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House committee backs visa bill for Israeli investors

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would add Israel to the list of countries eligible for non-immigrant investor visas in the United States.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives committee in a voice vote, would grant Israelis the ability to acquire the E-2 visa if similarly situated U.S. nationals are eligible for non-immigrant visas in Israel. The E-2 visa permits Israeli investors to live and work in the U.S. in order to be closer to their investments.

"We should be doing everything we can to bring additional Israeli innovations and technologies to the United States," Berman, who is the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in his remarks before the Judiciary Committee vote. "Israel is a global leader in security and defense technologies, medicine, agriculture, high-tech, and clean energy advancements. Our nation will benefit from bringing their business to our shores."

In a statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) thanked Berman for what he said was a "common-sense bill." 

The resulting investments "will create jobs and strengthen the already strong friendship between Israel and the United States,” Smith said in the statement. 

The House bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Judiciary Immigration Policy Subcommittee.

A companion bill was introduced last May by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), but has not moved through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Seventy-nine countries, from Britain to Montenegro to Iran, are party to long-standing treaties with the United States that allow their citizens to apply for E-2 status.

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