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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2001

Media Note

Periodic Review of Visa Waiver Program Participants Commences

The State Department, in conjunction with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other Department of Justice agencies, announces that it is initiating a review of six countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program. This review is in accordance with legislation signed into law in October 2000. As mandated by this law, all twenty-nine participating countries must be reviewed at least once every five years to ensure that they are in compliance with all of the program's requirements. The first six countries have been chosen as part of that regular five- year review process. These first six countries are Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay.

Congress created the Visa Waiver Program as a pilot program in 1986 to allow travelers from participating countries to enter the U.S. for business or pleasure without a visa if they intend to stay for 90 days or less. In order to qualify for this program, each country must meet specific criteria including effective border controls, law enforcement cooperation, traditionally low visa refusal rates for its citizens, reciprocity for U.S. citizen travelers, and passport security. Each country must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) in place or be developing such a program at the time of nomination. The Department of State works closely with the Immigration Naturalization Service, the Attorney General and other agencies of the Department of Justice throughout the nomination and review process. Each of the qualifying criteria and any other concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure the continuing law enforcement and security interests of the United States. A written report is sent to Congress to explain each country's continuation or removal from the Visa Waiver Program.

The twenty-nine countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program are: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

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