The Biden administration has made a significant announcement regarding Israel's participation in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This development will enable Israeli citizens to enter the United States without requiring a visa, reciprocally granting Americans visa-free entry into Israel.
An official source disclosed that Israeli citizens are anticipated to be eligible for visa-free travel to the US by November 30. Under the VWP, they will be allowed a stay of up to 90 days, promoting tourism, business, and other travel-related activities.
The Visa Waiver Program, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, encompasses 40 nations worldwide. Israel's inclusion in this program was anticipated prior to the September 30 deadline. The key consideration in Israel's admission to the program revolved around the treatment of Palestinian-Americans. Officials have stated that the issues concerning Palestinian-Americans have been addressed, clearing the path for Israel's participation.
However, this move faced some opposition. Earlier this month, a coalition of 15 Democratic senators had urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to nominate Israel for the VWP. They raised concerns about how Palestinian-Americans were being treated when traveling to Israel. Despite these objections, Israel's participation in the Visa Waiver Program has now been confirmed, marking a significant development in bilateral relations between the two nations.
An administration official said on a briefing call with reporters “Israel’s designation into the Visa Waiver Program helps the United States and Israel meet key national security goals, including through the enhanced Israeli cooperation with the US on counterterrorism law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security and border management.”
“This important achievement will enhance freedom of movement for US citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them,” Blinken said in a statement.
Reciprocity holds a pivotal role within the framework of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), with an administration official emphasizing its significance. This importance is underscored, especially in the case of Israel, due to the historical differences in travel experiences encountered by US citizens when traveling to and from Israel.
According to officials, a thorough assessment conducted in the lead-up to this announcement revealed that Palestinian-Americans, who had previously encountered travel limitations when visiting Israel, could now seek to travel to the country under the visa-waiver program on equal terms as other US citizens.
In response to inquiries about the senators' letter, which strongly asserted Israel's non-compliance with the program's requirements, administration officials maintained that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reached a different determination based on their analysis of the situation.
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