United States authorities have announced that after years of meticulous planning, Israel has finally been admitted into its Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The admission will allow Israelis to travel to the US for business or leisure without having to undergo the grueling process of acquiring a visa at the embassy.
Congratulations Israel for becoming part of the Visa Waiver Program! We are proud of this joint success, bringing the American and Israeli people even closer together. pic.twitter.com/loPRY7leh5— Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Stephanie Hallett (@USAmbIsrael) September 27, 2023
Once the move is fully implemented sometime in November, Israeli passport holders wishing to travel to the US will only be required to fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form prior to any trip that is no longer than 90 days.
Only Israelis over 18, holding a biometric passport that is valid for at least 10 years, can register with the ESTA program. Those planning a stay longer than 90 days, or for studies or work, still must obtain the relevant visas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement said that Israel’s entry “will further strengthen long-standing people-to-people engagement, economic cooperation, and security coordination between our two countries.”
Allowing over 70,000 Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank to apply for ESTA was among the top US requirements for Israel’s admittance. Seven hundred US citizens living in the Gaza Strip will face stricter restrictions since the US does not recommend travel to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.
Blinken said that “this important achievement will enhance freedom of movement for US citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them.”
Israel sought to be admitted to the program for many years, working mainly to bring down a visa application refusal rate below three percent. This is a key requirement for VWP admission, and was finally achieved earlier this fiscal year.
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas also welcomed Israel’s entry into the VWP, and “the stringent requirements it entails,” which he said “will make both of our nations more secure.”
White House officials, however, added that the US will monitor Israel’s compliance with the VWP requirements, and reserves the right to suspend Israel’s membership if any transgressions are observed.