The United States of America has announced that Croatia will be the latest country to be added to its Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Croatian nationals will now be able to visit the US without a visa for tourism or business.
Croatia is the 40th country to be added to the US VWP list. It joins 23 of its fellow European Union (EU) countries and various other nations whose citizens currently enjoy visa exemption for the United States.
Holders of Croatian passports will no longer need to apply for a B1/B2 visa at an embassy to visit the USA. Instead, they will simply have to fill in a quick online form to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The ESTA platform will be updated to include Croatian travelers before December 1, 2021.
The news comes less than 2 months after the US formally nominated Croatia for VWP membership.
The decision to add Croatia to the VWP has been praised by leaders in both countries. It is seen as a landmark in the relationship between the Balkan nation and the US and will strengthen economic and security cooperation between the two states.
How Will Travel to the US Change for Croatians?
As part of the US Visa Waiver Program, Croatia’s citizens will be able to visit the United States without going through the lengthy process of applying for a tourist (or business) visa.
Until now, Croatian nationals had to make an appointment at an Embassy of the United States of America, such as the one in Zagreb. It was necessary to bring the supporting paperwork in person and submit it at the Embassy itself to obtain either a B1 (business), B2 (tourism), or B1/B2 (combined tourism and business) visa for the States.
Due to the recent decision, this long process is no longer necessary.
Instead, Croatians can apply for an ESTA visa waiver online by completing a quick form. This takes a short time and can be done using any computer or device connected to the internet.
The days of submitting applications at embassies are over. From now on, holders of Croatian passports can register with ESTA without leaving the house.
Terms of the ESTA for Croatians under the VWP
Once approved, the ESTA is valid for 2 years, allowing Croatians to visit the US as many times as they like during this period.
Each stay can last up to 90 days.
Croatians can use the US ESTA for leisure and business purposes. However, for other activities, such as work, the visa waiver agreement will not apply. They will need to obtain the appropriate type of US visa to cover their trip.
The ESTA can be used to arrive in the US by air or cruise ship, but not by crossing the land borders.
How Did Croatia Join the American VWP?
To become a part of the US Visa Waiver Program, countries must meet a number of requirements.
These relate to the following criteria:
- The use of e-passports
- Having a visitor refusal rate below 3%
- Security-related data sharing with the United States
- Timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports
- Maintenance of counterterrorism measures
- Effective law enforcement
- Well-maintained border and immigration control
- High document security standards
- Close cooperation with US law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities
Croatia has met each of the requirements set by the US. As a result, the American government has decided to amend the US visa policy and add Croatia to the visa-waiver list.
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated that Croatia’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program was “an important recognition of our countries’ shared economic and security interests.”
He went on to congratulate Croatia for becoming the 40th member of the VWP after meeting the strict requirements. “I look forward to our continued close cooperation on key priorities,” he said.
Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department spoke at a press conference, saying the department was “pleased” with the result. Praising the decision by Homeland Security, she went on to say:
“Croatia is a trusted partner and NATO ally, and travel between our countries both increases and deepens our strong ties.”
On the Croatian side, President Milanovic has said that the country’s membership of the VWP was a foreign policy goal. He added that it will deepen the ties between Croatia and the US.
According to the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the decision is an “impetus” for strengthening relations with the United States.
Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs for the EU voiced her approval of the move from the US, saying “I’m very grateful to you for the update, and indeed the decision, on Croatia.”