update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Israel ready to enter US Visa Waiver Program

The Jewish state is expected to enter the list of visa-exempt countries in September, says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Israeli passport with visa and entry stamps. Credit: Israel.Travel.
An Israeli passport with visa and entry stamps. Credit: Israel.Travel.

Israel has completed the legislative requirements for citizens to receive exemption from U.S. visa requirements, passing a law on Tuesday allowing police to share biometric data with American law enforcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced.

The law’s text says it is written as narrowly as possible “to minimize the harm to the privacy of Israeli citizens.”

“Today, we have important news for the citizens of Israel. Just as we promised, the legislative requirements for receiving exemption from U.S. visas have been completed,” Netanyahu said.

“In the coming months we will fulfill the additional requirements, and in September 2023 the State of Israel is expected to enter the list of visa-exempt countries for the U.S.,” the prime minister tweeted.

“I thank coalition chairman Ofir Katz, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana for advancing this project quickly and efficiently,” he added.

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of participating countries to enter the United States by obtaining a tourist visa upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry. This saves them the considerable trouble of first securing a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

“Entry into the Visa Waiver Program is a complex and laborious process,” the U.S. embassy said in January.

“The government of Israel must meet all requirements to enter the program, and a lot of work needs to be done in a very short amount of time. First, the Knesset is going to have to act. There are three laws that will need to be passed for Israel to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program.

“Second, the Israeli government, across government ministries, will have to move quickly to set up the many technical requirements needed to become eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. These are specific to data sharing and traveler screening, including information systems that have to be developed, then implemented, and tested.

“The window for Israel to complete these actions and pass the required laws closes in September 2023, which is the end of the U.S. fiscal year,” the embassy said.

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