Israel Joins the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

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The United States has announced its decision to include Israel in the nation’s Visa Waiver Program. From November 30, 2023, Israeli passport holders can travel to the U.S. without a visa, providing they have a valid ESTA visa waiver.

This new move makes traveling to the U.S. more accessible for Israeli citizens, who previously needed to apply for a visa to enter the country. Visas typically take longer to get and have a more complicated application process than the ESTA.

The decision to ease travel requirements for Israelis is mirrored in similar changes to Israel’s visa policy for U.S. citizens.

An Israeli official commented:

“This is a momentous step forward in the long-standing friendship and partnership between our nations.”

Israel joins the US visa waiver program


ESTA Visa Waiver for Israelis

The Visa Waiver Program is designed to enhance tourism and strengthen ties between member countries and the United States.

With this new provision, Israelis will no longer need to apply for a visa when traveling to the U.S. for short stays. This opens up travel opportunities for Israelis, who can now avoid the often time-consuming and complicated visa process.

To enjoy visa-free travel, visitors must obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The ESTA allows a visa-free stay of up to 90 days, for tourism or business purposes.

Israeli citizens can apply for a U.S. ESTA easily through a simple online application form. Providing they meet all visa requirements for Israelis, the whole process takes a matter of minutes to complete.

Bilateral Agreement Between Israel and the U.S.

The move to include Israel in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program is a result of the bilateral agreements between the 2 nations.

Both countries have been in discussions for years to streamline the travel process for their citizens. This step marks a significant achievement in their efforts to deepen their diplomatic and economic ties.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson remarked:

“It’s not just about simplifying travel; it’s about drawing our nations closer, fostering understanding, and building a shared future.”

Israeli travel restrictions eased for Americans

Part of the requirements for joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program is treating all U.S. travelers equally. This means that Israeli authorities must now allow visa-free entry for Palestinian Americans, coming from both the U.S. and the West Bank.

These travelers can fly into Ben Gurion Airport and cross the border without an Israeli visa.

Since starting a trial on July 20, 2023, Israel has made it easier for Palestinian Americans to pass through its borders and into the areas of the West Bank that it controls.

As per Israel’s Interior Ministry, over 130,000 Americans have come into Israel during this trial, and out of them, 6,070 were Palestinian Americans.

Equal Treatment Urged for Palestinians

While the move has been applauded by many, it also comes with calls urging equal treatment for Palestinians.

Advocates stress the importance of ensuring that Palestinians, especially those in regions like the West Bank, are not subjected to discriminatory travel practices.

As discussions continue, many hope that similar considerations can be extended to Palestinian travelers in the future.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement:

“At a time when the American administration has repeatedly said that its goal is to provide the same opportunities for freedom, equality, prosperity, and security for both Palestinians and Israelis, we expect this administration to work to implement what it says.”

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