Israel expects US announcement on entry into visa waiver program next week

Jerusalem believes Washington will declare acceptance into VWP on Thursday, allowing visa-free travel within two months

An Israeli passport on January 18, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
An Israeli passport on January 18, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel is expecting an announcement next week that it has qualified for the US Visa Waiver Program.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are expected to ratify the move on September 27 and 28, respectively.

A senior official said “Israel has met all the conditions,” and expects the program to begin some two months after the announcement.

Israel has sought to join the program, which enables citizens to travel to the United States without a visa, for decades. Currently, Israelis who do not hold citizenship in any of the 40 countries in the waiver program must apply for permission to travel to the United States, a process that typically results in a visa but can be extensive.

The US has long held up entry over Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Americans. A key condition for entry into the VWP is a commitment by applying countries to grant equal travel rights to all US citizens.

Jerusalem recently took a series of steps to rectify this, the latest of which was an easing of travel guidelines for US citizens from the Gaza Strip, who will henceforth be able to enter Israel for short-term stays, visit the West Bank and travel abroad.

A similar improvement of conditions for West Bank Palestinians with US citizenship was finalized in July.

Israel would be the 41st country to join the VWP, the majority of which are in Europe.

Lazar Berman and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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