Croatian citizens could travel to the United States without visas as early as the end of this year, said a US Homeland Security official who is in Croatia this week to make a final assessment of Croatia’s readiness to enter the visa-free regime, reports HRT.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will make the final decision on Croatia’s readiness to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). A US ministry delegation is in Croatia this week to prepare a final report.
Serena Hoy, the ministry’s international affairs secretary, told Hina that Mayorkas would make the decision by the end of September.
If everything goes according to plan, we believe that Croatia will be in the VWP by the end of the year, she said, adding that the delegation of the relevant ministry is optimistic that this will be the case.
After abolishing visas for travel to the USA for tourist and business purposes, Croatian citizens will apply through the Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA). Passengers will apply no later than 48 hours before the flight, and it will cost $14.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially nominated Croatia for VWP in early August, and the US embassy announced in February that Croatia met less than 3 percent of rejected visa applications – 2.69 percent at the time.
Hoy pointed out that this criterion is one of the most demanding and that there are many countries that want to join the visa-free regime, but it is difficult for them to overcome this obstacle.
Currently, VWP has all EU member states except Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Membership in the regime is assessed every two years, and exclusion is possible, which happened to Argentina in 2002, and Uruguay in 2003, according to the pages of the Congress.
A prerequisite for VWP is strengthening security cooperation and the mutual sharing of information between candidate countries and the United States.
The US delegation, among other things, assessed Croatia’s security readiness by visiting airports and border crossings, and ports, and this week it will visit a reception center for migrants and have several meetings with representatives of the Croatian authorities.
In recent years, the Croatian side has also met with representatives of the US Attorney’s Office, the Terrorist Investigation Center, and the FBI.
In August, Interior Minister Davor Božnović emphasized that Croatia’s accession to the VWP would be important for Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area.
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