MIAMI BEACH – For the time being, the US government has no intention of exempting Israelis from entry visas, despite previous pledges and discussions that have been going on for many years.
Government representatives who met with journalists this week in during a tourism fair in Miami Beach, Florida told Yedioth Ahronoth that Israel does not meet the administration's exemption criteria, and that it appears that a long time will pass before Israelis are able to enter the US without a visa.
The visa exemption program was launched in 1986 and exempted the citizens of 27 states worldwide, most of them in Western Europe. Several months ago the US government added more countries to the list, including Estonia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, South Korea, and Slovakia.
Despite expectations that Israel will also enjoy the exemption this time around, officials were disappointed to discover that the Jewish State is not on the list. At this time, discussions are being held on exempting more states from a US visa, including Greece, Brazil, Argentina and Poland, yet according to US government officials Israel is not on the list again.
American officials said current Israeli passports will have to be replaced by biometric passports in order for the exemption to be granted. Moreover, the Americans demand that the rate of Israelis who remain in the US after their visas expire be brought down from the current 4% to below 2%.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai's office said that the issue of visa exemptions is being discussed by the US and Israeli governments, and that the introduction of biometric passports in Israel is in process at the Ministry at this time.
Nurit Palter contributed to the report