United States citizens traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza should read this section in its entirety to be aware of the complexities regarding entry, exit and permission to stay in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.
The Government of Israel administers immigration and security controls at its international land crossings with Jordan into the West Bank and Israel, with Egypt, and at Israel’s airports and seaports. A separate network of security checkpoints and crossings operated by Israeli authorities regulates the movement of people and goods from Israel and Jerusalem into the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian ID holders and Americans with only U.S. citizenship who are married to Palestinian ID holders may be required to obtain a permit from Israeli authorities to travel between the West Bank or Gaza and Israel. Detailed information regarding Government of Israel-controlled crossings and borders is available from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority exercises security and civil control in Area A and civil control in Area B; Israel exercises security control in Area B and security and civil control in Area C. In Gaza, Hamas operates internal checkpoints that may restrict the movement of individuals, including U.S. citizens, and regulate entry and exit from the territory.
All persons seeking to enter or depart Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are subject to immigration and security screening, possibly including prolonged questioning and physical searches, and may be denied entry or exit. Persons who are denied entry have the right to an immigration court hearing to contest the denials, but they may be detained for the duration of the proceedings. The U.S. government seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity. U.S. citizens who are denied entry into Israel or the West Bank should receive a written explanation from Israeli authorities. Some U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage (including Palestinian-Americans) have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints. U.S. citizens who have traveled to Muslim countries or who are of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may face additional questioning by immigration and border authorities. U.S. citizens should immediately report treatment by border officials that they believe is discriminatory or hostile to the ACS unit of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem (JerusalemACS@state.gov), the ACS unit of the Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv (TelAvivACS@state.gov) or the Consular Office of the U.S. Consulate General (ConGenJerusalemACS@state.gov).
Individuals registered in the Palestinian Authority population registry, including those whom Israeli authorities believe may have a claim to a Palestinian identification card, are prohibited from entering Israel or visiting Jerusalem without advance permission, regardless of other nationality, including U.S. citizenship, or place of residence. These individuals are permitted to enter the West Bank, but are required to enter and depart through the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, using either a valid Palestinian Authority (PA) passport without an exit permit or a PA ID card together with an exit permit. Such individuals may also re-enter the West Bank from Jordan using a PA ID card and a valid U.S. passport, if that is how they departed. If they departed the West Bank using a PA passport they are expected to return using a PA passport. Individuals may apply for a permit to enter Israel via Ben Gurion Airport prior to travel at an Israeli embassy or consulate abroad, though the traveler may be required to depart the West Bank via the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge into Jordan. The restrictions above may apply even if an individual is not aware of being listed on the PA population registry, does not possess a Palestinian identification card, and does not desire such status.
Upon arrival at any of the ports of entry, Palestinians, including Palestinian-Americans, may wish to confirm with Israeli immigration authorities from what location they will be required to depart. Some have been allowed to enter Israel or visit Jerusalem but told they cannot depart Israel via Ben Gurion Airport without special permission, which is rarely granted. Some families have been separated as a result, and other travelers have forfeited airline tickets.
Palestinian-American residents of Jerusalem are normally required to use laissez-passers (travel documents issued by the Israeli government) that contain re-entry permits approved by the Israeli Ministry of Interior for travel via any border crossing except the Allenby Bridge. U.S. citizen residents of Jerusalem who hold blue Jerusalem ID cards may have the Ministry of Interior re-entry stamp placed in their U.S. passports for travel in and out of Israel. Jerusalem ID holders who hold residency or citizenship elsewhere may encounter problems retaining their Jerusalem residence status. U.S. citizens who are also Jerusalem ID holders seeking returning resident status must obtain permission from Israeli authorities before traveling.
If a dual national Palestinian-American marries outside the West Bank, he/she must update their marital status in the PA population registry before their arrival. Americans with only U.S. citizenship who are married to dual national Palestinian-Americans have been denied entry when information for their spouse has not been updated prior to travel.
Individuals with Israeli citizenship, regardless of other nationality, including U.S. citizenship, must enter and depart Israel using their Israeli passports. Israeli citizens are prohibited from using the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing, unless as part of an official delegation or with special permission from the Israeli and Jordanian authorities. They must cross to and from Jordan at the Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba crossing in the south near Eilat or the Jordan River crossing/Sheikh Hussein Bridge in the north near Beit She’an. They are also prohibited from entering Gaza from Israel, and are generally prohibited from traveling to parts of the West Bank under PA control (Area A), to include Bethlehem and Jericho. Individuals holding only U.S. citizenship are not prohibited from using any of the crossings into Jordan.
Israeli citizens naturalized in the United States retain their Israeli citizenship (unless they formally renounce it), and children born in the United States to Israeli parents usually acquire both U.S. and Israeli nationality at birth. U.S.-Israeli citizens of military age, including females, who do not wish to serve in the Israeli armed forces, should contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Israeli military service. They should obtain written confirmation of military service exemption or deferment before traveling to Israel. Dual U.S.-Israeli citizens of military age who have not completed Israeli military service may be prohibited from departing Israel until service is completed or other arrangements have been made. These individuals may be subject to criminal penalties, including military imprisonment, for failure to serve.
Additional Entry/Exit Requirements:
The Israeli Ministry of Interior has continued to deny entry into the country of some foreign nationals (including U.S. citizens) affiliated with certain political and non-governmental organizations that the Israeli government viewed as anti-Israel. Participation in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)-related activities is one of the considerations Israeli authorities at ports of entry take into account when deciding whether to refuse entry to individuals into Israel and the West Bank. U.S. citizens have been denied entry to Israel and the West Bank for involvement in and/or expressing support on social media for the BDS movement. Israeli authorities require some foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, to sign declarations stating their understanding that “all relevant legal actions” would be taken against them, “including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to ten years,” if they traveled through the country to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas without appropriate authorization.
Individuals entering Israel and/or the West Bank with family, professional, or political connections inside the West Bank may receive an entry stamp that permits travel only in the West Bank. This stamp does not permit the bearer to enter Jerusalem or Israel. Travelers who have received such a stamp may file an appeal with the Government of Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) at Beit El. However, appeals seldom result in changes to this entry stamp. The relationship between the stamp and visa extensions is discussed below.
U.S. citizens whose stay is restricted to the West Bank or Gaza may experience delays in accessing in-person routine and emergency consular services from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Such individuals are required to obtain a permit from COGAT. In the case of U.S. citizens in Gaza, permits for consular services are rarely granted. U.S. consular officials periodically travel to the West Bank and the Erez crossing with Gaza to assist U.S. citizens. Contact the Consular Office at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem for additional information.
Those wishing to perform volunteer work in the West Bank should apply for an Israeli visa through their sponsoring organization. The sponsoring organization works with the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Israeli Civil Administration Office (COGAT/CIVAD) to obtain the necessary approvals and visas. U.S. citizens who have previously been denied entry to Israel or the West Bank or had other legal issues there are advised to provide this information to the Israeli authorities during their visa application. Volunteers who arrive without the correct visa may be denied entry and returned to their point of origin or given a limited visa.
U.S. citizens suspected of wishing to enter areas prohibited to them by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) may be required to sign an agreement stipulating that they will refrain from entering those areas.
Please consult the Israel Tax Authority for items that must be declared upon entry into Israel. Carrying audio-visual or data storage/processing equipment may lead to additional security-related delays, and some travelers have had their laptop computers and other electronic equipment searched at Ben Gurion Airport. While most items are returned prior to the traveler’s departure, some equipment has been confiscated and reportedly been damaged, destroyed, lost, or never returned. U.S. citizens who have had personal property damaged due to security procedures at Ben Gurion Airport may contact the Commissioner for Public Complaints. There is no redress for confiscations.
Israeli security officials have also on occasion requested access to travelers’ personal e-mail accounts or other social media accounts as a condition of entry. In such circumstances, travelers should have no expectation of privacy for any data stored on such devices or in their accounts.
The Israeli Ministry of Health imposes some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to and foreign residents of Israel, and the Ministry of Health reserves the right to deny entry to visitors who declare their status. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Israel before traveling.
Additional Information for Non-Dual Nationals:
Although the Israeli government does not require that a passport be valid for six months from the date of entry, airlines routinely do and may decline boarding if a traveler has less than six months validity on his or her passport. Travelers normally receive a free, three-month tourist visa upon arrival in Israel, which may be extended. Israel does not stamp passports with an entry stamp, but instead provides all travelers with an entry card, although they reserve the right to stamp the passport. All travelers should retain this entry card throughout the duration of their stay in Israel as proof of lawful entry; the entry card is often requested at hotels and car rental companies. Although not required for exit, travelers are advised to keep their entry card with them to avoid delays when departing Israel. Travelers carrying official, service, or diplomatic U.S. passports must obtain visas from an Israeli embassy or consulate prior to arrival.
Anyone who has previously been refused entry, experienced difficulties with his/her status during a previous visit, overstayed the authorized duration of a previous visit, or otherwise violated the terms of a previous admission to Israel should consult the nearest Israeli embassy or consulate before attempting to return. Such immigration violations may incur a multi-year bar to re-enter Israel.
The Government of Israel may deny entry to U.S. citizens wishing to visit, work, or travel to the West Bank or Gaza whom they suspect may intend to immigrate.
Additional Information on Extending Israeli Visas for Residents of the West Bank:
Single-nationality U.S citizens living, studying and working in the West Bank may face difficulties renewing their visas, even if they received unrestricted visas upon arrival in Israel or the West Bank.
Those who do not have family connections to Palestinian nationals may apply for a visa extension without travel restrictions directly to the COGAT office at Beit El.
Dual-nationality derivative Palestinian nationals and spouses of Palestinian nationals commonly receive visa extensions/stamps bearing the restriction limiting their travel to within the West Bank. U.S. citizens who receive this restriction must obtain permits from the Israeli authorities to enter Israel and Jerusalem. These travelers should apply for visa extensions through the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Interior District Coordination Office in Ramallah, which coordinates with the Israeli government on their behalf.
U.S. citizens (and their dependents) who are employed in the West Bank by organizations registered inside Israel may apply for unrestricted visa extensions via their Israeli-registered employer through the Ministry of Interior, but these are not always approved.
Additional Information on Israel-Jordan Crossings: (Note: The information below does not apply to dual Palestinian-U.S. nationals registered in the Palestinian Authority population registry or to dual Israeli-U.S. nationals.)
The international crossing points between Israel and Jordan include the Yitzhak Rabin/Wadi Araba crossing in the south, near Eilat; and the Jordan River crossing/Sheikh Hussein Bridge in the north, near Beit She’an. U.S. citizens using these two crossing points do not need to obtain visas before arriving at the crossings to enter either Israel or Jordan, but they will be required to pay entry fees, which are subject to change.
U.S. passport holders must obtain Jordanian visas in advance to enter Jordan via the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge near Jericho. For U.S. passport holders entering Israel via Jordan at Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, Israeli authorities issue visas on arrival.
Individuals who receive the rare approval from the Israeli government to exit Gaza from Erez can only depart Israel via the Allenby Bridge/King Hussein crossing into Jordan and will need advance approval from Jordanian immigration authorities in order to do so. These individuals will not be permitted to depart Israel via Ben Gurion Airport.
Procedures for all three crossings into Jordan are subject to frequent changes. Visit the websites of the Embassy of Israel and the Jordan Tourism Board for the most current visa requirements.
Minors: Israel does not require minors (defined as under the age of 18) traveling with one parent or with someone who is not a parent or legal guardian to have written consent from the other parent or parents to either enter or depart Israel. Nonetheless, it is recommended that the accompanying adult have a signed, dated, and notarized note from the non-traveling parent (or, in the case of a child traveling with neither parent, a note signed by both parents) stating “I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter/group. He/She/They has/have my/our permission to do so.”