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Israel steps closer to US Visa Waiver Program with information-sharing agreement 

Israel to disclose to Washington criminal and security information on travelers boarding U.S.-bound flights

Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Policy Robert Silvers and Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked sign an information-sharing agreement in Jerusalem on March 2, 2022. (Photo courtesy)

Agreeing to share security-related information on U.S.-bound travelers sets Israel closer to the visa waiver program which would grant Israeli citizens 90 days in America visa-free.

The United States Visa Waiver Program applies to incoming travel for business or tourism, and requires full disclosure of criminal and security information on relevant travelers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The first part of this key requirement was met with an agreement signed in March. The second was signed on Thursday by Israel’s Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Israel Jonathan Shrier, and witnessed by Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The deal permits both countries to check the fingerprints of each other’s citizens 1,000 times a year and to request information on citizens with severe criminal backgrounds.

In order to abide by all conditions of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, Israel must still pass additional legislation in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), the Times of Israel reported. 

The changing political map in the country, ahead of a new round of elections, is posing a challenge to advancing achievements of this kind, which require bipartisan cooperation.   

“Even though the Likud [party] is trying to delay the exemption for visas for Israelis that is in the most advanced stage it’s ever been in, we are continuing to run with it, as well as advancing more agreements that are a condition for entering the waiver program,” said Shaked, co-founder of Israel’s Yamina political party.

“That’s it; all the agreements have been signed, now we just need to pass it in Knesset,” she said. “I am committing to continuing to advance this important task, and intend on demanding that we keep working on it even after the elections in order to give Israel’s citizens the good news they’ve been waiting for.” 

The public security minister stated his support of the program, saying it is “of strategic importance to the State of Israel.” 

"It will regulate mechanisms to increase cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. administration in the war on organized crime and terrorism, through advanced systems that will allow monitoring and detecting potential suspects,” Barlev said.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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