Is a Transit Visa Required for Israelis Traveling via the USA?

For many Israelis, a trip to the United States, be it for tourism, business, or as a transit stop on the way to another destination, adds a layer of excitement and opportunity to the travel experience. The United States offers a wealth of attractions – from the bustling cityscapes of New York and Los Angeles to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. As you plan your journey through the US, even if it only constitutes a brief stopover, understanding the visa requirements for entry is paramount.

Israeli citizens intending to transit through the United States should familiarize themselves with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The ESTA allows travelers from VWP countries, like Israel, to pass through the US for up to 90 days without needing a conventional visa.

Understanding the Transit Visa Requirements

If you’re an Israeli citizen, your travel through the US requires compliance with specific immigration policies. The ESTA serves as crucial authorization for your transit plans and it is important to clarify that while it is often referred to as a transit visa, the ESTA is not a visa per se, but rather an authorization system that simplifies the process for travelers.

Rather than going through lengthy visa appointments and paperwork, the ESTA application can be completed swiftly and easily online. Here’s what you need to know and do:

  • Check Your Eligibility: Make sure you meet the criteria set forth for the VWP. Israeli citizens are typically eligible for the VWP if they have an e-passport. You can find more information on eligible nationalities here.
  • Plan Ahead: Obtain your ESTA authorization at least 72 hours before your departure. Although some applications are processed instantaneously, it’s important not to leave this crucial step to the last minute.
  • Apply for ESTA: Fill out the online application form, which takes about 10 minutes and requires your passport information. After filling it out, submit and pay for your application. We accept various payment forms, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Credit Card.
  • Receive Confirmation: Your authorization will be emailed to you within 72 hours. With an approved ESTA, you’re all set for transit through the United States.

If you find yourself needing the ESTA urgently, expedited processing options are available at additional costs. Choose the expedited option that suits your needs when you checkout.

What You Need to Know About Transit Through the USA

Transiting through the United States with an ESTA is largely straightforward. However, it is essential to understand some key aspects:

  • Your ESTA covers you for up to 90 days, allowing for both transits and short stays in the United States.
  • Even if you’re just passing through, you will be required to go through US Customs and Border Protection. This process is similar to what you would experience when entering the country as a regular visitor.
  • If you have another visa for the United States, for example a B1/B2 tourist visa, you might not need an ESTA for transit purposes.
  • Travelers with an ESTA must arrive via an approved carrier and have a return or onward ticket.

It’s also good to research American cultural norms and local laws, especially if you plan to leave the airport during your transit. Appreciating the local customs can enhance your brief stay and provide a smoother travel experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need a Separate Transit Visa for My Layover in the US?

No, a separate transit visa is not needed if you have an ESTA and are an eligible Israeli citizen. The ESTA permits transit through the US.

What If My ESTA Application Is Denied?

In rare cases, an ESTA application may be denied. If this happens, you will need to apply for a traditional transit visa (C-1) at a US embassy or consulate.

How Long Is My ESTA Valid?

An ESTA is valid for two years from the date of authorization or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Each stay in the US, whether for transit or tourism, should not exceed 90 days at a time.

Can I Use My ESTA for Multiple Entries?

Yes, an ESTA allows for multiple entries into the United States, provided each visit does not surpass the 90-day limit.


To ensure your transit through the United States is as smooth as possible, take the necessary steps to obtain your ESTA well in advance. With this travel authorization, you will have one less thing to worry about as you navigate the globe. Safe and pleasant travels!

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