The US is considering adding three EU member states – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania – to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which means that citizens of these countries may soon be able to travel to the US for tourism and business purposes. -Free.
Currently, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are the last EU countries whose citizens need a visa to travel to the US for tourism and business purposes, after the US added Croatia to the visa waiver program.
The move was announced by US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mallorcas last Tuesday, October 26, who revealed that apart from these three EU countries, Israel is also a candidate country for the Visa Waiver Program.
“We have four candidates in the pipeline: Israel, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania,” Majorcas announced during a travel industry event last Tuesday, Reuters reports.
The US Visa Waiver Program currently allows citizens of 40 countries in the world, including 26 countries in the Schengen Area, Croatia and the United Kingdom, to travel to the US for tourism and business purposes without having to apply for a short-term visa first.
Citizens of these countries only need to apply online for a travel authorization, which is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Applying for an ESTA is simple and fast, travelers only need to pay $4.00, and once the application is approved, another $10.00 must be paid.
Generally, a single ESTA license is valid for multiple entries into the United States for a period of two years. However, each stay must not exceed the number of days allowed, which is 90 per entry. Those wishing to stay for more than 90 days must apply for a visa.
For Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania to become part of the Visa Waiver Program, all three must meet certain eligibility criteria set by US authorities, TheSchengen.com reports.
Among the most important criteria is a nonimmigrant visa denial rate of less than three percent for the previous year or an average of a percentage lower during the previous two fiscal years. Poland has struggled to become part of the Visa Waiver Program for years just because of this criterion.
In addition, to become part of the Visa Waiver Program, a country must offer reciprocal privileges to US citizens, which means that they must also allow US citizens to enter their territory without a visa, a criterion that Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania already meet.
The European Commission has for years been calling on the US authorities to include the remaining EU countries in the visa waiver programme. In 2018, some members of the European Parliament asked the Commission to reinstate visa requirements for US citizens in a reciprocity procedure. However, the commission later decided against this proposal.