Visa Waiver for Israel Act of 2013

January 15, 2013
February 28, 2013
Referred to House (sub)committee

This bill would waive admission requirements and admit Israel into the U.S. visa waiver program if the government of Israel, inter alia, ‘made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal privileges are extended to all U.S. citizens.’

The visa waiver program allows citizens of countries that maintain a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate below 3% to enjoy reduced limitations on their entry into the U.S. ‘Nonimmigrant refusals’ refers to the rate at which American immigration officers turn down applicants for visas. Israel’s nonimmigrant visa refusal rate was 5.4% at the time of this bill’s introduction, meaning that around 5 of every 100 Israelis who applied for visas to enter the U.S. were denied.

The bill’s announcement drew criticism from the Arab American community on the grounds that Israeli immigration authorities discriminate against Arab Americans seeking to enter Israel. The pro-Israel group J Street also opposed this bill, stating in a 4/15/13 press release that it was ‘deeply concerned that this provision would—and appears expressly intended to—codify in U.S. law an acceptance of Israel’s reportedly frequent denial, often without explanation, of entry to U.S. citizens of Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim origin seeking to lawfully enter Israel or Israeli-controlled territory.’

76 cosponsors (46D, 30R).

See also: S. 266 of 2/7/13, H.R. 938 of 3/4/13, and S. 462 of 3/5/13.

Last major action: 2/28/13 referred to House Subcmte. on Immigration and Border Security.


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