Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Everything to Know About The US-Israel Visa Waiver Program

The United States is moving closer toward accepting Israel into America’s visa waiver program. According to the Middle East Eye, United States ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Israeli President Isaac Herzog met in Washington DC to sign a “reciprocity agreement.” The agreement would allow American citizens to travel freely to Israel without a visa. 

Although the final decision on admittance into the program, some are questioning if the decision to add Israel is being rushed through too soon. As the government deliberates on letting Israel into the program, travelers are wondering what this means for them.

What Is The Visa Waiver Program?

visa waiver
Photo credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich

According to the US Department of State website, the Visa Waiver Program allows US citizens to travel to certain countries for up to 90 days without a visa. The program started in 1986 and allows citizens from 40 countries to visit the US without a visa. Some of the countries in the visa waiver program include Australia, France, Greece and Japan. 

According to the Middle East Eye joining the visa waiver program can be intense. Countries have a deadline to meet all of the mandatory changes the US requires to join the program. This includes passing new legislation, setting up new rules and regulations, and establishing new electronic systems to process travelers, according to Adam Shapiro, advocacy director for Israel-Palestine at Democracy for the Arab World Now. 

“With all other countries that have entered the visa waiver program, those countries have had to get their ducks in order before they could enter the visa program,” Adam Shapiro said during a recent webinar on the agreement between the US and Israel. 

While some question the hastiness of the waiver agreement, Israel joining the program could mean a lot for Americans traveling to the Middle East.

What This Means For Travelers

visa waiver
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Right now, the deadline for Israel to enter the program is Sept. 30, according to Haaretz. If approved, Israeli citizens will no longer have to go through the lengthy visa process to travel to the US. 

Before last week, Israel was unable to enter the program, due to a lack of reciprocity for American travelers. Now that the reciprocity agreement is intact, travelers are waiting to see if travel to Israel becomes easier in 2024.

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