Croatia will be the 40e countries to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The announcement was made by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in coordination with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
By December 1, 2021, the Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA), which is the VWP portal, will be updated to include Croatian citizens and nationals. Once that happens, there will only be three countries in the European Union that are not yet part of the program: Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania.
The VWP allows citizens and nationals of selected countries to enter the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or as a business visitor without having to obtain a B1 / B2 visa. Business visitors include those who come to the country to consult with associates, attend meetings or conventions, negotiate contracts, and participate in short-term training, among other reasons.
While it is not necessary to apply for a B1 / B2 visa once the VWP is available, it is necessary to register with ESTA through the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. . There is an application fee and the applicant must have a valid electronic passport. Electronic passports contain a chip with biographical and biometric information and are identified by a symbol on the front cover. Once issued, the ESTA is usually valid for two years, after which it can be renewed.
Countries participating in ESTA must meet certain eligibility requirements related to anti-terrorism, immigration and law enforcement. They must also have a low nonimmigrant visa denial rate – less than 3%.
In response to the announcement, Croatian President Andrej Plenkovic welcomed the decision, the benefit it will bring to Croatian citizens and the continued strengthening of ties with the United States.
While the VWP makes travel to the United States easier, it does not change any COVID-19 travel restrictions or COVID-19 testing requirements. Additionally, DHS noted that Croatian travelers with valid B1 / B2 visas should continue to use them to travel to the United States.
Jackson Lewis PC © 2021Revue nationale de droit, volume XI, number 279