Israel may be another step closer to being admitted to the US Visa Waiver Program. Recently, the Israeli parliament read a bill by the Israeli Ministry of Justice on the collection of information on people entering and leaving Israel. This bill brings Israel one step closer to admission to the US Visa Waiver List.
Purpose of bill
The bill is part of some legislative measures drafted by the Israeli Ministry of Justice. The objective is to make Israelis eligible for an ESTA. This is because the application process of an ESTA is easier and cheaper than that of a physical visa. To be part of the Visa Waiver Program, the US government has a number of strict conditions. One of these is the sharing of travellerʼs data through a secure system.
The passenger data collected under this bill will be encoded in a so-called PNR-system (Passenger Name Record) linked to a traveller of a particular booking. The collection of data by different airlines allows countries around the world to have reliable and direct information of passengers. With this new bill, Israel wants to be part of this too. The information of Israeli travellers will be transmitted to a national centre that will be part of the Israel Revenue Agency. This centre can thus help to fight crime and terrorism for better security and border control within civil aviation.
Reasons for delaying Israelʼs admission to the Visa Waiver Program
Israel has long wanted to join the US Visa Waiver Program, but is still encountering many problems. For instance, according to VWP regulations, the Israeli parliament has to pass three bills before Israel can join the VWP by the end of 2023. For now, only one bill is on the table for approval. Israel will additionally have to demonstrate by the end of September what percentage of visa applications for the US have been rejected for Israeli residents. If the percentage is below three per cent, Israel will be allowed to join the VWP, as long as it also meets all other criteria.
These are not the only obstacles Israel faces. To be admitted to the VWP, a country must grant reciprocal privileges to all travellers with US passports at all border crossings. This means that it must be possible for US citizens to enter Israel without a visa, including from Gaza and the West Bank. Israel currently does not allow this due to security reasons. This restriction also applies to Palestinian-Americans travelling to Israel from abroad. Israel will have to lift this restriction if it wants to be admitted to the VWP.
British and Irish travellers can apply for an ESTA
Because both the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the VWP, travellers from these countries wishing to travel to the US can easily apply for an ESTA online. The ESTA is valid for two years from the issuance date, and you may stay in the US for up to 90 consecutive days with this ESTA. If you wish to stay longer than 90 in the US, or do not meet ESTA requirements for some reason, you will still need to apply for a physical visa