News report | | 08-06-2022 | ±2 minutes reading time

Some prominent members of the Democratic Party in the US Congress have made it clear that they do not want Israel to be admitted to the US Visa Waiver Program, also known as the ESTA programme. Israel is said not to meet the conditions.

Israel close to ESTA approval for years

It is no secret that Israel wants to be admitted as soon as possible to the ESTA programme of the United States. Despite the close ties between the two countries, Israel is still not part of the so-called Visa Waiver Program, which allows travellers from specific countries to travel to the US without a visa. The country has been lobbying the US government for years to speed up the admission process, and at various times it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Israeli travellers would also be allowed to travel to America without a visa. However, to date, travellers from Israel are still unable to travel to America with an ESTA. Israel is struggling with, among other things, the number of rejected applications for visas to the US in the country, which may not exceed 3% to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. Currently, that rate is about 7%, which is partly due to incorrectly completed applications, such as applications submitted with a passport photo that is too old. The Israeli government has launched a campaign to educate the public on how to properly submit a visa application.

A much bigger problem for Israel, however, has to do with the way it treats travellers who want to travel to the occupied West Bank. Travellers with links to the Palestinian state are often denied entry into Israel.

Pressure from progressive congressmen

The stricter rules that Israel applies to certain travellers also affect US travellers, for example, those with dual nationality. One of the conditions for admission to the ESTA programme is that all US travellers must be able to travel to the relevant country without any difficulties. The United States has already told Israel that the travel rules for all US travellers must be the same. Prominent US congressmen have also expressed their dissatisfaction with Israelʼs current policy.

Among others, well-known progressive congressmen Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have signed a letter calling on the administration of President Joe Biden not to allow Israel to participate in the ESTA programme. The main argument is that Israel has a discriminatory policy towards certain US travellers. For example, in many cases, US travellers who are also on the Palestinian population register are not allowed to enter Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In addition, Muslims and Arab travellers from the United States often experience problems at Israeli airports.

Israel maintains its policy

For the time being, Israel does not seem to be giving in to pressure from America. Earlier this year, Israel tightened the rules for travel to the West Bank, making it virtually impossible for travellers with ties to the Palestinian state to enter the area. This decision was also met with strong criticism from the US government, and Israel was also warned that admission to the ESTA programme was at risk. The US administration has said that there is a risk that Israel will be removed from the list of applicants altogether.

Please note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.

e-Visa.ie is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.ie acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.ie, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as € 30,52 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.