On September 27, 2023, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas announced that Israel will join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Pursuant to the designation, beginning on November 30, 2023, Israeli citizens will be able to apply online through ESTA to travel to the United States on the VWP.
The VWP allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. For 10 years, Israel has wanted to become a member of the VWP but has been unable to meet all of the eligibility requirements until recently.
Among other things, entrance into the VWP requires countries to:
- Issue secure travel documents;
- Extend visa-free travel privileges to all U.S. citizens regardless national origin, religion, or ethnicity;
- Work closely with U.S. counterterrorism and enforcement authorities; and
- For initial designation, have a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate below 3%.
In advance of this designation, Israel made updates to its entry policies to meet the VWP requirement to extend reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity. After monitoring by DHS, the United States determined that Israel meets this and all other program requirements for VWP membership.
Israelis have been dealing with long backlogs waiting for B-1/B-2 Visitor visas. Some, who are dual citizens, have been using passports from other countries to enter the United States using ESTA. Now, none of that will be necessary.
Israel is the 41st member of the VWP.
Please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney with any questions.