Truth Revolt Nearly one out of every ten Israelis who apply for tourist visas to the United States are denied entry by the U.S. State Department. According to figures posted in Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in 2013 year of the 125,000 Israelis requested tourist visas to the US, 9.7% were refused. In 2012 that figure was at 5.4%, and as recently as 2007, a mere 2.5% of the requests were denied.
Most of the denials are young Israelis, as it is common for Israelis to travel after completing their compulsory military service. But in the last 12 months, there have been hundreds of cases in which employees of the Israeli intelligence agencies have been denied visas to the U.S.
The report in Haaretz quotes an unnamed Israeli official saying that the rise in visa rejections probably stems from U.S. reluctance to allow Israel entry into the Visa Waiver Program. That policy allows travelers from 37 countries to enter the U.S. for business or leisure as visitors for up to 90 days without a visa. The U.S. has a ‘white list’ of countries whose citizens can come to the U.S. without a visa, but only countries with a visa rejection rate of less than 3% are put on this list. The recent growth in U.S. visa request rejections for Israelis forced Israel off that list.
Breitbart While the State Department denies it, Israeli officials now suspect their country is being deliberately sanctioned as part of an unannounced administration policy to punish the Jewish state. This week their fears were publicly shared by none other than administration ally NY Senator Charles Schumer, who, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, demanded an end to the “State Department policy of categorically denying young Israelis tourist visas that makes it nearly impossible for any young Israeli to visit the U.S.”
The harsh and unexplained crackdown against Israeli tourists, first felt in 2009 has been tightening ever since, particularly, say those familiar with the matter, within the last year. When first imposed, the travel bans were extended to all young Israelis seeking to visit the US after completing their compulsory military service. Israeli reports examining such records show that, starting in 2012, rejections of Israeli visa requests were applied preemptively and categorically to all Israeli nationals of student age.
Jewish Week The Israeli press reported recently that the State Department has also begun denying visa requests from older applicants, including members of Israel’s intelligence and defense sectors. According to Haaretz, “Israeli defense establishment officials have discussed the matter in private meetings, after noticing a pattern emerging: Hundreds of individuals with ties to Israel’s defense establishment have been denied entry to the U.S. in the past year, or have been allowed in for only three months.
The Haaretz story said “Sources in Jerusalem had a difficult time explaining the phenomenon,” but, citing a report in Maariv, “the trend could stem from an attempt to reduce competition for American defense firms and contractors — or from fear of spying.”
The State Department confirms there has been a 400% increase in the visa refusal rate for Israeli citizens since 2007, when only 2.5% of all Israeli visa requests were denied, as compared to 2013 when 9.7% were. In fact, rejection rates for Israeli visa applicants were so high in 2013, that Israel was expelled from the State Department’s visa waiver program. Some of the countries whose citizens are eligible to participate the US visa waiver program, in addition to traditional and treaty allies like Canada and the UK, include Saudi Arabia and Qatar.