03.18.08

Visa Waiver Program extended to more countries

Posted in Changes in Law at 6:28 pm by Lalita Haran

Yesterday, the U.S. government signed an agreement extending the Visa Waiver program to three more countries, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania. A few weeks ago, Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia were included in the VWP countires. Once the necessary requirements are satisfied, the U.S. government expects that the citizens of these countries would be able to undertake visa free travel to U.S. in the coming months.

Visa Waiver Program has been in existence for over 20 years and allows the nationals of 27 European and Asian countries to travel to U.S. without the need for a visa. Only countries with low visa refusal rate may qualify to be included in the program although the Immigration and Nationality Act allows additional countries to be designated as program country if those countries fulfilled the criteria. The U.S. Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to reform VWP, strengthen the security measures to be taken by the participating countries and expand the conditions set out for countries that wish to join the program.

A national of the VWP country may enter U.S. as a nonimmigrant visitor for 90 days upon production of a machine readable passport. Basically, a VWP visitor is subject to the same limitations as a B visa visitor would be in U.S. and must leave at the expiration of his authorized period but a short discretionary extension may be available in emergent circumstances.

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