Jewish Journal

Israelis’ U.S. Visa Waiver, Is it still Viable?

by Pini Herman

April 26, 2013 | 12:33 pm

Brad Sherman Hopeful That Tel Aviv Visa Lines May Be History

It seems that there may be room for optimism that Israel may join other countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver program.  With all the news that the 844 page  “Gang of Eight” Immigration Bill, S.744 is getting, where is the Israel U.S. Visa Waiver proposal?

Countries use their visa and immigration policies aggressively to further their economic goals through increased tourism, investment and cultural exchange.  The U.S. and Israel are no exception as two countries which have been very much shaped by the forces of migration.

Israelis must line up in Tel Aviv at the US Embassy and be personally interviewed for an entry visa to the U.S.  An Visa Waiver Program for Israel requiring only a valid Israeli passport upon landing in the US to be admitted for up to a ninety day visit would be a momentous change in the burden of travel to the U.S. for Israelis.

Looking at the new Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 and it seems to make the Visa Waiver Country requirement a bit more stringent regarding security.  There was no mention of Israel specifically only of Korea, Ireland and Australia for E3, E4, E5 visa eligibility.  Cong. Howard Berman last bill passed granted Israel E2 Visa eligibilty.  It doesn't seem that anyone on the Senate side felt it necessary to include Israel among the countries receiving attention in the 844 pages of S.744.  Would I be incorrect in writing that the silence is resounding on the part of advocates of Israel?

It's my assessment that Ron Kampeas of the JTA was correct in stating that Visa Waiver Program for Israel met with opposition of Israel and the US supporters who consult with Israel on legislation regarding Israel and that the Boxer S. 462 requiring an amendment which did not find its way into the later introduced S.744 further indicates that S. 462 sole purpose seems to have been to spike the wheels of H.R. 300 from attaining passage.

I contacted Cong. Brad Sherman as to what his assessment as to the viability of his bill in light of that it may have to be reconciled with S.462 and no mention of including Israel as a Visa Waiver Program country within S. 744.  Govtrack.us gives it half (5%) of the normal likelihood (11%) of getting out of committee and only a third (1%) likelihood (3%) of being passed into law. Regarding S. 462, govtrack.us gives it 8% chance of getting past committee as compared to overall 12% of all bill getting out of committe. 2% chance of being enacted, the same as all other Senate bills which get out of committee. 

Overall, it's my assessment that it's not likely that Israelis will have to stop waiting in long lines for US visas at the Tel Aviv Embassy.

I received this Statement from Cong. Brad Sherman:

Statement to Jewish Journal blogger Pini Herman from Congressman Brad Sherman, April 25, 2013

"I believe that the bill introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (S. 462), which has 23 Senate cosponsors, has a significant chance of passage.  I also believe the House and Senate stand-alone bills (the bill I introduced with Rep. Ted Poe, H.R.300, and the bill introduced by Senator Wyden and Senator Hatch, S. 266) also have a significant chance of passage.  With 75 Members of the House including some very senior members cosponsoring my bill, I am confident about its prospects.

There is no significance to the fact that Israel is not explicitly included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill.   The immigration bill does reform the Visa Waiver Program, and those reforms apply to all potentially eligible countries, including Israel.

The three bills (S. 462, S. 266, and H.R. 300) in question are virtually identical with regard to Israel:  all exempt Israel from the 3% requirement rate and all add Israel to the Visa Waiver Program when it meets the other requirements of the program.  As I mentioned before on your blog, Hungary, Lithuania, and Latvia had a higher visa refusal rates than Israel when were admitted into the Visa Waiver Program in 2008."

Pini Herman, PhD. specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis, has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:




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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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