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      US May Drop Visa Requirements for Israeli Tourists

      The United States is considering removing requirements for Israelis to acquire visas for tourist visits
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 1/15/2013, 10:03 PM

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      The United States is considering removing requirements for Israelis to acquire visas for tourist visits. A bill is scheduled to set to be introduced in Congress this week to allow Israelis to enter the United States for 90 days without needing to obtain a visa. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman and Republican Representative Ted Poe, and another 25 representatives have signed the bill.

      At a press conference Tuesday, Sherman and Poe said they expected the visa requirement to be eliminated within two years. “It's illogical that Israelis who have business opportunities and need to make a short visit to the U.S. would have to wait half a year to get a visa,” the two representatives said. “Israel is a close friend of the U.S.,” said Poe, a Texas Republican. “It's important for both countries that we do away with the visa requirement, so that people can come here and do business with us. We want more Israelis to come to the U.S. on business. Come to Texas, we want you here,” Poe added. “It's surprising that Israelis can go to South America and Canada without a visa, but not to the U.S.”

      Sherman, a California Democrat, said that altogether 45 representatives were sponsoring the legislation. The reason Israel in the past was not included among the 37 countries whose citizens do not require visas, said Sherman, was because more than 3% of visa requests by Israelis had been rejected by the U.S. - making Israel one of the “riskier” countries for visa-granting. Sherman said that while this may have been true in the past, things have changed, and the latest information shows that Israel fits the criteria of the visa-free list.

      Another reason that Israel was not included on the list was the fact that Israel had not instituted biometric passports, required by the State Department for visa-free entry. Sherman said that he had received assurances that Israel would be “upgrading” its passports to meet that requirement.

      The House has in the past approved Israel for the visa-free list, but Israel's inclusion on the list was rejected by the Senate.