U.S. May Waive Visas for Israeli Citizens

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The U.S. Congress debated on Tuesday the Visa Waiver for Israel Act of 2012, which would exempt Israeli citizens from needing a visa to enter the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Visa Waiver for Israel Act along with lead cosponsor Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). The bill would pave the way for Israel’s entrance into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Forty-nine members of the House joined with Sherman and Poe in introducing the legislation. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is introducing the same bill in the Senate.

Sherman first introduced the Visa Waiver for Israel Act in May 2012, along with lead cosponsor Ted Poe and 11 other colleagues; 34 members of Congress cosponsored Sherman’s bill.

The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from 37 countries to enter the United States for business or leisure as visitors for up to 90 days without first getting a visa. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from U.S. consular posts before traveling to the United States.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Daniel Ayalon, also gave remarks at the press conference in support of adding his nation to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

“I’m pleased to reintroduce the Visa Waiver for Israel Act with 50 bipartisan colleagues in Congress,” said Congressman Sherman.

“U.S.–Israel cooperation in biotechnology and medical research, green energy, homeland security, and information technology generates jobs and much-needed economic growth. Adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program will boost business here in the U.S. and enhance cultural ties between our two nations. Israelis can visit most of Europe, Latin America, Canada, and several other countries around the world, visa-free, but not the United States. It is time we add our closest friend and democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel, to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.”

“Israel is not only a strong ally, but also an important trading partner with a thriving technology sector,” said Senator Wyden. “This legislation will make it easier for Israelis to collaborate with their American counterparts and to invest in the United States.”

Since 2005, Israel has sought admittance into this program; however, because Israelis' entry visa rejection rate is more than 3 percent and not all citizens have biometric passports, the country has not been added. Israeli officials have also urged the United States to enforce a more thorough security check for U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin who enter the Jewish state.

Tourists travelling to the Statue of Liberty. The site will reopen on Sunday using New York state funds despite an ongoing federal government shutdown.Credit: Bloomberg

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