Major Milestone Puts Israel on Target to Join U.S. Visa Waiver Program


The Israeli and the American flags are screened on the walls of Yerushalayim’s Old City, in 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

The U.S. announced on Monday that the rate of rejections of Israeli applicants seeking a non-immigrant visa to the United States has dropped to below the necessary threshold to move forward in having Israel enter the lucrative Visa Waiver Program.

The announcement came just hours before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to arrive in Israel for talks on a host of issues.

“We support steps in the bilateral relationship that are beneficial for U.S. and Israeli citizens. One such step is working together toward Israel fulfilling the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim said. “The Visa Waiver Program is first and foremost a security partnership between the United States and participating countries. The U.S. government continues to work with Israel towards fulfilling all program requirements. “

According to the statement, the milestone could pave the way for the official inclusion of Israel in the club of countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the U.S. after filling out a simple request form that is almost always approved. Israel will now have a window of several months to finalize the necessary steps that still need to be taken under U.S. law, which include having the two countries’ criminal record systems linked and a restructuring of the security guidelines in Israel’s entry ports to ensure Americans are not subject to any special screening process upon arriving based on their origin, including Palestinian-Americans.

“Being below the 3% non-immigrant visa refusal rate is just one of many steps that Israel must undertake to join the program,” the statement read. “The government of Israel must meet all requirements to enter the program, and a lot of work needs to be done in a very short amount of time. First, the Knesset is going to have to act.

“There are three laws that will need to be passed for Israel to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program,” the statement continued. “These are specific to data sharing and traveler screening, including information systems that have to be developed, then implemented, and tested. The window for Israel to complete these actions and pass the required laws closes in September 2023, which is the end of the U.S. fiscal year.”

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