Croatian citizens will soon be enjoying visa-free travel to the USA. Their country has met the critical requirement that the percentage of rejected applications for business and tourism visas to the US fell below 3%.
In a tweet, Victoria J. Taylor, the US ambassador in Zagreb, wrote that it was essential that this condition was met before Croatia could join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), allowing them to enter the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.
Why is Croatia joining the VWP?
Ambassador Taylor tweeted that the refusal rate of applications for tourism/business visas from Croatian citizens fell to 2.69% in the previous year. She also said that she was looking forward to Croatian citizens being able to travel visa-free to the US in the future.
She thanked the government of Croatia, as well as the country’s Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign & European Affairs for their efforts in making significant progress on the VWP requirements, from border security to data sharing.
She also pointed out that other criteria remained to be met before Croatians could finally travel to the United States without a visa and spoke of continuing close cooperation on the part of both countries.
Ambassador Taylor mentioned that Croatia already meets many of the VWP criteria regarding security and has demonstrated its commitment to meeting the rest of the conditions during the coming months.
But she also underlined that the date when Croatia will finally join the Visa Waiver Program has yet to be decided. While she understood that people were anxious to find out more, she said that the US was not yet ready to set an exact date. Meanwhile, the two countries continue to work closely together to ensure that all security criteria are met as soon as possible.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The VWP (Visa Waiver Program) allows foreign nationals from certain countries to enter the United States for tourism or business reasons without having to apply for a visa.
All travelers need to do is to apply online for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), and they will be permitted to enter the US without a visa.
All the Schengen area countries have now been admitted to the VWP. But four European countries are not yet part of the program: Bulgar, Romania. Cyprus and Croatia. For Croatia to be admitted to the VWP, the country must fulfill all the requirements, including a low percentage (less than 3%) of rejected visas. This is the criteria that the country has just achieved.
Over the last three years, the Croatian authorities had succeeded in reducing the refusal rate from almost six percent to around four. Now the rate is below three percent, this condition has been met.
What are the aims of the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has two key aims. Firstly, to improve national security and secondly, to boost the US tourism and travel sectors. Another goal is to enhance the standards for law enforcement, travel documents, and aviation security around the world. Lastly, the VWP aims to encourage and facilitate foreign leisure and business travel from countries that present a low risk to the US and have many potential travelers.
The VWP applies to all the states of the US, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. American Samoa has a separate but similar program as do the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. The countries selected to join the VWP are all developed countries with high median incomes and also rate highly on the Human Development Index.
Countries added to the Visa Waiver Program
Since the VWP was established in 1988, countries have been added on several occasions. The US authorities have also removed two countries. The first country to join was the UK, in July 1988. Japan joined six months later, in December 1988. In 1991, a further 13 countries joined, and another eight joined the program between 1993 and 1999.
In 2008, eight more countries joined. Over the past decade, Chile, Greece, and Taiwan joined as well as the latest country to be admitted, Poland. Countries are admitted to the VWP via bilateral negotiation. Membership of the Visa Waiver Program is frequently seen as demonstrating close ties with the USA. The only countries that have been removed from the VWP are Argentina in 2002 and Uruguay in 2003.