WASHINGTON – Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, presented the House Tuesday with a proposal to add Israel to the US Visa Waiver Program.
Thirty-four representatives joined Sherman and Poe in introducing the legislation and should it pass, it would exempt Israelis wishing to travel to the United States for up to three months from the need to obtain an entry visa.
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Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the new Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced a similar bill to the Senate.
The two said that given the close ties between Israel and the United States, they found the fact that Israelis need to obtain a visa "ridiculous" – especially since no such visa is required for Israelis who travel to Europe or Latin America.
The two said that it is likely that the bill would take effect within two years' time.
Line outside US Embassy in Tel Aviv (Photo: Michael Kremer)
Similar initiatives to include Israel in the 37-vias exempt nations have been promoted since 2005, to little success, as Israel failed to meet some of the criteria set by the State Department.
According to Sherman, however, the criteria has been updated and Israel now meets it – even more than some of the other nations already included on the list.
The California representative said that Israel still has to prove that it meets some criteria – primarily the use of biometric passports.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon welcomed the initiative, saying that he was one of its first advocates, when he was serving as Israeli ambassador to the UN.
"I can't wait for the day when we stop seeing the long lines outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv," he said.
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