The State of Israel has been officially admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.
The achievement comes after years of attempts to reach an agreement.
Israelis will no longer be forced to wait forever and a day to obtain a visa to visit the US. Instead, Israeli citizens will now be able to request visa-free entry to the US, and vice versa.
Instead, Israelis will be required to complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form online several days in advance of traveling for business or tourism. The system checks US entry eligibility of travelers in visa-waiver countries. Answers will be received within 72 hours — so it’s important to get the paperwork done at least a few days before.
The authorization is good for 90 days, and once granted, eligibility lasts two years.
However, only Israelis with a biometric passport valid for a decade are eligible to benefit from the waivers under the program.
The agreement is seen as one that will solidify a major boost to bilateral ties. “This decision shows the strong ties between the two countries,” acting US Ambassador to Israel Stephanie Hallett told reporters in a briefing.
Biden administration officials told reporters in a briefing ahead of the announcement that the US still needs time to prepare its electronic systems for Israel’s membership in the program.
It’s expected the arrangements will be completed by November 30, officials said. Until that time, visas are still required on both sides of the Atlantic.