Nides Stresses Much Work to Do to Join Visa Waiver Program

By Hamodia Staff

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides was disturbed by an overly optimistic reaction to progress that was announced on Monday in efforts to enable Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program, The Times of Israel reported, citing diplomatic sources.

A statement earlier in the day from the Foreign Ministry declared in its headline: “The visa to the US is being canceled!”

Nides himself released a video hailing the “important progress,” though he was careful to add that “we’re not there yet.”

“Israel now has a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” Nides continued. “The Knesset needs to act… the whole Israeli government will have to move quickly on many technical requirements.”

He stressed that the “door will close” if all the requirements are not met by September.

The progress was announced by the U.S. 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.

According to the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy, 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.

The Embassy made it clear that, as Nides said, there is still much to be done. “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.

“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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