Israel’s efforts to join US Visa Waiver Program hit snag


( Israeli efforts to be included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program have hit a snag, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

A traveler arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport uses the new US-VISIT mechanism that records fingerprint images. Credit: Gerald Nino/CPB via Wikimedia Commons.

The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of 38 participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining entry visas. Israel has tried to join the program for years, throughout the tenures of several U.S. presidents, but has always been turned down.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry was hopeful that the Trump administration would grant Israelis the coveted waivers, but the process stalled over the American demand to include Israeli citizens in the U.S. fingerprints database. This means allowing Israel’s national fingerprint database to be fully accessible to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System—a matter that raises privacy issues.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who is spearheading the effort to include Israel in the waiver program, said acceding to the American demand requires a legislative change in Israel. She said a special team within the Foreign Ministry is trying to find a solution.

“The addition of Israel to the list of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program would be an important achievement for the deep friendship between Israel and the United States,” Hotovely said. “Under the Trump administration, I believe there is a great chance that we can make progress on this issue.”

Posted on July 4, 2017 .