Designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program: What to know?

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For some foreign nationals, entering the U.S. for business or travel purposes is easier than you may think due to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Nationals of designated countries can enter the U.S. through the VWP without obtaining a visa. Congress has just announced that Israel will be included as the 41st member of the VWP. Please continue reading to learn more about the designation of Israel into the VWP and how a New Jersey Immigration Lawyer can help you today. 

What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa. However, before entering the U.S., they must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 was enacted by Congress to add some requirements and restrictions to VWP.

Under the VWP, nationals from VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen at any time on or after March 1, 2011, are no longer permitted to enter the U.S. without a waiver. It is imperative to note that there are limited exceptions, including those who were performing military service in the armed forces of a program country or carrying out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of a program country.

Is Israel a VWP-designated country?

In the U.S., the VWP previously permitted 40 countries to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa for tourism and business purposes for stays of up to 90 days. In return, those 40 countries must allow U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar period of stay without a visa for business or tourism purposes.

On September 27, 2023, the U.S. announced the designation of Israel into the VWP. The U.S. has added Israel to its visa-free travel program, allowing Israelis to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism purposes for up to 90 days without having to undergo a visa process. By November 30, 2023, ESTA will be updated to allow citizens and nationals of Israel to apply to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa. The VWP was designed to improve U.S. security and facilitate legal travel and business with partnered countries. Israel has updated its entry policies to meet VWP requirements and extended the same privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin. Therefore, U.S. citizens will be able to enter Israel visa-free.

If you are an Israeli citizen with a valid B-1 or B-2 visa, you may continue using them for business and tourist travel to the U.S. For more information on the VWP program, contact an experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer from the Law Offices of Aditya Surti, LLC, today.

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