September 27, 2023

Van Hollen, Schatz, Merkley, Welch Release Statement on Designation of Israel to Visa Waiver Program

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) released the following statement regarding U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s nomination and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’s designation of Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program.

“As longtime supporters of the close U.S.-Israel relationship, we support Israel’s candidacy to join the Visa Waiver Program, once it meets all of the requirements of the Program required by law – the same standard that we apply to all our other VWP partners. But to date, Israel has failed to meet the ‘Blue is Blue’ requirement. Adherence to this important American tenet of reciprocity and equal treatment of all U.S. citizens is critical to the integrity of the Visa Waiver Program, and we are deeply concerned with the Administration’s decision to move forward in violation of that principle. We will carefully monitor the situation to determine whether Americans continue to face discrimination based on their ethnicity, national origin, or religion. And we will keep pressing for answers as to how the U.S. government will ensure that Israel ultimately comes into full compliance with VWP requirements as well as what mechanisms the U.S. has to monitor the implementation of one system for all U.S. citizen travelers by May 1, 2024.”

The U.S. and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in July setting the conditions for Israel's entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. According to the MOU, Israel is expected to fully implement one system that all U.S. citizen travelers can use for purposes of visa waiver travel by May 1, 2024.