Israel is making strides towards joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 days without needing to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. The VWP is designed to promote travel and trade between the United States and participating countries. Click here for a complete list of countries that participate in the VWP. The most recent addition to the list was Croatia in 2021. If Israel were to join, it would be the 41st country to qualify for the program.
In January 2023, Israel met the Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) refusal rate requirement for the VWP, meaning that less than 3% of nonimmigrant visa applications by Israeli citizens to visit the United States were denied. To qualify for the program within FY 2023, Israel must take the necessary steps by September 2023. Specifically, Israel must:
- Enact legislation to meet the VWP’s security requirements, specifically related to the sharing of information with the United States. The Knesset is already taking action.
- Establish a program aimed at screening travelers, with the purpose of identifying high-risk individuals before they board flights to the United States.
- Implement enhanced airport security measures that meet the standards set by the United States.
- Report specific data to the United States on a regular basis in order to maintain their eligibility for the VWP.
If Israel joins the VWP, travel between the two countries will be easier and more convenient, which may lead to increased tourism and business travel that could benefit both economies. The program promotes cultural exchange and may help to strengthen diplomatic ties between the United States and Israel, as well as helping to improve overall security.
Ultimately, it is not yet clear whether Israel will meet all of the necessary requirements to join the VWP FY 2023. For more information, please see the U.S. Embassy in Israel’s press release at Israel Meets NIV Refusal Rate Requirement for Visa Waiver Program – U.S. Embassy in Israel (usembassy.gov).