A report in Haaretz quotes an unnamed Israeli official saying that the rise in visa rejections probably stems from U.S. reluctance to allow Israel entry into the Visa Waiver Program. That policy allows travelers from 37 countries to enter the U.S. for business or leisure as visitors for up to 90 days without a visa.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed concern at reports in the Israeli press that the Obama Administration is increasingly rejecting requests from Israeli citizens for visas to visit the United States. According to U.S. State Department records consulted by these reports, during 2013, 9.7% of Israelis who requested visas –– some 12,000 people –– were denied. This is a sharp rise on the figures for 2012, in which 5.4% of Israelis requesting visas had their applications rejected, itself a steep rise on the figure for just a few years ago, 2007, when only 2.5% of Israelis were rejected for visas.This is more than a three-fold rise in visa rejections in a mere seven years.
A report in Haaretz quotes an unnamed Israeli official saying that the rise in visa rejections probably stems from U.S. reluctance to allow Israel entry into the Visa Waiver Program. That policy allows travelers from 37 countries to enter the U.S. for business or leisure as visitors for up to 90 days without a visa. The U.S. has a ‘white list’ of countries whose citizens can come to the U.S. without a visa, but only countries with a visa rejection rate of less than 3% are put on this list. The recent growth in U.S. visa request rejections for Israelis forced Israel off that list.
This is more than a three-fold rise in visa rejections in a mere seven years.
The official said, “We have for years been waiting to drop below the 3 percent mark in order to obtain visa exemptions, but they keep raising the bar … In our view, this is being done artificially, with requests being denied for no good reason. In all other respects, we qualify for the program.”
Israel’s entry into the waiver program was included in a pair of broader U.S.-Israel bills last year that called for Israel to be granted a waiver if it, “has made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens” (‘More Israelis being denied U.S. tourist visas, report says,’ Haaretz, February 24, 2014).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are deeply concerned to learn that Israelis, in contrast to the situation in past years, are being rejected in record numbers to visit the United States for no apparent, justifiable reason. The absence of reasonable ground for these rejections leads only to the conclusion that the rejections are political in nature. In particular, as has already been suggested by Israeli officials, an effort has been made to prevent Israel from joining 37 favored nations whose citizens can travel to the U.S. for up to three months without visa.
“This is disconcerting, especially when coupled with other events that have occurred during the course of the Obama Administration ––