U.S. considers waiving visa requirement for Israelis

Published 6 October 2008

U.S. may add Israel to the Visa Waiver program in 2009, after Israel implements a new biometric passport for Israeli citizens

The United States may waive its visa requirement for Israelis, U.S. DHS secretary Michael Chertoff told Israeli interior minister Meir Sheetrit during their meeting in Washington last Thursday. “I received a positive readiness from Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff, and also from Under Secretary of State William Burns. Their agreement is necessary for the initiative to advance, and both of them support the idea,” said Sheetrit. “All that remains is approval to bring Israel into the track that the U.S. has opened in the past for a few other countries [under visa waiver agreements],” he added.

Sheetrit spoke to Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya while in the United States for talks aimed at achieving a visa-waiver agreement for Israelis. He said he received positive signals regarding the initiative, despite the preoccupation in Washington with the current financial crisis. Sheetrit said he expects an agreement to be signed in 2009, with Israel planning to issue new biometric passports by then — a key condition of the U.S. visa-waiver program. “It is absurd that the U.S. requires Israelis to have visas, when Americans are exempt from the need for a visa to Israel, and in many states around the world Israelis enter without visas,” he said.