Pretty soon Israelis may be able to visit the United States without having to apply for a visa beforehand.
Bills before both houses of Congress call for a visa waiver for Israelis under a program that already allows visitors from countries such as Britain, France and Australia to come to the US without having to interview at American consulates and pay for entrance permits.
While the bill authorizes the visa waiver program to include Israel, the ultimate decision would be left to the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security.
Many Israelis have expressed frustration with the US visa policy, which involves a lengthy process of providing documents, interviews and paying a fee, all with the possibility of being rejected. Israelis, who view themselves as an ally to America, are frequently offended by the requirements. Israel does not require visas for American tourists. In 2006 more than 100,000 Israelis visited America.
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Florida), who sponsored the House legislation, said he was "hopeful this legislation will enable key American allies - including Israel, South Korea, Greece and the 10 new European Union countries - to participate in the Visa Waiver Program."