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US Admits Israel Into Visa Waiver Program

On September 27, 2023, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced in a joint statement that the US would be admitting Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This expansion will be welcome news to Israelis wishing to visit the US as it aims to strengthen further the security, economic, and people-to-people ties between the two countries.

Starting November 30, 2023, citizens and nationals of Israel will be able to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).


Why does this matter?

To understand the significance of this announcement, it is important first to understand the current process for foreign nationals wishing to enter the US.

Generally, a citizen of a non-visa-exempt country who wishes to visit the US for a temporary stay must first obtain a B-1/B-2 visitor visa, which entails completing an online visa application and scheduling an interview.

While this process doesn’t appear particularly arduous, wait times for interviews at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad can vary anywhere from days to years. The Visa Waiver Program, through ESTA, enables qualifying citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the US for tourism or business purposes for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.


Qualifying Countries

Currently, there are 40 countries (soon to be 41, with the addition of Israel) eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program:

ESTA, the online system used to determine the eligibility of travellers from VWP countries, provides results within 72 hours – cutting down on the lengthy wait times and extensive applications for a non-immigrant visitor (B-1/B-2) visa. An approved ESTA is generally valid for two years and can be used for multiple trips to the US during this period for a maximum of 90 days.

Soon, Israel will join this list and be eligible for a simplified and convenient process.


Stay tuned for the latest on this and other news from the MPC immigration team as we closely monitor updates and other significant changes in US and Canadian immigration!