Israel Middle East Politics & Diplomacy

Issue Brief

October 12, 2022

Fulfilling the requirements: Israel’s entry into the US Visa Waiver Program

By Ruth Marks Eglash and Scott Lasensky

A little-discussed, yet far-reaching issue on the US-Israel bilateral agenda is Israel’s long-running quest to join the United States’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP). In his first year and a half in office, US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has elevated the issue, and efforts to achieve Israel’s entry are gaining momentum after remaining stagnant during the Trump presidency. Yet a number of hurdles remain, including lowering Israel’s visa refusal rate, legislative action that Israel must take to align with data-sharing requirements, and compliance with the program’s reciprocity benchmarks.

A new issue brief by Ruth Marks Eglash and Scott Lasensky examines the background and context of renewed US-Israel VWP negotiations and assesses both the challenges and opportunities for progress for Israel’s entry into the program. Amid Israel’s upcoming election and the prioritization of the issue by the Biden administration, their new Issue Brief argues for both parties to capitalize on recent momentum to push forward continued high-level involvement and Israel’s commitments to meet all outstanding eligibility criteria in order to finally achieve this long-sought-after goal. 

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Image: Israeli and American flags stand during the final rehearsal for the ceremony to welcome U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of his visit to Israel, at Ben Gurion International airport, in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel July 12, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen