Israeli nationals might not need a visa to enter the US

Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program will be announced, according to US authorities, later this week.

Despite continued worries in Washington about how the Israeli government treats Palestinian Americans, the Biden administration is ready to welcome Israel this week into a select group that will permit its citizens to visit the US without a US visa.

Israel’s admittance into the Visa Waiver Program without having to reapply for eligibility next year is scheduled to be announced later this week, just before the end of the federal budget year on Saturday, according to US authorities.

The program, which now enables citizens of 40 predominantly European and Asian nations to visit the United States for three months without a visa, is managed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Five officials familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been made public said that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is scheduled to make the announcement on Thursday, shortly after receiving a recommendation for Israel’s admission from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The final announcement will occur just eight days after President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Blinken is anticipated to submit his recommendation no later than Tuesday, according to the officials. Although it has been the topic of serious discussion and negotiation for months, the leaders did not mention it in their brief remarks to media after that meeting.

The program’s acceptance of Israel has been a top priority for successive Israeli leaders, and it will be a significant victory for Netanyahu, who has frequently argued with the Biden administration over issues like Iran, the Palestinian conflict, and most recently, a plan to reform Israel’s judicial system, which critics claim will reduce democracy in the nation.

The United States has often criticized Netanyahu’s far-right administration for its treatment of Palestinians, particularly the relentless expansion of West Bank settlements, its resistance to a Palestinian state, and inflammatory remarks made by senior Cabinet members.

The American action will provide Netanyahu a much-needed boost domestically. His judicial proposal has been the target of months of widespread protests, and the Palestinians are sure to criticize him because they believe the United States should not be rewarding the Israeli government at a time when peace negotiations are stalled.

Israel qualified for the U.S. program by meeting two of the three most important requirements over the past two years: a low rate of visa application denials and a low rate of visa overstays. It had struggled to fulfill the third condition, which calls for reciprocity and mandates that all Americans—including Palestinian Americans—be treated similarly while entering or passing through Israel.

Israel has traditionally imposed different immigration criteria and screening procedures for Palestinian Americans, citing national security concerns. Many people claimed that the processes were burdensome and unfair. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were mostly off-limits to Americans possessing Palestinian residency credentials when utilizing Israel’s international airport. They were compelled, like other Palestinians, to pass through Jordan or Egypt in order to reach their objectives.

WHAT IS VISA WAIVER PROGRAM?

The US visa waiver program

Through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the federal government of the United States enables citizens of certain nations to visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa for leisure, business, or transit purposes. It applies to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which also have a separate scheme with waivers for more nationalities; it also applies to all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. American Samoa also has a comparable but distinct policy.

All of the nations the U.S. government chose for the VWP are recognized as developed nations with high income economies and extremely high Human Development Indexes.

Other visa exemptions are available to nationals of a few jurisdictions. See all the eligible countries for this program here:

List of all the countries that are eligible under the US visa waiver program

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