Israelis took a significant step toward securing visa-free travel to the United States on Monday after months of efforts by successive governments in Jerusalem alongside the Biden administration to achieve the long-elusive goal.
A statement from the US Embassy in Israel said that the annual rejection rate of Israeli visa applications during the 2022 fiscal year (October 1, 2021-September 30, 2022) dropped below the three percent benchmark for the first time — a key requirement for any country seeking to enter the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Israel still has to pass three pieces of legislation and make a “public, legislative and legal” commitment to ensuring entry rights for all American citizens by September 30, senior officials at the US Embassy in Israel said in a briefing with reporters earlier this month.
The latter obligation has been a sticking point for the US, which has long objected to the treatment of Arab and Palestinian Americans at Ben Gurion Airport, where they often suffer extended wait times and occasional deportations, particularly when declaring their intention to travel to the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
The senior US embassy officials warned of a short timeline for Israel to fulfill all of the necessary requirements related to data sharing and information systems across various government bodies, which must be developed, implemented and tested ahead of the deadline.