Israel to Give U.S. Access to Biometric Database in Return for Visa-free Entry

Justice Minister Shaked is expected to travel to the U.S. within the next two weeks to sign agreements on easing visa requirements to Israelis

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Passengers at Reagan National Airport in Washington
Illustrative photo of passengers waiting to go through security at Reagan National Airport in Washington.Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Israel and the United States are close to agreeing on an arrangement that would allow Israelis to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa in advance. To receive the long-sought visa waiver deal, Israel would give the United States access to an Israeli biometric database.

If Israeli citizens are permitted admission to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security's Visa Waiver Program, they will be joining citizens of 38 other countries who are allowed to travel to the United States on business or for tourist purposes for stays of up to 90 days without an advance visa. American citizens visiting Israel are not required to get a visa in advance.

As part of the agreement, U.S. authorities would gain access to an Israeli biometric database in the event that an Israeli citizen is suspected of a crime punishable by more than ten years. This is a shift in the position of the U.S., which had been demanding unfettered access to the database in connection with any crime.

The United States however will not be given access to Israel's current biometric database, but to a new database that would be established which will only include the biometric information of Israelis who were convicted of a serious crime.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is expected to travel to the U.S. within the next two weeks to sign agreements on visa-free travel, but they would only take effect in a year or two, during which the Justice Ministry will be required to seek passage of legislation that would permit authorities from outside of Israel to gain access to sensitive Israeli government data.

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