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US, Israel closer to signing visa waiver as Netanyahu rushes to finish line

To enter the coveted program, the prime minister's coalition will have to facilitate the traveling of American Palestinians and American Israeli-Arabs between the West Bank and the US.
Passengers arrive at Israel's Ben Gurion airport in Lod on March 1, 2022. A US visa waiver will energize travel between the two countries. (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — A senior delegation from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), headed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary For International Affairs Robert Paschall, visited Israel last week to discuss advancing Israel's entry into the US visa-waiver program

The American delegation also included DHS policy analyst Katherine Andrews and the Consul General at the US embassy in Jerusalem Andrew Miller. They held talks with their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday. 

The visit comes after US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced on Monday that Israel has reached the required visitor visa refusal rate required for joining the program. Less than 3 percent of Israelis requesting US entry visas for 2022 were refused, Israel notified the US Homeland Security department.

The lower rate is one more step towards the elusive goal of allowing Israeli citizens to visit the US without applying for a visa. For several years, Israeli politicians have stated that Israel was about to join the visa-waiver program, but there are still a few more steps to go. The ball is now in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s court. There are still several other requirements Israel must fulfill on its way to the waiver program.

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