US Embassy urges Knesset to expedite Visa Waiver Program legislation

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YERUSHALAYIM

A senior official at the US Embassy in Yerushalayim said Thursday that if the Knesset fails to pass the legislation necessary for Israel to comply with the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Israelis may have to wait. another year or 18 months, before another possibility of exemption. the need to apply for tourist visas, becomes available, Yediot Acharonot reported Friday.

The source pointed out that the conduct of the procedure should not be postponed until after the elections.

The increased US pressure comes amid political disputes surrounding the legislation.

The opposition refuses to approve the laws and insists on waiting until after the elections before allowing legislation to be passed.

In June Binyamin Netanyahu was approached by US Ambassador Tom Nides who asked him to withdraw his objections to the law. Netanyahu had said he would only back the legislation if the coalition gave in to its demands for elections in October and not in November as decided by the outgoing government.

But such a delay would significantly delay the process, the source said, as the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would need time to formally approve Israel’s candidacy for the VWP.

If the legislation is passed in the near future, visa waivers could be implemented as early as the end of 2022, the source said.

To advance the VWP, the Knesset must approve the transfer of information to the United States about Israelis with criminal or security concerns, before they board flights to the United States, in order to allow DHS to prepare for any action they may need to take to avoid danger or receive information about suspects involved in money laundering.

The software needed for these laws must be in place before DHS can administer the approval, a process that could take 9 to 12 months, from the time the legislation is approved.

Undeterred by US attempts to push the case forward, the opposition continues in its filibuster, saying the legislation could lead to an invasion of privacy, despite the fact that the 40 countries joining the VWP had also fulfilled the required criteria.

Another demand is that Israel lowers the rejection rate for visa applications to less than 3%. The United States still has not released data on this year’s rejection rate, which is expected in early 2023.

While recent years have shown that the rejection rate in Israel has decreased, there is still a high probability that it will not fall below the required 3%.

If published data reveals that Israel has failed to drop below the rejection rate, it will have to wait another year to apply for inclusion in the VWP. So even if the Knesset manages to meet the requirements to enter this year’s list of countries, it looks like the plan could kick in mid-to-late 2023 at the earliest.

If the Knesset waits until after the elections, it could be pushed back to summer 2024.

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