In this blog post, we provide responses to frequently asked questions about travel and mobility resources for foreign nationals in Israel, including US citizens.

Considerations for Foreign Nationals Departing Israel

  • Are flights leaving or arriving in Israel?
    • Ben Gurion International Airport remains open with commercial flights available. Travelers should closely monitor the status of their flights and check the airport’s operating status before traveling. Private charter flights may be available.
  • Are border crossings open?
    • Some border crossings have been closed due to the conflict, particularly in Gaza. Others, including major crossing points with Jordan, may be available. To the extent possible, travelers should contact the border post beforehand to confirm hours and operations.
  • What if I can’t fly home directly from Israel?
    • Some countries in the region have plans in place to facilitate the evacuation of civilians. For example, Cyprus has activated Special National Plan ESTIA in consultation with representatives of 26 countries, including the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Under the plan, Cyprus is offering facilities to receive third-country nationals departing Israel before their repatriation to their home country.  

Considerations for Foreign Nationals Living in Israel

  • My visa is expiring. Will it be automatically extended?
    • Due to the current situation, Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority has extended the period of validity of visas held by foreign nationals in Israel that are set to expire through February 8, 2024. This does not include B-1 foreign worker visas.
    • A foreign citizen currently residing abroad who needs a visa to enter Israel must apply for a visa at an Israeli consulate. Waiver applications may be accepted by the Israeli Ministry of Interior for B-1 work visas where consulates are non-operational due to security concerns.
    • Residents of the Palestinian authority are instructed to contact the Israel Civil Administration for information regarding visa extensions.

Considerations for US Citizens in Israel

  • Is the US embassy open?
    • The US embassy in Jerusalem, and the Branch Office in Tel Aviv, remain operational, though some services are limited and staff are taking additional precautions in light of the security situation. Appointments must be made online.
  • What assistance can the US government provide me?
    • In crisis situations, the US government’s primary role is to keep US citizens informed of safety and security developments and travel options. In severe situations, the US government may coordinate transportation to help US citizens leave the country. 
  • How can I receive official US security updates?
    • US citizens traveling in the region are encouraged to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free State Department service that provides travelers with information about security conditions in their vicinity. US citizens may also monitor the latest security updates from the US embassy in Israel.  
  • How can I contact the US government for assistance?
    • The US Department of State maintains an online Crisis Intake Form, which US citizens may use to contact the federal government for assistance. US citizens may also call 1-833-890-9595 or 1-606-641-0131.

Considerations for Israeli Nationals Seeking to Travel to the United States

  • Are US visa services operating?
    • Routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa operations have been suspended at both the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the Branch Office in Tel Aviv. The Embassy has not indicated when services will resume. Individuals who must travel for medical or humanitarian emergencies are directed to log into the visa appointment system and request an expedite with specific information about the timing and purpose of their travel.
  • Can I travel on the US Visa Waiver Program?
    • Israeli passport holders are now eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program. Eligibility was originally set to begin on November 30, 2023, but the start date has been accelerated. Qualifying individuals may now apply for the Visa Waiver Program online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). An approval will allow individuals to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a US visa. Authorizations are generally valid for two years. Israeli citizens with valid B‑1/B‑2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.
  • What if I’m not eligible for ESTA?
    • Some Israeli passport holders may not be eligible for ESTA. This may be because of criminal history or travel history to certain countries. Individuals with an emergency need to travel to the United States who are not eligible for ESTA are requested to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Israel.
  • What if I need a work visa?
    • While visa operations at the US Embassy in Jerusalem remain suspended, individuals requiring temporary work visas to the United States—such as an H‑1B, L-1, or O-1 visa—must apply at a US embassy or consulate outside of Israel. The State Department maintains a list of US embassies and consulates with posted wait times for various visa application categories. Individuals who already have a visa appointment scheduled in Israel are advised to keep their appointments, if possible, in case visa processing resumes. The embassy is rescheduling existing appointments on a periodic basis.
  • What if I’m applying for an immigrant visa (I-551)?
    • Applicants can apply for an immigrant visa wherever they are resident or physically present, and where they can remain while the visa is being processed. Consular sections in other countries may accept immigrant visa applications on a discretionary basis. Applicants with existing cases should contact the US embassy or consulate involved to request a case transfer, if desired.
  • What if the consular section has my passport?
    • The consular section’s designated document pickup center at Shalom Aleichem Street 5 in Tel Aviv is open and operational from Sunday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Applicants are advised to monitor their case status to confirm when their documents are “Ready for Pickup.”

Considerations for US Citizens in Neighboring Countries

  • What if I am located outside of Israel, but in proximity to the conflict?
    • US citizens located in neighboring countries are encouraged to register with STEP and to monitor any security updates from US diplomatic missions in the region. For example, updates are available from the US missions in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Cyprus.

Mayer Brown is closely following the conflict for clients, their employees, and their families. We will continue to monitor and advise on these and other issues. Please continue to follow updates on our blog, The Mobile Workforce