The US is reportedly considering adding Israel to the list of countries allowed to travel there without a visa obtained in advance.
Israeli authorities have long argued that Israelis should be given the right to travel on the 90-day tourist visas given to citizens of 38 other countries granted by the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported on Monday that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Deputy Attorney General for International Affairs Roei Sheindorf have negotiated a deal with the US’ Department for Homeland Security.
As part of the anticipated agreement, the US would be given access to Israel’s extensive fingerprint database. The American authorities have reportedly dropped a previous demand for access to the entire system, and now request access to the files of those citizens suspected of crimes punishable by prison sentences of more than 10 years.
The supposed deal must be passed into Israeli law, since it requires the sharing of sensitive data with a foreign nation. Several politician had raised privacy concerns over giving the US the background check information in the past.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is expected to travel to the US in the next fortnight to finalise the agreement.
Currently, like citizens of most other countries, Israelis must attend an interview at the US embassy, pay a processing fee and submit extensive paperwork for background checks before they are allowed to travel to the US for tourism or business.
American citizens travelling to Israel are given tourist visas upon arrival in the country.
Critics note the reported agreement stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s administration’s attempts to implement a ‘Muslim ban‘, the executive order blocked by various courts which suspended the processing of visas for people from several Muslim-majority countries.
Any new agreement on waiving US visas for Israelis would not go into effect for more than two years.