Israel Bound

Israel to launch travel authorization program for foreign visitors

The new system is similar to those used in the United States, Canada and Australia

Photo by Nir Keidar/Anadolu via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - APRIL 14: Passengers at Ben Gurion Airport wait after Israel closed its airspace to all domestic and international flights and canceled flights in the wake of Iran's attack on Israel last month.

Israel is set to launch a travel authorization program for foreign visitors to the country, beginning with a pilot program starting on Saturday for travelers arriving from the U.S. and Germany.

The program, which is similar to those used in the U.S., Canada and Australia, will require non-Israeli passport holders traveling to the country to obtain electronic travel authorization (ETA-IL) – through israel-entry.piba.gov.il – before setting off on their trip.

In a statement this week, Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority said the new program was aimed at improving security, immigration and general services. 

The ministry said it would “help the authorities to obtain information about the passenger before he or she even boards the plane, and if a problem arises that prevents him or her from entering Israel, the passenger will be referred to the Israeli embassy in his or her country of residence.”

“It will prevent any unpleasant surprises for passengers who land at the border and are refused entry,” the statement said. 

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism also explained that the new system would speed up online confirmations and “allow for a simplified, stress-free entry process through electronic check-in machines when visiting Israel.”

Over the past two years, as Israel slowly reopened its borders following the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv had been subjected to lengthy waits at passport control, while Israelis with biometric passports could whiz through using electronic scanning machines.

The ministry said that starting on July 1, travelers from all visa-exempt countries will be able to take advantage of the pilot program, and from Aug. 1, the new system will be instituted as the new entry protocol for all incoming travelers from visa-exempt countries. 

Once approved for travel through the system, visitors will be permitted to stay in Israel for up to 90 days and the authorization will remain valid for up to two years, or until the passport used to apply for the ETA-IL has expired.

The ministry also emphasized that during the pilot phase June 1-July 31, the $7 application fee will be waived.

“As a tech-forward county, streamlining the entry process with the new online ETA-IL application is a natural progression,” said Eyal Carlin, commissioner of tourism to North America in Israel’s Tourism Ministry. “It will allow for smoother arrivals and more time for travelers to enjoy all Israel has to offer.”

“While we are currently in a challenging time, we encourage those with an interest in visiting the country to take note of the new entry process as they continue their travel planning,” he said.

Israel first announced that it would be implementing a travel authorization system for all foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens, last year as it was in the final phase of applying for the U.S.’ coveted Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

In September 2023, after more than three decades of attempts, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced that Israel’s application to the  VWP had been successful. On Nov. 30, the country was fully incorporated into the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), allowing Israeli citizens to apply for visa-free travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days.

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