A twenty third EU member state is expected to be added to the United States' Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) in early 2010 with an invitation extended to Greece to join. Although no official announcement has come from Washington yet, diplomats and officials on both sides have told Europolitics that it is only a matter of timing at this stage. An entry date is likely to be chosen in January or early February to coincide with a visit to Washington by a senior Greek government official - possibly the prime minister - who will be on the first flight to arrive after admission to the programme. Including all 27 EU member states on the VWP, which allows travellers to stay up to 90 days in the US without needing a visa, remains a priority for the European Commission.

Following close on the heels of Greece for membership will probably be Cyprus, which should enter once it begins producing biometric passports, a pre-requisite for the VWP. But the path looks much trickier for the other three EU countries not yet included - Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. For them entry remains barred due to the fact that the percentage of their citizens applying for a US visa and being rejected exceeds the 3% threshold laid out in the VWP. Their refusal rates are, respectively, 17.8%, 13.5% and 26.3%. The US secretary of homeland security used to have the discretion to raise that threshold to 10% if the countries complied with various counter-terrorism co-operation requirements. But the secretary lost that discretion in July 2009 and will only regain it if the US administration finishes rolling out a programme to...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT