16 January 2013

Israeli US visa deal gains momentum

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A bill which would allow Israel to join the coveted US Visa Waiver Program has gained support in the House of Representatives before its introduction in the Senate.

US visa

The proposal to allow Israel to join the US Visa Waiver Program has gained more support from American politicians.

Israeli tourists and visitors currently require a US visa to travel to America despite previous attempts by politicians to push Israel's case; the American government objects to the Jewish nation's stance on extra security checks for American citizens of Palestinian descent but the latest bill could be about to change that.

Representatives Brad Sherman of California and Ted Poe of Texas, members of the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, announced their intention to introduce the bill last week. It was introduced in the House yesterday and has seen 49 additional congressmen and women add their support to the bill.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon will speak for the bill in the Senate; if passed Israeli passport holders will join those of 37 other countries - including the UK and Ireland - which are allowed to enter the US for up to 90 days without the need for a US visa.

"Adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program will boost business here in the US and enhance cultural ties between our two ties," said Mr Sherman. "Israelis can visit most of Europe, Latin America, Canada and several other countries around the world visa-free but not the United States."

Mr Poe, Mr Sherman's co-sponsor, added "It is time for the United State to let Israel know we are open for business."

A previous version of the bill, also introduced by Mr Sherman, stalled in the House Subcommittee on Immigration. While the new bill will also likely head to the US immigration committee before it can be put to a vote in the House, Mr Sherman is more confident of the current revision.

"The ranking [Democratic] member on the subcommittee [Zoe Lofgren] is an original cosponsor of the bill," said the congressman.

"We have a lot more support than we had last year. We have a lot of bipartisan support, a senate introduction.

"Things in Congress always take time, but signs look good."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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