security risks. After completing an ESTA application, travelers receive notice of their eligibility for visa-free travel. The DHS uses the application data to vet travelers before granting travel authorization, providing law enforcement, national security, and counterterrorism agencies with necessary information to identify potential concerns.

Travelers planning stays in the United States exceeding 90 days should be aware that they may be found inadmissible. Additionally, individuals overstaying their authorized period of stay under the Visa Waiver Program will be subject to removal and ineligibility for future travel under the program.

While visa-free travel is a game-changer for many, it's important to consider that visas may still be the best option for certain travelers, especially those planning extended stays or anticipating changes in their status once in the United States.

For more information and to begin the ESTA application process, visit or download the “ESTA Mobile” app via the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store.

This marks a significant milestone in U.S.-Israel relations, making travel between the two nations more accessible and convenient. As these changes take effect, we can expect an increase in cultural exchanges, tourism, and business activities, further strengthening the bond between our two nations.

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