Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked met in Washington with US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The two discussed the issue of adding Israel to the US visa waiver program, which allows citizens to come to America without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.
It was decided to establish working teams that will soon begin to advance the process and whose work will be monitored.
The meeting was attended by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Mike Herzog, representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Public Security and the American team dealing with the issue.
During the discussion, the parties worked on finding solutions to the two main obstacles: Lowering the percentage of refusals to Israelis applying for a visa to less than 3% by October 2022 and giving Americans access to the Israeli criminal registry that will allow them to submit about 1,000 inquiries a year.
It was decided at the conclusion of the meeting that the American team will arrive in Israel in January 2022 to examine the issue closely, meet with professionals and continue working together to continue the process.
The ministers also arranged for a monthly conversation between them in order to closely monitor the progress process.
Shaked said after the meeting that "the US administration is very committed to the process of exempting Israelis from visas, as is as the Israeli government. As Secretary Mayorkas told me during the meeting there is a window of opportunity here and we must take advantage of it."
"This is a one-time opportunity that will not return so the two countries need to work fast. I am hopeful and motivated to bring to an end the process that has been discussed between the countries for about a decade. The process will take at least a year and is expected to end in early 2023," the Minister concluded.
Mayorkas said recently that the United States is considering adding four countries, including Israel, to its visa waiver program that allows citizens to come to America without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.
The White House said in August, after a meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Biden emphasized "his administration would strengthen bilateral cooperation with Israel in ways that would benefit both US citizens and Israeli citizens, including by working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program."