Israeli passport holders approach US visa waiver

Israeli passport holders visiting the United States for tourism and business could be included in the US Visa Waiver Program by next year as talks on the issue gather pace. Last week, a high-level US delegation examining the issue visited Israel. The delegation included representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior.

At the same time, the Israeli Ministry of Interior fills out a questionnaire on the issue with about 300 questions on Israeli policy such as immigration policy.

Gil Bringer, a consultant to the Population and Immigration Authority of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior and responsible for the issue of Israel’s admission to the US Visa Waiver Program, told “Globes “that the talks are advancing rapidly and that Israeli passport holders could be eligible for the visa waiver program by the first quarter of 2023.

He said: “There is an agreement at the highest level between the parties and the involvement of people in various ministries, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior and Defense and the Security Services. Israeli Security (Shin Bet) Once the questionnaire was completed, a process that all countries enter into and which is required for the visa waiver, we accelerated virtual and physical discussions to clarify what we are asking the administration US, for example regarding the issuance of biometric documents and the biometric identification process.”

Israel’s desire to join the visa waiver program should also benefit the US tourism industry as it struggles to recover from the Covid crisis, as Israelis are often deterred by the arduous process of obtaining a US tourist visa.

If all goes as planned, Israeli passport holders will be admitted to the United States through the ESTA electronic travel authorization system through which tourists can pay a $14 fee and apply online to enter the United States during 90 days maximum. There are already 39 countries that have already been admitted to the US Visa Waiver Program, including most EU members, the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Chili.

Currently, 6.5% of Israelis applying for US visas are denied and this percentage must be reduced to 3% for Israel to qualify for the visa waiver program. Most denials are for technical reasons and the Interior Ministry will launch a campaign to ensure that Israelis complete and submit the current US visa application form according to instructions such as attaching up-to-date photographs, signing the parental approval for children applying for a visa and not presenting defective passports.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told Globes, “The arrival of the delegation is further proof of the seriousness the Americans are taking towards the joint process we have begun. US Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas and I hold a Zoom meeting once a month on the status of the matter and now his representatives have come for a physical visit to the points we are talking about and this is another important step in the process.

“Furthermore, the United States Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, fully supports this process and we speak weekly and meet frequently in order to make progress in resolving the obstacles to the waiver.

“At the beginning of the process, I made a commitment that the visa waiver for Israelis will not be taken off the agenda until the task is completed. There are more procedures to overcome but “Progress so far has been reasonable. I am full of optimism and believe that this time, with the help of hard work from both sides, we will be able to bring good news to the citizens of Israel.”

Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on February 20, 2022.

© Copyright Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.


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