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update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

US citizens in Gaza still to need visas to cross border at Erez, per Foggy Bottom

The U.S. State Department released a fact sheet about the memorandum of understanding that Washington and Jerusalem signed on July 19.

A traveler holds a U.S. passport. Credit: Atstock Productions/Shutterstock.
A traveler holds a U.S. passport. Credit: Atstock Productions/Shutterstock.

Jerusalem has committed to recognize all travelers with valid U.S. passports as American citizens and to let them enter without a visa for trips less than 90 days, “barring legitimate security, criminal, health or immigration concerns,” per a U.S. State Department fact sheet released Thursday.

Foggy Bottom noted that travelers with Israeli passports must enter the country with that documentation, just as those with U.S. passports must present those documents when entering the United States.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 19 detailing “the steps Israel is committed to take to extend reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling to or through Israel for short-term travel for business, tourism or transit as required for participation in the Visa Waiver Program,” according to the fact sheet.

Israel began implementing the changes on July 20, according to the State Department, “and will further update its travel policies relating to travel by U.S. citizens who are on the Palestinian population registry for Gaza, including those who reside in Gaza, by September 15.”

The State Department noted that U.S. citizens who are Gaza residents will not be eligible for visa-free travel via the Erez Border Crossing “due to the security situation in Gaza.”

“Israel will instead establish new procedures for U.S. citizens residing in Gaza to request a permit or visa for short-term visits, including transit and tourism, directly from Gaza to Israel via the Erez Border Crossing,” the State Department stated. “The Israeli government will announce and implement new entry procedures by Sept. 15 for Palestinian Americans on the Gaza registry, including those residing in Gaza.”

U.S. citizens who are Gaza residents and are denied visas or permits to cross at Erez must apply at least 45 days in advance to cross at the Allenby Bridge, according to the fact sheet. The application must also be approved by the Palestinian Authority.

“Israel also will facilitate entry permits into Gaza for travel once a year by U.S. citizens who are first-degree relatives of a resident in Gaza,” per the State Department.”  (It reminded U.S. citizens that they are not advised to travel to Gaza due to “terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.”)

The new Israeli Marom travel system, planned for next May, will operate for all foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens, says the fact sheet.

Washington said it will make a final decision about whether or not to admit Israel to the Visa Waiver Program before Sept. 30. If admitted, Israelis will be able to travel to the United States without a visa for less than 90 days “following a transition period.”

The State Department didn’t say how long the transition period would be, nor did it specify in the fact sheet whether it has committed to treat all Israeli visitors with valid passports fairly and equally.

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