Cypriot Citizens Could Soon Benefit from Joining US Visa Waiver Program

The criteria for countries being eligible to join the Visa Waiver Program is regularly reviewed and we have seen with the recent addition of Poland into the VWP and the US government is continually working with other countries to help get to a position where they can join.

The latest news for citizens of Cyprus is that the Cypriot authorities have established a working group with the US to take steps towards joining the US Visa Waiver Program. The US has been working with a number of countries known as ‘road map countries’ since 2005 to help them to fit the criteria required for them to be accepted into the VWP by the US.

If Cyprus does become a member of the Visa Waiver Program, this means that citizens will be able to benefit from being able to apply for an ESTA for authorization for visiting the US. Currently, Cypriot citizens must apply for a B1 or B2 visa to enable them to visit the US.

If accepted into the VWP, citizens of Cyprus will benefit from the much easier process of applying for an ESTA instead of a visa. The main criteria for countries to join the VWP, is that the country has a B1/B2 visa rejection rate of less than 3% for their nationals.

The ESTA is much quicker to apply for and to process, which makes it a much easier way to visit the US for business, tourism, medical or transit purposes. The ESTA is for visits to the US for up to 90 days, making it ideal for short visits.

Since the VWP was established in 1986, the US has been working with lots of countries to give their citizens the benefits of being part of the VWP. There are many European countries that are members, with Greece having joined in 2010, the latest addition being Poland earlier this year. Recently, Croatian officials announced that they were getting closer to agreeing to join the VWP with the US, so citizens of Croatia may also enjoy the benefits of applying for ESTA.

As well as needing to demonstrate the visa refusal rate of lower than 3%, the countries that are accepted into the VWP must:

  • Be considered a sovereign state
  • Have a low level of passport fraud and a system to track lost/stolen passports
  • Have a high Human Development Index
  • Have a high-income economy
  • Share data with the US
  • Have low numbers of citizens that over-stay their visas
  • Have counterterrorism and border control organizations

Citizens of Cyprus may soon be able to holiday in the US by simply filling in the online ESTA form rather than attending their US Embassy for an interview. The other key benefit for them is that it costs less to apply for an ESTA than it does for a visa, so it will be cheaper for them to take a trip to US. An ESTA is also valid for two years, or up until the passport it is linked to expires (whichever date is soonest), they can visit the US multiple times using the same ESTA whilst it is still valid.

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