In a letter to Biden’s cabinet members, 50 House members urged the administration to go ahead with its proposed plan of adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program.

Addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the letter written by both sides of the aisle, notes that the issue was on the agenda in recent meetings between top US and Israeli officials and that Mayorkas has said that Israel’s entry into the program is in the “pipeline.”

Source: The Hindu (AFP)

If added to the program, the US will allow Israeli travelers 90-day stays without the requirement of prearranged visas. “Israel’s participation in this program would grow the US economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange, which bolsters our already unique bilateral relationship,” read the letter, noting that the visa waiver program had enhanced security detection techniques.

The letter submitted on Monday, was spearheaded by Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin, Michelle Fischbach, and Brian Mast and Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, and Elaine Luria.

As of now, without the waiver,  US law requires Israelis to apply for a visa in advance of their travels to the US — a process that often takes months, as it requires scheduling an appointment at the US embassy for a background interview during which consular staff seeks to ensure that incoming travelers are not looking to remain in the US indefinitely. If a candidate passes the interview process, they must then submit their passport to the embassy, and it usually takes at least several weeks before it is returned with a visa inside.

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Rhea Sovani

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