October 4, 2023
On September 27, 2023, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, in consultation with Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken designated Israel to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This will allow Israeli citizens and nationals to travel to the United States without first obtaining a U.S. visa.
The Visa Waiver Program is a partnership program between the United States and participating countries that allows citizens and nationals of designated countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa from a consulate abroad. Nationals and citizens of designated countries benefit from the ease of travel between the two countries upon completion of the screening through the U.S.’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA will be updated by November 30, 2023 to allow travelers to begin to travel pursuant to this program.
The program also builds comprehensive security partnerships between the U.S. and designated countries which must meet strict requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management. Among other requirements for countries in the program are confirmation that the country issues secure travel documents, extends visa-free privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity, ensuring that the country 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.
In advance of designation, Israel made updates to its entry policies to meet the VWP requirement. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security monitored Israel’s implementation of these requirements and engaged with Palestinian Americans both living in the West Bank and the United States, who now have the ability to enter Israel visa-free and fly in and out of Ben Gurion airport.
“The designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is an important recognition of our shared security interests and the close cooperation between our two countries.”
– Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas
“Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program represents a critical step forward in our strategic partnership with Israel that will further strengthen long-standing people-to-people engagement, economic cooperation, and security coordination between our two countries.”
– Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken
The official announcement of the Department of Homeland Security regarding this update can be found here. If you would like to consult with one of our attorneys concerning this designation, please fill out our Consultation Request Form.
Written by: Marisabel C. Alonso, Esq.