Official: Israel could participate in US visa waiver program by 2022
A foreign ministry official said on Thursday he was optimistic about adding Israel to the U.S. visa waiver program as early as 2022.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday evening that the United States is considering adding Israel to the program that allows citizens to come to America visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days.
“We have in fact completed 90% of bilateral negotiations,” said a high-level ministerial source.
“There are still obstacles, but the ministry is optimistic that there is a real political intention to include Israel in the program, something that we have not seen in the past. If everything goes as planned and no new difficulties emerge, we can estimate that Israel will be part of the visa waiver program next year, ”the source said.
Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked is due to travel to Washington next month to discuss the issue with Mayorkas.
The foreign ministry source said the ministry understands what needs to be done and will take all measures to ensure a favorable decision
“It’s good that Israel is included on a list with most of the NATO countries and others that are considered allies of the United States. It’s a testament to the intent of the US administration, ”the source said.
Israel has suggested creative solutions to overcome the main obstacle to its inclusion in the program, such as the high number of refusals granted to Israeli visa applicants – which now stands at 6.5%, although Israel claims that the percentage was a miscalculation, citing those who canceled their plans to travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
The two countries still disagree over US demands to end discrimination against American Palestinians upon arrival in the country, including faster and less invasive treatment by Israeli security agencies.
The Foreign Office has proposed to launch an advertising campaign calling on Israelis traveling to the United States not to violate the restrictions stipulated in their visas. The department also suggested that the United States initially implement a two-year pilot program to examine possible violations.