After years of lobbying, the US announced on Wednesday that Israel has been admitted into the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Beginning around December, Israelis will only be required to fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form several days before embarking on trips to the US that are not longer than 90 days.
Interestingly, this move is expected to bring relief to US citizens living in Israel, as well. Chaim V’Chessed has long chronicled the difficulties which US citizens encounter when attempting to obtain passports or Consular Reports of Birth abroad. An extreme dearth of appointments often makes wait times for services intolerably long, as appointments are sometimes unavailable for many months.
In a meeting with US Embassy staff last week, Chaim V’Chessed CEO Paysach Freedman inquired as to the expected impact of Israel’s entry into the VWP on American Citizen Services. Embassy officials responded that the expectation is that a considerable number of staffers will be reassigned from visas (for non-citizens) to American Citizen Services, thus enabling many more appointments to become available. This will be particularly true at the Tel Aviv Branch Office, which currently processes many more visas than the Jerusalem Embassy.
The new system is expected to be implemented by December, so changes in American Citizen Services should not be expected before that.