Post-army Israelis asked to refrain from US visa requests

Post-army Israelis asked to refrain from US visa requests

Foreign Ministry official says discharged soldiers who are likely to be refused entry harm Israel's bid to join Visa Waiver Program

The departure terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
The departure terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry is asking young Israelis to refrain from applying for tourist visas to the United States in the near future, saying their applications could harm Israel’s bid to enter the US’s Visa Waiver Program.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said reducing the number of Israeli applications, especially from post-army travelers more likely to be denied, would help streamline the process of Israel being approved by Congress for the US Visa Waiver Program, which would eliminate the need for visas altogether.

“Chances are that requests by young people will be refused because they do not meet the home, work, school or family requirements,” Yigal Tsarfati of the ministry’s consular department was quoted by Maariv on Monday as saying.

“Authorities fear they will exceed the terms of the visa… stay too long or work illegally, and therefore won’t issue them a visa,” he added. “I would be happy if those young people saved themselves the wait in line.”

Tsarfati said that young Israelis contributed disproportionately to a “high percentage” of refused entry, and that it is “problematic” that Israelis in the US have a “bad reputation for working without authorization.”

He noted that there was no official policy preventing applications and no “travel warning” for the US.

Some 5.5 percent of US visa requests by Israelis are refused, and according to the ministry most of those are for discharged soldiers. For Israel to be accepted into the Visa Waiver Program, a 3% refusal rate is required, along with the issuance of biometric passports (which contain a micro-chip, along with fingerprint and retina pattern data).

Reportedly, the US has also asked Israel to ease entry access for Palestinian-Americans (who hold US passports) as part of the visa waiver approval process.

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