Many visitors will have heard the horror stories about Israeli immigration, and it is true that entering the country is an experience in itself. Whether coming by air or by land, visitors will be quizzed robustly on the purpose of their visit and those with Palestinian or Arab heritage could be held up for some time.
Israel allows travellers 18 and over to import duty-free up to 1L of spirits and 2L of wine, 250ml of perfume, 250g of tobacco products (200 cigarettes) and gifts worth no more than US$200. Pets can be brought into Israel but require submitting advance paperwork to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Bringing drugs, drug paraphernalia, mace (self-defence tear gas), laser jammers (to confuse police-operated laser speed guns), fresh meat and pornography are prohibited.
Israel grants on-arrival visas to most nationalities.
Israel no longer stamps tourists' passports (though it retains the right to do so). Instead, visitors are given a small loose-leaf entry card to serve as proof of lawful entry. It's easy to lose, but keep it somewhere safe as it's your only proof that you're in the country legally (eg to avoid paying VAT at hotels).
We’ve heard reports of Israeli authorities at Allenby/King Hussein Bridge and Ben Gurion Airport issuing ‘Palestinian Authority Only’ entry permits to travellers with family or personal connections in the West Bank, making it difficult or impossible to get past the IDF roadblocks that regulate traffic from the West Bank into Israel, including Jerusalem.
Students require a student (A/2) visa; kibbutz volunteers must arrange, through their host organisation, a volunteer’s (B/4) visa.
On-Arrival Tourist Visa
In general, Western visitors to Israel and the Palestinian Territories are issued free on-arrival tourist (B/2) visas by Israel. For specifics on who qualifies, visit www.mfa.gov.il (click on ‘Consular Services’ and then ‘Visas’). Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Officials can demand to see proof of sufficient funds and/or an onward or return ticket, but rarely do so.
On-arrival visas are usually valid for 90 days. But some travellers, such as those entering by land from Egypt or Jordan, may be given just 30 days or even two weeks – it’s up to the discretion of the border control official. If there is any indication that you are coming to participate in pro-Palestinian protests, plan to engage in missionary activity or are seeking illegal employment, you may find yourself on the next flight home.
To extend a tourist (B/2) visa, you have a couple of options:
- Do a ‘visa run’ to Egypt, Jordan or overseas. This might get you an additional three months – or just one. Ask other travellers for the latest low-down.
- Apply to extend your visa (90NIS). Extensions are granted by the Population & Immigration Authority (www.piba.gov.il), part of the Ministry of the Interior, whose offices include bureaus in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat. Bring a passport valid for at least six months beyond the requested extension period, a recent photo, a letter explaining why you want/need an extension (plus documentation), and evidence of sufficient funds for the extended stay. Offices in smaller towns are often easier and faster to deal with.
If you would qualify for an oleh (immigrant) visa under Israel’s Law of Return – ie you have at least one Jewish grandparent or have converted to Judaism and have documentation demonstrating this – it’s easy to extend your tourist visa for as long as you’d like, or even become an Israeli citizen.
You can be fined if you overstay your visa. Travellers who overstay by just a few days report no hassles or fines but it's best not to risk it.
Overseas Israelis & Palestinians
According to the US State Department, the Israeli government regards the foreign-born children of Israelis as Israeli citizens and therefore requires them to enter and exit Israel using an Israeli passport and to comply with the country's military draft laws; and it treats Palestinians born in the West Bank or Gaza – and, in some cases, their children and grandchildren – as Palestinian nationals who must exit and enter using a Palestinian passport, regardless of whether they hold a foreign passport. For details, see www.travel.state.gov – type 'Israel' under 'Learn About Your Destination', then expand the 'Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements' tab.
Unless they receive special advance authorisation, people considered by Israel to be Palestinian nationals are required to enter and exit the country via Allenby/King Hussein Bridge rather than, for instance, Ben Gurion Airport. Conversely, people considered Israeli citizens can use any Israeli airport or land crossing except Allenby/King Hussein Bridge.
Visitors from most Western countries are eligible to receive single-entry, three-month visas for Israel at the three border crossings with Jordan.
Going the other way, Jordanian visas on arrival are only avaliable at the Jordan River–Sheikh Hussein crossing, 30km south of the Sea of Galilee.
As of 2017, the Yitzhak Rabin–Wadi Araba crossing, a few kilometres north of Eilat and Aqaba, and the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing, did not give Jordanian visas on arrival.
Contact a Jordanian embassy or consulate (abroad or in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv) for a visa in any of the following cases:
- You want to enter Jordan via Allenby/King Hussein Bridge.
- You need a multiple-entry visa.
- At-the-border visas are not available to people of your nationality.
Single/double/multiple entry visas, valid for two/three/six months from date of issue, cost a hefty JD40/60/120.
Note: if you crossed into the West Bank and/or Israel through Allenby/King Hussein Bridge and re-enter Jordan the same way, you do not need to apply for a new Jordanian visa, provided you return while your Jordanian visa or its extension is still valid. Remember to keep the stamped exit slip and present it on returning.