Israel to require American visitors to apply in advance for electronic travel authorization


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 who want to travel to Israel haven’t needed to do anything other than purchase a plane ticket and pack their bags.

But starting Aug. 1, electronic travel authorization through a designated website will be required, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism announced this week. A pilot program, with the NIS 25 ($7) fee waived, will launch Saturday for travelers from the United States 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. Travelers without the authorization will not be permitted to board planes headed to Israel, and Interior Ministry spokeswoman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The ETA-IL program is similar to others that have been put in place in recent years in Europe, the United States, 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 United States 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 U.S. 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 nonexempt 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.

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