A bill to include Israel in America’s visa waiver program was introduced Jan. 15 into the House of Representatives.
The program allows travelers from Israel to visit America for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without a visa.
Thirty-seven countries already are in the program, including many European countries, Australia, Singapore and Japan.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced the visa waiver program along with lead co-sponsor Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). Forty-nine other House members have signed.
Sherman first introduced this bill in May 2012, but it was not adopted. He said cooperation between the two countries in such areas as biotechnology and medical research, green energy, homeland security and information technology will be enhanced when Israel is added.
Several members of Congress attended a news conference at the Longworth House office building to promote the bill. Also in attendance was Daniel Ayalon, deputy foreign minister of Israel.
“It is time for the United States to let Israel know we are open for business,” said Poe. “Israel is the strongest ally America has in the Middle East. Allowing Israelis to freely visit the United States without the hassle of obtaining a visa will strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two nations.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) co-sponsored the bill. “Israel is a trusted and valued friend of the United States with a vibrant economy. Permitting Israel to join the visa waiver program has bipartisan support and will facilitate greater trade and cultural exchange between our two countries,” he said.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is expected to introduce the same bill into the Senate shortly. “Israel is not only a strong ally, but also an important trading partner with a thriving technology sector,” he said. “This legislation will make it easier for Israelis to collaborate with their American counterparts and to invest in the United States.”