The US President, George W Bush, officially added seven new countries to the visa waiver program. The security arrangements have been finalized and in another month, visitors from Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea will be able to enter the US for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.
Although they do not need visa for the short stay, nationals from the countries in the Visa Waiver program have to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a free online authorization, to pass border security. Visitors can apply up to 72 hours prior to travel to US, and once approved, frequent travelers can use the same ESTA for over a period of two years. If a national of any of these countries already have a US visa, he or she need not apply for ESTA.
The inclusions of the new countries have taken the number of countries in the US visa waiver program to 34 countries. The US is likely to add six more countries to this list in future, namely – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland and Romania.
While it seems that this inclusion is a reciprocating gesture in the part of US for military assistant tended by these countries, the US travel industry has welcomed the move is a timely intervention for the recent decline in tourism to US.
Take note that anyone wishing to stay longer than 90 days or journalists and students, will have to apply for a regular visa.