The number of Israelis being denied tourist visas by the United States has risen sharply in the past few years. Israeli officials say they suspect this has to do with US reluctance to enable Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program, under which foreign nationals are eligible for visa-free entry into the United States for 90 days as tourists. Currently, citizens of 37 states, most of them considered economically developed countries, are eligible under this program.
One of the criteria for qualifying for the Visa Waiver Program is a non-immigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year.
But according to State Department data, in 2013, 9.7% of Israelis – some 12,000 people – who applied for tourist visas were refused. The previous year, in 2012, only 5.4% of the requests were denied and in 2007 – only 2.5%.
“We have for years been waiting to drop below the 3% mark in order to obtain visa exemptions, but they keep raising the bar,” a senior official told i24news. “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 has, however, been reluctant to challenge the United States openly on the issue so as not to exacerbate diplomatic tensions.
There was no immediate reaction to the claims by the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
Read more at I24 NEWS.