On October 19, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can now begin applying for authorization to travel to the U.S. through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Through ESTA, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals may now travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa. 

The designation of Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is significant because the process is faster (it takes up to only 72 hours for applicants to find out if they are authorized to travel to the U.S. under ESTA, as compared to significantly longer wait times for a visitor visa appointment), easier (the application is submitted online and is free of charge), and should provide a temporary relief for eligible Israel citizens and nationals to more freely travel to the U.S. 

It is worth noting, however, that traveling on a visa may still be the best option for some travelers such as those who would like to stay in the U.S. longer than 90 days or those who think they may wish to extend their stay or change their status once in the U.S., as ESTA does not permit the traveler to do so.