Justice Minister: Deal for Suspension of U.S. Visas for Israelis ‘Close’

YERUSHALAYIM -

An agreement to admit Israelis to the United States without visas is “at an advanced stage,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a social media post Monday. A report on Channel Two Sunday said that the two sides were close to a deal that would allow Israel to share fingerprints of prospective tourists with American authorities, one of the conditions the U.S. had set for a suspension of the visa requirement.

Israel has been reluctant to allow American access to the database, one of the conditions of including Israel in the no-visa-required program. The issue has been the main stumbling block in attempts to exempting Israelis from the visa requirement — as residents of most Western European countries are. Negotiations on the matter have been going on for years, but have borne no fruit.

In July, a report in Yisrael Hayom said that Israeli officials had been given new hope by senior members of the Trump administration that the visa requirements could be suspended.

In order to allow American access to the database, the Knesset will have to adjust the laws governing the biometric database, which currently prohibits sharing fingerprints of Israelis with foreign governments, a proviso that was included in the bill to reassure opponents of the database that information about Israelis would be secure.

The agreement on the visa issue will allow one-time access by the Americans to the database, to allow them to get details on those applying for a visa. The only fingerprints the Americans will be allowed to access will be those of felons.

Currently, Israelis who wish to visit the U.S. must apply for a visa. Tourists are generally able to get a visa for up to several months without a problem, and the visas are generally arranged by a travel agent. Anything beyond a tourist visa is much more complicated, and requires individual evaluation by the State Department. Under a no-visa program, Israelis will be able to get on a plane in Israel and arrive in the U.S., where they will present their plans and documentation to immigration officials.