Beginning on October 19, 2023, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can apply for visa-free travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Israel’s entrance into the VWP was originally scheduled to begin on November 30, 2023, but that has been moved up based on current circumstances.
The VWP allows 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 who already have valid B-1/B-2 visas in their passports may continue to use them for these visitor purposes.
To be eligible for the VWP, applicants must have biometrically enabled passport books. ESTA applications are available only in English at this time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that applications in other languages will become available on or about November 1, 2023. Applications should take about 72 hours to vet and process if there are no issues.
Even individuals with approved ESTA applications may be refused entry to the United States if it is determined that they plan to remain in the United States for more than 90 days. DHS has advised, “Traveling on a visa may still be the best option for some travelers such as those who would like to stay in the United States longer than 90 days or those who think they may wish to extend their stay or change their status once in the United States.”
It is not possible to extend an individual’s stay or change status to another visa status if the individual enters on the VWP. Individuals admitted on the VWP who overstay the 90 days will be removable, may be subject to other bars, and will be ineligible for future visa waiver travel.
ESTA applications are available at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/ or individuals may download the ESTA Mobile app.
If you have questions about visa waiver travel, please reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney.