Press Releases

Reps. Rice, Fischbach, Meng, Mast, Luria, Zeldin Lead Bipartisan Letter in Support of Israel’s Participation in Visa Waiver Program

Letter was co-signed by an additional 52 bipartisan members of Congress

f t # e
Washington, November 22, 2021 | Stuart Malec (202-225-5516) | comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Michelle Fischbach (MN-07), Grace Meng (NY-06), Brian Mast (FL-18), Elaine Luria (VA-02), and Lee Zeldin (NY-01) today sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in support of Israel’s participation in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Israel is under consideration to be added to the program after it was discussed in a bilateral meeting between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in August. 

In their letter, the Members urged the expeditious addition of Israel to the VWP and requested an update to Congress on the status of current negotiations. If accepted, Israel would join a group of allies who already benefit from participation in the program, including Australia, South Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, France, and Greece. 

“Israel’s participation in this program would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange, which bolsters our already unique bilateral relationship,” the Members wrote in their letter.  

In addition to Rice, Fischbach, Meng, Mast, Luria, and Zeldin, the letter was signed by the following 52 members of Congress: Auchincloss (MA-04), Bacon (NE-02), Banks (IN-03), Bilirakis (FL-12), Brown (MD-04), Budd (NC-13), Cammack (FL-03), Costa (CA-16), Craig (MN-02), Deutch (FL-22), Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Garbarino (NY-02), Gonzalez (OH-16), Gottheimer (NJ-05), Graves (LA-06), Griffith (VA-09), Jacobs (NY-27), Joyce (OH-14), Keller (PA-12), Kim (CA-39), Kustoff (TN-08), Lamb (PA-17), Mann (KS-01), Manning (NC-06), McKinley (WV-01), Meijer (MI-03), Miller-Meeks, M.D. (IA-02), Moolenaar (MI-04), Murphy (FL-07), Pallone Jr. (NJ-06), Panetta (CA-20), Phillips (MN-03), Quigley (IL-05), Reschenthaler (PA-14), Salazar (FL-27), Schrader (OR-05), Sherman (CA-30), Smith (NE-03), Smith (NJ-04), Strickland (WA-10), Suozzi (NY-03), Timmons (SC-04), Titus (NV-01), Torres (CA-35), Torres (NY-15), Trone (MD-06), Van Drew (NJ-02), Wagner (MO-02), Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Weber (TX-14), Wenstrup, D.P.M. (OH-02), and Wexton (VA-10).  

The final letter can be found here, and the text can be found below: 

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas: 

We write to you in support of Israel’s participation in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens and nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.  

We are encouraged by Secretary Mayorkas’ remarks last month confirming that Israel is in the “pipeline” to be added to the program. These remarks follow a bilateral meeting in August between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, where Israel’s participation in the VWP was discussed.  

According to the U.S. Travel Association, visits from Israel to the United States averaged 418,000 people per year for three years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. Israeli travelers account for $1.2 billion in spending annually, with an average $4,000 in personal spending per trip. 

CBP’s Visa Waiver Program allows expedited entry upon arrival to the United States for pre-approved, low-risk travelers using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. The VWP utilizes a risk-based, multi-layered approach to detect and prevent high-risk individuals from traveling to the United States and incorporates national-level risk assessments. Israel’s participation in this program would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange, which bolsters our already unique bilateral relationship. 

Israel would join a group of forty other allies who benefit from participation in the Visa Waiver Program. 

We know you share in the goal of ensuring that the benefits that the Visa Waiver Program promises to U.S. tourism, to our country’s national security, and to the U.S.-Israel relationship are realized. We therefore urge you to expediently add Israel to the Visa Waiver Program, and provide an update to Congress on the status of the current negotiations.  

Sincerely, 

f t # e