Zagreb, 16 Septtember 2021 (Hina/MIA) — Croatian citizens could travel to the US without a visa as early as the end of this year, an official from the US Department of Homeland Security, who is staying in Croatia this week in order to make a final assessment of its readiness to join the Visa Waiver Program, told Hina.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is making the final decision of Croatia’s readiness to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
A delegation of the United States department is staying in Croatia this week to prepare a final report for him.
Serena Hoy, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, told Hina that Mayorkas would make the decision by the end of September.
“And then, hopefully, if all goes well, we are optimistic that by the end of the year, Croatia should actually be able to start using the Visa Waiver Program to travel to the United States,” she said.
When visa requirements are lifted, Croatian citizens will apply for travel to the US for tourist and business purposes through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Travelers will apply no later than 48 hours before their flight, and the application will cost $14.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has officially nominated Croatia for the VWP in early August, and the US Embassy said in February that Croatia had met the requirement of a visa refusal rate below 3% — it had a 2.69% rate then.
Hoy stressed that was a very difficult requirement to meet and that there were many countries interested in joining the program that still had that hurdle to get over.
There are currently 39 countries in the VWP— all EU member states except Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Iceland, Norway, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Membership in the program is reviewed every two years, and it is possible to be removed, which happened to Argentina in 2002 and Uruguay in 2003, it is said on the US Congress website.
A prerequisite for the WVP is to strengthen security cooperation and information exchange between candidate countries and the US.
The US delegation, among other things, assessed Croatia’s security readiness by visiting airports, border crossings and ports, and this week it will visit a migrant reception center and have several meeting with representatives of the Croatian authorities.
In recent years, Croatia’s officials also met with representatives of the US Attorney’s Office, the Terrorist Screening Center and FBI.
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in August that Croatia joining the VWP was also important for Croatia’s bid to join the Schengen area.