Travelers to Israel will soon need to apply in advance for travel authorization

ETA system to be launched for tourists from visa-exempt countries, including US; gradual pilot program to kick off Saturday, before going into full effect on August 1

Passengers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on April 17, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Passengers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on April 17, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JTA — Israel is joining the Western nations requiring an advance online application and a fee for citizens from visa-exempt countries, including the United States.

Until now, Americans seeking to travel to Israel haven’t needed to do anything other than purchase a plane ticket and pack their bags.

But starting August 1, electronic travel authorization through a designated website will be required, the Tourism Ministry announced this week.

A pilot program, with the NIS 25 ($7) fee waived, will launch on Saturday for travelers from the US and Germany and will extend to all visa-exempt countries on July 1. Travelers are advised to apply 72 hours before booking flights and lodging.

The ETA-IL program is similar to others that have been put in place in recent years in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. Their goal is to screen out travelers suspected of posing a security threat or of potentially violating tourist visa restrictions through work or overstaying before they land at ports of entry.

Most countries that have launched similar programs advise a 72-hour heads-up, although the authorization frequently arrives via email within hours. The US warns that people who do not apply in advance for travel authorization can face delays boarding flights or be turned away at the border, even if they come from countries that participate in the US visa-waiver program. (Israel was added to the program only last September.)

Citizens of visa-exempt countries who are citizens or permanent residents of Israel are not required to request authorization. Citizens of non-exempt countries will still need to complete a more arduous visa application process. The authorization will last for two years and will allow multiple entries of up to 90 days.

Most Popular
read more: