Update, 11/16: Axios is reporting that newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew has informed Israel that the US visa waiver may soon be suspended. That’s due to the West Bank closure for security reasons after the 10/7 massacre, which has meant that Palestinian Americans have been unable to travel there via Ben Gurion. The US will give Israel a few weeks to either resolve the issue or the visa waiver will be suspended.
Ironically, the waiver wasn’t supposed to go into effect until 11/30, but the US moved that date forward after Hamas’ 10/7 attack. However that has led to Israel being out of compliance with the deal.
Update, 10/19: While some pundits predicted that this program would be postponed as a US precondition was the ability for Gaza Americans to be able to fly to Ben Gurion and transit to Gaza, the program has gone live today despite the closure of the Gaza-Israel border crossing. That’s more than a month earlier than expected!
Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must have a biometrically enabled passport book in order to travel to the US without a visa. ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing. The US notes that if Israelis want to stay for more than 90 days at a time, a regular visa will still be required.
Update, 9/27: The US has officially added Israel to the Visa Waiver Program. Details and forms should be finalized over the coming months to allow Israelis to freely visit the US by the end of November.
Update, 9/24: Later this week, the US is expected to add Israel to the Visa Waiver Program. That’s a big win for the Netanyahu administration, which has been pushing to make that happen.
Currently, many more Americans travel to Israel than Israelis travel to the US, but that’s in part due to the onerous visa restrictions on Israelis traveling to the US.
After those restrictions are lifted, will Israelis go into revenge travel mode for travel to the US?
Nonstop flights between North America and Israel already have very high load factors, so if that happens, expect pricing in the market to climb, at least until more flights are added.
You may want to purchase flights before that happens…
Update, 7/19: Israel and the US are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding today that will officially begin the process for Israel to enter the US visa waiver program! That will trigger a review period of 4-6 weeks from today, when the US will make a final decision on whether to grant Israelis visa waivers for US entry.
Originally posted on 3/29:
Israel’s Knesset has approved a series of bills intended to bring the country into compliance with US requirements for the Visa Waiver program, which would allow Israelis to travel to the US for 90 day business or tourism visits without going through a lengthy and time consuming visa process.
Israel has also reached a critical milestone in getting the refusal rate for US tourist visas below the 3% requirement for entry into the US Visa Waiver program. That may not happen again going forward as applications were lower due to COVID, so that is creating pressure for Israel to join the program this year.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said he now expects Israel to be allowed to join the Visa Waiver program by this September.
Haaretz says that’s nonsense. One key point of contention is the US requiring every US citizen to be able to enter Israel and the West Bank via the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. Palestinian Americans currently have to fly to Jordan and cross into Israel via the Allenby Bridge. Israel also currently blocks BDS advocates from entering the country.
Will Israel be willing to compromise on those requirements to join the Visa Waiver program? Or will they come to a compromise on an issue that the US has called a deal breaker and non-negotiable?
Will Israel Be Added To The US Visa Waiver Program In 2023?
- No (67%, 443 Votes)
- Yes (33%, 220 Votes)
Total Voters: 663