Today, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Visa Waiver for Israel Act along with lead cosponsor Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). The bill would pave the way for Israel's entrance into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. 49 members of the House joined with Sherman and Poe in introducing the legislation. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is introducing the same bill in the Senate.
Sherman first introduced the Visa Waiver for Israel Act in May 2012 along with lead cosponsor Ted Poe and 11 other colleagues; 34 members of Congress cosponsored Sherman's bill.
The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from 37 countries to enter the United States for business or leisure as visitors for up to 90 days without first getting a visa. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from U.S. consular posts before traveling to the United States.
At a press conference today on Capitol Hill, several Members of Congress, including Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Randy Weber (R-TX), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Brad Schneider (R-IL), and Mark Takano (D-CA), joined Sherman and Poe to unveil the bill and promote its passage into law.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Daniel Ayalon, also gave remarks at the press conference in support of adding his nation to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
"I'm pleased to reintroduce the Visa Waiver for Israel Act with 50 bipartisan colleagues in Congress," said Congressman Sherman. "U.S.--Israel cooperation in biotechnology and medical research, green energy, homeland security, and information technology generates jobs and much-needed economic growth. Adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program will boost business here in the U.S. and enhance cultural ties between our two nations. Israelis can visit most of Europe, Latin America, Canada, and several other countries around the world, visa-free, but not the United States. It is time we add our closest friend and democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel, to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program."
"It is time for the United States to let Israel know we are open for business," said Congressman Poe. "Israel is the strongest ally America has in the Middle East. Allowing Israelis to freely visit the United States without the hassle of obtaining a visa will strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two nations. Both Israel and the United States will benefit from this common sense legislation"
"Israel is not only a strong ally, but also an important trading partner with a thriving technology sector," said Senator Wyden. "This legislation will make it easier for Israelis to collaborate with their American counterparts and to invest in the United States."
"Adding our key ally Israel to the State Department's Visa Waiver Program will help the economies of both the U.S. and Israel," said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "It would make travel to the United States by Israeli citizens easier and thus increase tourism and strengthen the already strong ties between our nations. We must be doing all we can to support Israel during these tumultuous times in the Middle East and this program is a great opportunity to demonstrate to the Israeli people and to Israel's enemies that our friendship is stronger than ever."
"Israel is a trusted and valued friend of the United States with a vibrant economy," said Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). "Permitting Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program has bipartisan support and will facilitate greater trade and cultural exchange between our two countries. I strongly support this legislation."
The following members joined Sherman and Poe in introducing the Visa Waiver for Israel Act: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Zoe Lofgren, Chris Van Hollen, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ed Markey, Steve Israel, Don Young, Robert Brady, Mike Honda, Adam Schiff, Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nalder, Michael Grimm, Jan Schakowsky, Renee Ellmers, Judy Chu, Bill Keating, Mike Michaud, Trent Franks, Gene Green, Carolyn Maloney, Scott Garrett, Bill Johnson, David Cicilline, Michael McCaul, Bill Pascrell, Randy Hultgren, Mark Amodei, Rush Holt, Janice Hahn, Al Green, Jim McGovern, Frederica Wilson, Gerald Connolly, Allyson Schwartz, Ted Deutch, Leonard Lance, Richard Hanna, Doug Lamborn, Randy Weber, Juan Vargas, Dina Titus, Matthew Cartwright, Corrine Brown, Brad Schneider, Alan Lowenthal, Hakeem Jeffries, Alan Grayson, Steve Stockman.