Current Visa Waiver countries

Asia & the Pacific
Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore

Europe
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K.

At a Rose Garden event Friday morning, President Bush announced plans to bring seven more countries into the Visa Waiver Program -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea -- bringing the total to 34 countries. Bush said the move will be effective "in about a month." The Department of Homeland Security said it’s working toward a target date of Nov. 17.

Under the program, U.S. citizens can travel to Visa Waiver countries without a visa, and the U.S. extends reciprocal privileges to citizens of those countries.

The travel industry has long supported the program as a government policy that facilitates travel and helps to make the U.S. more attractive to foreign visitors.

The Travel Industry Association immediately praised the White House announcement, saying it will help to strengthen the economy and the "global image" of the U.S.

To be eligible, countries must meet a number of criteria related to security and immigration policy, including the issuance of secure passports to deter fraud.

Other countries that are next in line for consideration include Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland and Romania.

Although citizens of Visa Waiver countries do not require a visa, a new program to be implemented in January will require visitors from those countries to transmit passport and itinerary data in advance of their visit via the Internet and wait for a response before beginning their journey. The information is similar to the information already required on arrival on the I-94W form.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is already in effect on a voluntary basis, and the DHS reports that 99.6% of ESTA requests have been approved, the majority "within one minute."

For the seven new countries, however, use of the ESTA system will be mandatory when they enter the Visa Waiver Program in mid-November, the DHS said.

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