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US Visa Waiver Program for Israelis comes into effect early

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20.10.23 12:45

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) yesterday announced the start of visa-free travel for short term visits to the US for eligible Israeli citizens following Israel’s admission into the US Visa Waiver Program. The US had originally announced three weeks ago that Israel had joined the 40 other countries in the program but that it would not come into effect until late November. This has been brought forward, presumably because of the war.

Eligible Israelis can now apply online for authorization to travel to the US through the Electronic Systems or Travel Authorization (ESTA). Applicants must pay a $21 fee and approval is within 72 hours. Successful applicants can travel to the US for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a US visa.

Israelis are only eligible for the Visa Waiver Program if they have biometric passports. According to the Population and Immigration Authority, however, 1.8 million Israel’s do not hold such a passport, but only a plain "optic" passport, and they will not be able to complete the ESTA form in order to be able to enter the US for 90 days without obtaining a visa.

Israeli citizens and nationals with valid B-1/B-2 visas on plain "optic" passports may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the US, Globes reports.