(TruthandLiberty.com) – If you’re from one of 39 countries, you can travel to the United States without a visa and stay for up to 90 days for tourism or business. On Tuesday, September 28, the United States added the 40th country to the list, Croatia. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that, beginning on December 1, Croatians could travel visa-free to the United States.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas congratulated Croatia on its acceptance and said the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) recognizes the two countries’ economic and security interests. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković noted his country’s inclusion in the program would further strengthen ties between the two nations. Croatia is the 24th European Union country to join the coveted program.
What does the addition mean for foreign nationals? Those who visit the United States from countries in the visa waiver program (VWP) don’t need to obtain a B visa at a US consulate before traveling to the United States. They skip the application interview process and pay a $160 visa application fee. In addition, after their initial arrival into the country, VWP is good for the entire 90-day period, even if they leave the country and come back.
Aside from the obvious economic benefits between the United States and the 40 countries in the VWP, there are numerous advantages for governments that want strong relationships with the United States and vice versa. To qualify and remain in the VWP, each country must hit consistent counterterrorism, immigration enforcement, border management, law enforcement and document security benchmarks.
The US Travel Association goes into further detail. According to a flyer published by the organization, a VWP country must:
- Provide information to US authorities on known or suspected terrorists and criminals
- Maintain high travel security protocols
- Provide border security
- Document thoroughly the integrity of each requirement
- Allow the US government to inspect each country’s security standards and ensure compliance with best practices
- Require all VWP travelers to use e-passports that are difficult to fake
In addition, US law enforcement screens each individual through terrorist databases that arrive in the United States. They also look for people who may have lost or revoked passports or immigration violations.
There are a few disadvantages of the program:
- A VWP visitor cannot stay past 90 days, and no extensions are allowed under the program.
- If someone comes to the United States under the program for business or tourism and decides to change the purpose of their visit, they must return to the US consulate in their country to request the proper visa.
- By using the VWP, one must certify to Customs and Border Patrol that they understand the rules. Additionally, one cannot marry a US citizen to skirt the program and stay in the US indefinitely. The US will look into fraud charges for participants who violate the program.
- At any time, the US government can deport a VWP visitor from the country without a hearing.
People welcoming the news included the US ambassador to Croatia, Mark Fleming, and Croatian Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović.
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