Stephanie L. Hallett, Acting Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, responded to the announcement made Wednesday that Israel has been accepted into the United States Visa Waiver Program.
“Congratulations on becoming the forty-first (41st) member of the Program. This is another reflection of the strength of our bilateral relations in terms of security, economy and culture. “Mazal Tov!” he declared.
“I especially want to acknowledge the efforts of former Ambassador Tom Nides, who was a driving force behind this effort. I also want to acknowledge the leadership of Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hangebi, who has been a steadfast supporter of the embassy for many years. month. And I must thank the many Israeli officials throughout the government who have worked tirelessly to help Israel meet the strict requirements to enter the program over the past two years, not only under the Prime Minister Netanyahu, but in a process that began under former prime minister Bennett and Lapid.”
Hallett emphasized: “I want to remind everyone to be careful of scams. Israeli citizens should only use the ESTA application on the Department of Homeland Security website. They don’t need to pay any third party to do this. And they don’t have to. ESTA is easy. ”
He added: “The Embassy would like to remind all Israelis that the Homeland Security Secretary’s appointment does not mean that Israeli citizens without a US visa can now go to Ben Gurion Airport to obtain one quick flight to the United States.”
“Now that Israel is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, or VWP as we call it, Israelis must apply through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA before traveling to the United States. ESTA is a automated online system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP.
“ESTA applications can be submitted at any time before travel, and travelers will receive an answer within 72 hours. ESTA authorizations are valid for 2 years and for multiple trips. Israeli adults can ONLY use ESTA if they have biometric passports with a validity of 10 years. This means that Israeli adults without a biometric passport with a validity of 10 years must -apply for a visa at our embassies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
“The important thing to remember is that Israelis will not be able to use ESTA until the end of this year. It will take time to add new VWP member countries to ESTA. This means that Israelis will have to continue to use visas to travel to the United States at the moment. We strongly and publicly announce the exact date on which Israelis can use ESTA before November 30, 2023.
Hallett urged: “If you have an appointment for a visa interview for a short trip to the United States, do not cancel or do not attend that appointment. There are two reasons why we want you to do this. ”
“First, all nonimmigrant visa application fees are non-refundable, and cannot be refunded by the US Embassy under any circumstances. Please do not contact the Embassy or our appointment service to request this. ”
“Secondly, B1/B2 tourist visas are valid for 10 years, while ESTA authorizations are usually valid for two years. In addition, you can stay up to 6 months in the United States with a B1/B2 tourist visa, while with the VWP you can only stay for 90 days. In addition, you can apply for an extension of your stay or adjust your status to another visa category (such as tourist to student) if you entered on a B1/B2 visa. BUT you can’t do this if you enter with VWP. ”
Regarding visits expected to last longer than 90 days, he explained: “All Israelis who come to the United States for longer visits or for things like study, work or exchange program always requires a visa. You cannot travel to the United States under the VWP for this. If they try, they may not be able to enter the United States. ”
“And my final statement is for the hundreds of thousands of Israeli-American dual citizens in Israel. US citizens cannot use ESTA to travel to the United States using their Israeli passports. “Required by law in the US are US citizens entering and leaving the United States using their US passports.”
“The Consular Section will conduct a public outreach campaign to reiterate these same points, and if there are questions, we encourage them to visit the embassy’s website,” he concluded, adding: “Once again, congratulations to Israel for join VWP! “