International

U.S. considering adding Israel, Romania, Bulgaria to visa waiver program

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. File | Photo Credit: Reuters
Reuters WASHINGTON 27 October 2021 09:04 IST
Updated: 27 October 2021 09:04 IST

To participate in the program, a country must meet requirements related to counter terrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on October 26 that the United States is considering adding four countries to its visa waiver program that allows citizens to come to America without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

"We have four candidates in the pipeline: Israel, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania," Mr. Mayorkas said on October 26 at a travel industry event. "We're very, very focused on the program," he added, saying it provides significant economic and securitybenefits.

In September, the United States added Croatia to the visa waiver program. U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said on October 26 adding Croatia is a $100 million boost to the U.S. economy. "Each time you add one of these countries, the travel just booms," Mr. Dow said.

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The White House said in August after a meeting between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Biden emphasized "his administration would strengthen bilateral cooperation with Israel in ways that would benefit both U.S. citizens and Israeli citizens, including by working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program."

Mr. Mayorkas also met with Israel's U.S. ambassador in August and discussed the waiver issue.

In February, Mr. Mayorkas spoke with the European Commission’s Commissioner for Home Affairs and both "expressed their continued interest in maintaining the U.S.-EU Passenger Name Record Agreement and working with Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania to meet the qualifications for the Visa Waiver Program."

To participate in the program, a country must meet requirements related to counter terrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management.

There are currently 40 countries in the program.

"These requirements include having a rate of nonimmigrant visa refusals below 3%, issuing secure travel documents, and working closely with U.S. law enforcement and counter terrorism authorities," DHS said last month.

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