In a groundbreaking development, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has fast-tracked the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) process for Israeli citizens. Originally slated for November 30, 2023, this program is now live, effective from Thursday, October 19, 2023. This means that eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can now swiftly apply for travel authorization online and set their plans in motion to visit the United States.

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program has opened its doors to Israel, allowing Israeli citizens to apply online for travel authorization via ESTA. Successful applicants can embark on journeys to the United States for tourism or business purposes, all without the need for a traditional U.S. visa. Israeli citizens and nationals holding valid B-1/B-2 visas can continue to use them for their U.S. business and tourist travels.

To be a part of the Visa Waiver Program, a nation must extend similar privileges to U.S. citizens and nationals. Israel has formally committed to welcoming U.S. citizens without discrimination based on national origin, religion, or ethnicity. To ensure compliance with program requirements, the United States continuously monitors the behavior of Visa Waiver Program countries, including Israel.

Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must hold an unexpired passport book to participate in this program. Those with non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents, or those from non-Visa Waiver Program designated countries, will need to apply for a U.S. visa. ESTA applications, essential for this travel, can take up to 72 hours for processing. Initially available in English only, the ESTA application will be accessible in other languages by November 1, 2023.

ESTA, an automated system, assesses travelers’ eligibility for Visa Waiver Program travel and identifies any potential law enforcement or security risks. Upon completing the application, travelers receive notifications regarding their eligibility. DHS utilizes the application data for thorough vetting to ensure a secure travel experience. Information related to individuals suspected or known to violate the law is shared with relevant law enforcement, national security, and counterterrorism agencies.

Travelers planning to stay in the United States for more than 90 days may find a traditional visa to be a better option. Additionally, those considering extensions or changes in their status while in the United States may prefer the visa route.

Ready to take advantage of this opportunity? You can submit your ESTA application at, or for added convenience, download the “ESTA Mobile” app from the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. This opens the door to exciting and hassle-free travel for Israeli citizens to the United States.

About the Author

Vivien Li
Associate Attorney at Garvish Immigration Law Group | (800) 951-4980 | | Profile | + posts

Vivien Zhihui Li is an Associate Attorney at Garvish Immigration Law Group, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. Vivien started her law practice with our firm since early 2021, focusing her work on employment-based immigration and nonimmigration petitions, as well as family-based immigration petitions. She is currently a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the State Bar of Georgia.