The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has officially launched, as of October 19th, a new travel authorization process for Israeli citizens and nationals looking to travel to the U.S. for short-term visits without a visa. This significant development comes after Israel's recent inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. As a result, Israeli citizens and nationals can now begin applying for travel authorization to the United States by utilizing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). T
Visa Waiver Program Participation Requirements
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a reciprocal agreement between the United States and participating countries, now including Israel. This program allows citizens and nationals from the participating countries to travel to the U.S. for short-term visits without requiring a visa.
Israel has given written assurance to the U.S. that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or national origin, can enter Israel without any discrimination. The U.S. continually monitors the implementation of the VWP by participant countries to ensure all requirements are met.
VWP quick facts for Israeli citizens & nationals:
- Possession of a biometrically enabled passport book is required.
- Non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents are not accepted.
- Travel documents from a non-VWP-designated country are not eligible.
- An Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application must be submitted, which may take up to 72 hours to process.
The Approval Process
The ESTA application processing and approval mechanism helps to evaluate a traveler's eligibility to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and to assess if the applicant's visit poses any potential security or law enforcement threat. Once an application is submitted, the system analyses the data provided, ascertaining the traveler's eligibility for visa-free travel.
The DHS utilizes the application data to thoroughly vet applicants before approving their travel authorization. This vetting procedure includes identifying individuals suspected or known to have violated laws or those who may be of concern due to other reasons. This information is then communicated to the relevant law enforcement, national security, or counter-terrorism agencies.
Individuals using the Visa Waiver Program for visits exceeding 90 days may face inadmissibility to the United States. Also, those who overstay their authorized period will be subject to removal and could be barred from future Visa Waiver Program travel.
Is This the Right Process for You?
Depending on the circumstances of your planned travel to the U.S., utilizing the VWP may be a good option. However, it is not your only option. For example, if you plan to be in the U.S. longer than 90 days, securing a visa may be a better option. Similarly, if you are already in the U.S. and want to extend your stay, it may be advisable to change your visa status.
If you are unsure of what the right option is for your planned travel to the U.S. as an Israeli citizen or national, reach out to Verma Law Firm for guidance.