Area Senators support Israel joining U.S. Visa Waiver Program

East front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Credit: Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons.

Allowing Israel to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program would “significantly increase the potential for both tourism and business travel,” according to a letter penned by 65 senators to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) led the bipartisan group of legislators supporting the inclusion of Israel in the program, and urging the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security to make it a priority.

The move would allow Israelis, like citizens of countries already in the program, to be exempt from needing a travel visa for visits of up to 90 days.

In January, according to the letter, Israel’s non-immigrant visa refusal rate fell below 3 percent, “satisfying one key requirement of eligibility for the program, and since that time the Government of Israel has been working to implement the necessary technical requirements for inclusion.”

Around 450,000 Israelis travel to the U.S. each year, with 93 direct flights weekly between Israel and the U.S.

“Israel is a key U.S. ally and trading partner. Waiving the visa requirement for Israelis visiting America reflects these strong ties and will only deepen the relationship to the mutual benefit of both countries,” said AIPAC, which applauded the letter.

Both senators from Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee signed the letter. Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, who traveled to Israel for the first time earlier this year, signed it, while Sen. Tommy Tuberville has not. In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock signed the letter, but Sen. Jon Ossoff, the only Jewish senator from the region, did not.

(JNS and staff reports)