Amid heightened tensions between Israel and Hamas, the United States has implemented a visa waiver program for Israelis. This allows them to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without the need for a visa application.
Previously, on September 27, the U.S. declared its decision to include Israel in its visa waiver initiative. This inclusion means Israel joins a distinct list of 40 nations, primarily from Europe and Asia, whose inhabitants can enter the U.S. for short stays without visa requirements.
Although it was initially announced that the visa-free travel would commence on November 30, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed its activation on Thursday. The reason for this advancement in the timeline was not specified. However, not long after Israel’s inclusion in the program, there were reports of attacks from Hamas on southern Israel, followed by continuous Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.
To benefit from this waiver, Israeli travelers need to first sign up with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, an online system that evaluates their travel eligibility. The assessment may last up to 72 hours before they are cleared to travel. For admission, a biometric passport is required. Those lacking this type of passport must undergo the standard visa application process.
For countries to be considered for the visa waiver, they must fulfill three major criteria. Over recent years, Israel has satisfied two: maintaining a low count of visa application rejections and few incidents of visa overstay by its citizens. The third criterion, which concerns the equitable treatment of all U.S. travelers, including Palestinian Americans, in Israel, has been challenging for the country. Critics argue that Palestinian Americans still face discrimination when traveling to Israel.