The Houses of Congress will debate admitting Israel to the US Visa Waiver Program.
11 January 2013
Congress to debate Israeli US Visa Waiver Program deal
A new bill proposing Israel be admitted to the US Visa Waiver Program is to be debated in the Houses of Congress.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows passport holders of member countries to enter the country for up to 90 days without the need for a US visa. The program is currently open to 37 countries - including the UK and Ireland.
Membership of the VWP is an extremely coveted position, Taiwan recently became the latest country to be accepted to the program and now Israel has designs on the same.
Congressmen Brad Sherman of California and Ted Poe of Texas will champion Israel's cause in the House of Representatives; the bipartisan pair are expected to hold a press conference next week in support of the bid. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is expected to support the proposal in the Upper House.
Israel is one of America's closest allies in the Middle East and has been lobbying to join the VWP since 2005. The House of Representatives has previously passed a bill accepting Israel into the program but it was struck down quickly in the Senate.
Despite being one of the most developed countries in the region, not all Israelis have biometric passports - a requirement for the VWP - and the visa rejection rate for Israeli citizens is higher than the stipulated 3%.
However, it is likely that the matter will hinge upon Israel's own visa standards for American citizens. Israel insists on much stricter entrance requirements and security checks on Palestinian-Americans; the US has demanded that all US citizens be subjected to the same entrance requirements regardless of background.
The proposal reportedly has support from 26 members of the House of Representatives and will be debated when the House is in session.
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.