Visiting the United States has just become a lot simpler for many Israelis. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made some significant announcements, and if you’re considering traveling from Israel to the U.S., this is likely very welcome news. Read on and contact a seasoned New York City immigration lawyer from the Lightman Law Firm to learn more about visa-free travel to the U.S. for Israelis and how our legal team can help.
Has Visa-Free Travel to the U.S. for Israelis Started?
Yes. The DHS recently initiated visa-free short-term visits to the U.S. for qualified Israeli citizens and nationals. This move comes after Israel’s recent inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. If you’re an eligible Israeli, you can now apply for U.S. travel authorization via the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
When Did This Change Take Effect?
The shift occurred on September 26, 2023, allowing eligible travelers from Israel to apply online for U.S. travel authorization using ESTA. Successful applicants can enjoy U.S. visits for tourism or business for up to 90 days without securing a U.S. visa first. However, if you’re an Israeli citizen holding a valid B-1/B-2 visa, you can still use it for your business or tourist visits.
What Are the Conditions for Visa-Free Entry?
For an Israeli citizen to benefit from visa-free entry, their home country (in this case, Israel) must offer similar privileges to U.S. citizens. Israel has now assured the U.S. in writing that every U.S. citizen, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or origin, can enter Israel using their U.S. passport. The U.S. regularly assesses all Visa Waiver Program participants, including Israel, to confirm their adherence to the program’s conditions.
Are There Specific Document Requirements for Israeli Travelers?
Yes. If you’re an eligible Israeli traveler, ensure you possess a biometrically-enabled passport book. Non-biometric, emergency, or temporary travel documents won’t suffice. Also, if your travel documents are from a country outside the Visa Waiver Program, you’ll need to apply for a U.S. visa instead. It’s worth noting that ESTA applications might require up to 72 hours for processing.
How Does ESTA Work?
ESTA is a digital platform designed to evaluate the eligibility of travelers to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, ensuring they don’t pose any security or law enforcement risks. Post-ESTA application, travelers get informed about their U.S. travel eligibility under this program. The DHS then vets this data, ensuring travelers adhere to U.S. laws and security measures.
What if Someone Stays Longer than 90 Days?
Travelers under the Visa Waiver Program must ensure they don’t exceed their 90-day stay. If they do, they may be declared inadmissible in the U.S. Furthermore, those who overstay will not only be subjected to removal under the Visa Waiver Program but will also be barred from future visa-free U.S. travel.
Are There Times When a Visa Is Still Preferred?
Certainly. If you aim to stay in the U.S. beyond 90 days or anticipate extending your stay or modifying your status after arrival, pursuing a visa might be more appropriate for your needs.
Visa-free travel has streamlined the travel process for many Israelis. However, always ensure you have the correct documents and understand the stipulations before embarking on your journey. If you face any immigration issues or have further questions, consider seeking counsel from a New York City immigration attorney.