WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Rick Scott and Jacky Rosen applauded the Biden administration for taking concrete steps to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This follows the urging of the senators, who led more than 60 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The VWP enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Senators Rick Scott and Jacky Rosen said, “We are pleased to learn that following our bipartisan push, the Biden administration has committed to work with the Government of Israel for it to be admitted to the United States’ Visa Waiver Program. We look forward to that day and the increased travel and tourism it will bring between the United States and Israel which will serve to strengthen the bond between our great nations and people.”
Senator Scott’s and Rosen’s June 21 letter urging the inclusion of Israel in the Visa Waiver Program was also signed by Senators John Thune, Patty Murray, James Risch, Debbie Stabenow, Roger Wicker, Richard Blumenthal, Joni Ernst, Maggie Hassan, Chuck Grassley, Alex Padilla, Mike Braun, Joe Manchin, Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden, Mike Crapo, Kirsten Gillibrand, Roger Marshall, John Hickenlooper, Shelley Moore Capito, Ben Cardin, Bill Cassidy, Chris Coons, Thom Tillis, Michael Bennet, Jerry Moran, Catherine Cortez Masto, John Hoeven, Mark Kelly, Kevin Cramer, John Fetterman, Ted Cruz, Kyrsten Sinema, John Boozman, Jon Tester, Ted Budd, Maria Cantwell, Todd Young, Bob Casey, Marsha Blackburn, Cory Booker, John Kennedy, Mark Warner, Tom Cotton, Chris Murphy, Katie Britt, Gary Peters, Steve Daines, Angus King, Bill Hagerty, Raphael Warnock, Pete Ricketts, Tim Scott, Mike Lee, Cindy Hyde-Smith, JD Vance, James Lankford, Lisa Murkowski, Eric Schmitt, Markwayne Mullin, John Cornyn, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney.
Read the full letter HERE or below.
June 21, 2023
The Honorable Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane, SW
Washington D.C. 20528
Dear Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas:
We write to express our support for efforts to include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and to encourage both the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize finalizing Israel’s accession this year.
Approximately 450,000 Israelis travel annually to the U.S., and that number has been increasing each year. With 93 weekly direct flights from Israel to U.S. airports, there is already significant demand for travel. As such, Israel’s participation in VWP would significantly increase the potential for both tourism and business travel.
In pursuit of these benefits for both countries, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security – particularly Ambassador Nides and the entire staff at the U.S. Embassy in Israel – and the Government of Israel have all worked diligently to enable Israel’s eligibility for VWP. In January, Israel’s non-immigrant visa refusal rate fell below 3%, satisfying one key requirement of eligibility for the program, and since that time the Government of Israel has been working to implement the necessary technical requirements for inclusion. Finally, Israel’s parliament has passed all of the legislation to facilitate requisite data sharing, which underscores Israel’s commitment to meeting the necessary benchmarks and gaining admission into VWP.
We recognize that there are still outstanding issues that must be addressed before Israel’s participation in the program can be finalized, and we urge both sides to continue working toward addressing these issues – including the reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens - to ensure Israel’s compliance with all program requirements before the deadline of September 30, 2023.
We hope that the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security will continue efforts to ensure that the momentum that has yielded the aforementioned progress is not lost, and that Israel’s accession to VWP is finalized this year.