Daily Israel Report

US, Israel Issue Landmark Agreement for Mutual Investor Visas

American, Israeli visa process opened to allow US nationals to invest in Israel economy, and vice versa. Is this the end to a visa crisis?
By Tova Dvorin and Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 8/13/2014, 1:17 PM

(Illustration)
(Illustration)
Thinkstock

The Knesset Interior Committee approved a landmark visa decision Wednesday, allowing for US citizens to receive investor visas in Israel on the one hand, and for Israeli citizens greater access to USA E-2 investor visas on the other. 

Through a reciprocal agreement with US officials, the move allows US citizens to obtain visas to invest and conduct business in Israel, and vice versa. The visa pact is aimed at encouraging economic growth in both countries and strengthening relations between the two. 

An inter-ministerial team led by Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) found that there is a need for the provision of economic and social investor visas to citizens of the United States.

Granting the visa would allow the citizens of Israel and the United States to make joint investments as well, and encourage and develop economic investment in the Israeli economy, as well as increasing the number of employment opportunities in Israel. 

The Israeli investment visa allows US citizens to stay and work in Israel for as long as needed for the investment, along with any essential employees and family. 

"The investor visa approval is expected to contribute to Israel's economy and create jobs for the citizens of Israel in the future," Sa'ar said. "This is a process that allows US investors to work in Israel on the one hand and Israeli investors to invest in the American market on the other hand, opening new avenues for investment in the joint Israeli-American economy." 

The US technically offered the E2 visa - the American equivalent to the Israeli license - to Israeli nationals in 2012, but its implementation has been on hold until US President Barack Obama and other Administration officials could solidify the final terms of the visa. 

Sudden turnaround?

The decision surfaces despite an ongoing visa crisis, which reared its head again in late June after the US was found to have restricted Israeli citizens from receiving tourist visas until further notice. 

In April, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced an internal review into claims that hundreds of young Israelis were being barred from entering the US for political reasons.

An initial investigation found that the rejection rate of visa applications for young Israelis ages 21-26 had doubled, from 16% in 2009 to 32% in 2014; Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stated that the visa crisis was close to coming to an end several days later. 

Earlier this year, Israeli security officials also claimed they were being targeted by the US, and that hundreds of defense officials were turned away from making important visits to Washington. 

Major Israeli politicians claimed in May that the US had been "humiliating" them during the visa application process for years, according to a report in Yediot Aharonot, and had been forced to endure long wait times for acceptance and allowed only brief visits to their alleged ally.