Croatia to Join Visa Waiver Program
Croatia will be the 40th country to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This announcement was made by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in coordination with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
No later than December 1, 2021, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is the portal for the VWP, will be updated to include citizens and nationals of Croatia. Once that happens, there will be only three European Union countries that are not yet part of the program: Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania.
The VWP allows citizens and nationals of the selected countries to enter the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or as a business visitor without having to obtain a B1/B2 visa. Business visitors include those who are coming to the country to consult with business associates, attend meetings or conventions, negotiate contracts, and participate in short-term training, among other reasons.
Although it is not necessary to apply for a B1/B2 visa once the VWP is available, it is necessary to sign up with ESTA through the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. There is an application fee and the applicant must have a valid e-passport. E-passports contain a chip with biographic and biometric information and are identified by a symbol on the front cover. Once issued, ESTA is generally valid for two years, after which it can be renewed.
Countries that participate in ESTA must meet certain eligibility requirements related to counterterrorism, immigration, and law enforcement. They must also have a low nonimmigrant visa refusal rate – below 3%.
Responding to the announcement, Croatian President Andrej Plenkovic welcomed the decision, the benefit that this will accord Croatian citizens, and the continuing strengthening of ties with the United States.
Although the VWP simplifies travel to the United States, it does not change any COVID-19 travel restrictions, nor does it change COVID-19 testing requirements. Moreover, DHS noted that Croatian travelers who hold valid B1/B2 visas should continue to use them for travel to the United States.