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Israel meets some US Visa Waiver Program requirements

A statement released by the United States Embassy in Israel on Monday said the annual rejection rate of Israeli visa applications is “below the 3% non-immigrant visa refusal rate,” meeting the first of several requirements to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides made a video statement about the announcement earlier today. 

While he called Israel’s progress “one huge step towards the Visa Waiver Program,” he cautioned that “we’re not there yet.” 

According to both Nides and an embassy statement, “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.” 

Israel must meet all the program’s stipulations before the end of the U.S. fiscal year in September. 

One of the requirements is reciprocity, meaning all U.S. citizens with an American passport must “be able to fly to Israel on short-term visits of less than 90 days, including travel to and out of the West Bank through Ben-Gurion [International] Airport.” 

These travelers must include Palestinian-Americans. The U.S. government in the past issued objections to Israel’s treatment of Palestinian-Americans at Ben-Gurion International Airport. 

Nides highlighted the importance of reciprocity for the program, calling it “the fundamental basis of the visa waiver program.” 

“Blue is blue,” Nides said. “If your passport looks like mine, you will be able to come to Israel any time you want.” 

The Knesset has to approve three laws for the Visa Waiver Program to be operational for Israeli citizens. These laws cover “many technical requirements” related to data sharing and traveler screening, which will have to be implemented and tested. 

Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen celebrated the news online, posting, “Good news – the visa to the USA is cancelled!”

He also thanked U.S. President Joe Biden “for his leadership and support throughout.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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