U.S. admits Israel into Visa Waiver Program, allowing visa-free travel

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Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced Wednesday that Israel will be admitted into the U.S. visa waiver program. It allows Israelis to apply to travel in the U.S. up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

Beginning Nov. 30, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will be updated to reflect the change.

"This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations' collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities. Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure," Mayorkas said in a statement.

The decision was made in consultation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"This important achievement will enhance freedom of movement for U.S. citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them," Blinken said in a statement.

He said Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program is a critical strategic partnership that will strengthen security coordination and economic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.

The Visa Waiver Program requires countries to meet strict requirements on counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management.

To be admitted into the program nations must have in place a system to issue secure travel documents and give U.S. citizens visa-free privileges without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity. Countries designated to participate in the program work closely with U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that, "DHS monitored Israel's implementation of these requirements and engaged with Palestinian-Americans both living in the West Bank and living in the United States, who now have the ability to enter Israel visa free, and fly in and out of Ben Gurion airport, reducing barriers to travel for these Americans."

In advance of the U.S. designating Israel into the Visa Waiver Program, Israel took steps to allow entry to Palestinian Americans, including those residing in the West Bank and Gaza.

That agreement with the United States was signed in July.