Senator Hagerty Urges Biden State Department to Commit to Ensuring Israel Qualifies for Visa Waiver Program

June 8, 2023

Program participation could result in 450,000 additional visitors from Israel to the United States over a three-year period, provide $3.6 billion of economic benefit to the United States, and support roughly 6,000 jobs

WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today urged Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Rena Bitter to commit to helping Israel meet the requirements to participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (WVP) by September in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“I think the relationship that we have with Israel is absolutely critical,” Hagerty said. “There’s an aim for Israel to meet the Visa Waiver Program requirements by September of this year, and I’ve seen some analysis that suggests that if Israel were able to participate in the program, it would result in 450,000 additional visitors coming from Israel to the United States over a three-year period. That would be $3.6 billion roughly of economic benefit to the United States, and it would support roughly 6,000 jobs. I have a real interest in seeing that sort of economic engagement as a benefit of this program. It certainly sounds to me that you’re committed to working on this—I just want to make certain that you’re willing to make every effort to work with Israel in helping them comply with whatever requirements may exist and stand in the way.”

Assistant Secretary Bitter agreed to continue working to help Israel qualify for the program. “That is something that we work very closely with the Department of Homeland Security on, and our colleagues there, we’re all very engaged on this, so thank you for raising it. We’ll continue to work.”

Senator Hagerty concluded by reiterating that “I’d very much like to see the Visa Waiver Program put in place with our ally Israel.”

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