People from Former Soviet Union (FSU) countries are finding it easier to visit Israel. Earlier this year, after months of petitioning by FSU citizens, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On announced rule changes to encourage more people from the former Soviet-bloc countries to visit Israel.
Under the new rules, visas can be granted for up to ten years, rather than the previous one year restriction. Guidelines for granting visas have been standardized, and a single form replaced the many localized forms that had been in use. Online applications are possible as well, rather than requiring all people to apply in-person at Israeli embassies.
A previous requirement for tourists to leave a cash deposit as a strong incentive to leave the country on time is now only required for people who were problematic in the past.
Bar-On stated that 25% of the Israeli immigrant population comes from the FSU, yet they had the strictest visa laws. He said that, with an ever-growing immigration population, the demand for tourists, family and friends to come and visit residents in Israel has been growing as well.
"With their growing immigrant population comes an increased demand for tourists, namely their families and friends, to come visit them here in Israel," said Bar-On. "It was inappropriate that it was such a massive burden for a new immigrant's family to come visit."
Bribery demands and bureaucratic red-tape were common complaints by visitors in the past. The new rules are expected to greatly reduce these problems.
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