The Biden administration has finally allowed Israel to join its visa waiver program, giving Israelis visa-free entry to the United States for the time first.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the decision on Wednesday after the State Department confirmed that Israel had committed to full reciprocity, giving Palestinian-Americans living in both the US and West Bank visa-free access to Israel.
Israel’s application to join the visa waiver program has been dragging on for months over concerns that the government would still impose additional barriers to entry for Arab Americans. The U.S. says it will monitor Israel’s promises to ensure compliance with the reciprocity provisions.
“Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program represents a critical step forward in our strategic partnership with Israel that will further strengthen long-standing people-to-people engagement, economic cooperation, and security coordination between our two countries,” commented Blinken on Wednesday.
“This important achievement will enhance freedom of movement for U.S. citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them.”
Blinken said Israel had “put forth a significant whole-of-government effort” to meet the requirements of the program that required a slew of new laws, new information sharing systems and updated entry processes for U.S. citizens.
From November 30, citizens and nationals of Israel will be able to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through the ESTA – a much cheaper an faster process than obtaining the standard B-1/B-2 visa.
Under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), citizens and nationals of eligible countries can travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.