Shafaq News / Amid the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the US announced on Thursday a visa waiver program allowing Israelis to visit the US for up to 90 days without applying for a visa.
The US had announced on September 27th that Israel would be included in the visa waiver program, making it part of a select group of 40 countries, primarily European and Asian, whose citizens can travel to the US for up to three months without visas.
At that time, the US had stated that Israelis could begin traveling to America without visas "starting from November 30." The Department of Homeland Security state that the program became operational on Thursday.
These developments come against the backdrop of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US and several other countries.
A few days after Israel joined the visa waiver program, Hamas launched attacks on multiple locations in southern Israel. Since then, the Israeli military has relentlessly targeted sites in the Gaza Strip.
Under the waiver program, Israelis first register in the electronic travel authorization system. The Department of Homeland Security mentioned in the press release that this is an automated system to determine eligibility for travel.
The process may take up to 72 hours. Afterward, eligible Israelis can travel to the US.
To qualify, Israelis must possess biometrically-enabled passports. The ministry noted that those who do not have this passport must still apply for a US entry visa.
Countries wishing to participate in the visa program must meet three critical criteria. Israel has met two of these criteria in the past two years, namely a decrease in the percentage of Israelis applying for visas and being denied, and a decrease in the percentage of Israelis overstaying their visa periods.
Israel has been struggling to meet the third criterion, relating to reciprocity, which means that all US citizens, including American-Palestinians (dual citizens), must be treated equally when traveling to or through Israel.