Sixty-five senators, including both parties, have encouraged the Biden administration to complete Israel’s application for the Visa Waiver Program by September 30.
Israel has long wished to be a part of the program that allows its people to visit the U.S. without a visa. Israeli nationals who don’t have citizenship in one of the 40 nations covered by the waiver program currently have to apply for authorization to visit the U.S., which usually results in a visa but can be a lengthy process.
Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, and Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, were the principal authors of the letter, which was delivered to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Majorkas on
To meet the September deadline, it alludes to the last hurdle preventing Israel from participating in the program: the profiling of Arab Americans attempting to enter the coun”ry.
“We recognize that there are still outstanding issues that must be addressed before beIsrael’sael’s participation in the program can be finalized, and we urge both sides to continue working toward addressing these issues – including the reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens — to enIsrael’sael’s compliance with all program requirements before the deadline of September 30, “023,” the letter says.
The letter, which has the support of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is being sent as Tom Nides, the current U.S. ambassador to Israel, works to compIsrael’sael’s admission to the visa program before he departs this summer.
According to a report in The Times of Israel, Nides is negotiating a compromise in which Israel would loosen but not wholly eliminate its restrictions on Palestinian Americans. Arab American organizations push for complete reciprocity and oppose such concessions.
Israel has recently fulfilled two requirements for enrollment in the program: Its visa rejection rate, which measures the proportion of tourists denied visas due to evidence that they would abuse the key by overstaying it or using it to work illegally, has fallen below 3%. The Israeli government has also created laws and policies that make it easier for the member countries to share intelligence.
The need for the waiver to be available to all citizens, regardless of ancestry or religion, is still a barrier toprogram’sram’s reciprocity. The State Department has cautioned in travel advisories over the years “hat “some U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage (including Palestinian-Americans) have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and occasionally hostile treatment” and “hat “Israel requires special permits of Americans holding Palestinian identity documents.”
A handful of Democrats have joined other organizations and the Arab American community in calling for complete reciprocity as a prerequisiteIsrael’sael’s inclusion in the program. The Biden administration is urged not to compromise on”the “blue is”blue” criterion, which states that all Americans traveling with blue passports should be treated equally, in a letter delivered last month to Blinken and Mayorkas from 14 Senate Democrats.
That letter, which had the support of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy organization, stated “that “every country, of course, has the right to establish its own rules for the entry of foreign “e”s.” “However, a country does not have the right to discriminate against American citizens if it wants the privilege of participating in our Visa Waiver Pro” ram.”