Starting November 30, 2023, Israeli nationals will be able to apply for travel to the United States as B-1/B-2 visitors under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If deemed eligible, they will not need a visa from a U.S. consulate for their business visitor or tourist travel. Business visitors under the VWP are permitted to engage in allowable B-1 business activities in the United States for no more than 90 days. VWP applicants must submit their applications at least 72 hours in advance of travel using the online application system, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Nationals of Israel will be soon be eligible to apply for visa-free business or tourist visitor travel to the United States, according to a joint Department of Homeland Security-State Department announcement and an advance copy of the Federal Register notice implementing the change. Starting November 30, 2023, Israel will be added to the list of 40 countries already in the B-1/B-2 Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and Israeli nationals will be able to apply for visa-free visitor travel through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Visa Waiver Program generally
The Visa Waiver Program permits citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for up to 90 days without first obtaining a B visa. For B-1 business visitors, activities in the United States must conform to certain allowable B-1 business activities.
To travel under the VWP, applicants must apply through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) online application, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) up to 72 hours in advance of travel.
ESTA authorizations are generally valid for two years, but foreign nationals must re-apply in certain circumstances such as obtaining a new passport, a name change, or a change in circumstances that affects eligibility. ESTA authorizations are not a guarantee of admission to the United States; CBP makes an admissibility determination at the port of entry.
The United States and Israel had been in discussions for some time regarding Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver program. In July 2023, Israel made updates to its own entry policies in order to meet Visa Waiver Program requirements to extend reciprocal entry privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity. Israel’s rules had previously placed restrictions on Palestinian-Americans and other U.S. citizens with dual nationality in certain Middle Eastern countries. Since July, DHS has monitored Israel’s implementation of these requirements and, as with all VWP countries, will continue to monitor implementation.
What VWP membership means for Israeli nationals and their employers
Eligible Israeli nationals and their employers will benefit from eased requirements on business visitor travel to the United States as a result of Israel’s inclusion in the VWP. Advance planning will remain important, however, as ESTA authorization takes at least 72 hours and can extend beyond that timeframe.
Foreign nationals deemed ineligible for participation in the Visa Waiver Program by ESTA, perhaps due to prior law enforcement or immigration compliance issues, will generally need to apply for a B visa at a U.S. consulate. Israeli travelers with existing B-1/B-2 visas may to continue to use those visas for visitor travel to the United States.