Israel has taken a further step towards joining the US visa waiver scheme. The Knesset gave a first reading yesterday to a bill sponsored by the Ministry of Justice on information gathering on people entering leaving and entering Israel. The bill is part of a package of legislative measures promoted by the Ministry of Justice designed to enable Israelis to benefit from exemption from the need to obtain a visa to enter the US. Unlike the bill to allow the transfer of passenger information to the US introduced by Ayelet Shaked close to the dissolution of the Knesset, which was blocked for political reasons by Likud, Minister of Justice Gideon Sa’ar’s bill was passed on first reading this afternoon, and the rule of continuity will apply to it, meaning that the next Knesset can complete the legislative process.
Under the bill, the data gathered are coded in what is known as a PNR (Passenger Name Record) attached to the passenger in a specific booking. Data gathering by the airlines makes possible reliable and immediate information about passengers across different countries. This bill, it should be pointed out, is a condition set by the US government for Israel’s accession to the list of countries participating in the visa waiver program.
The bill will allow gathering of data relayed by passengers in the ticket reservation process and collected by the airlines in the normal course of their business. At the same time, according to a Ministry of Justice press release, "The information will be transferred to the national center that will be set up at the Israel Tax Authority and will serve the state authorities in the fight against terrorism and serious crime, leading to improvement in the security of civil aviation, in border control and combating illegal immigration, and in safeguarding the health of the public against the spread of diseases."
The preamble to the bill states: "PNR data include broader information, which the airlines gather in the normal course of their business, for their own needs, and these data may vary from one airline to another in accordance with their operational needs. This is unverified personal information voluntarily provided by passengers when they reserve a flight, and it includes, among other things: mobile telephone number, email address, payment means, address for sending invoice, travel dates, itinerary, information about baggage (number of bags, weight), and the passenger’s travel history."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 20, 2022.
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