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Taken Questions
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 15, 2002
Question Taken at July 12, 2002 Daily Press Briefing

Visa Waiver Program

Question:  What is the status of the review of the Visa Waiver Program?

Answer:  The Visa Waiver Program does not "waive" any requirements for entry into the United States. All applicants to the program must still demonstrate, upon arrival at a port of entry, their eligibility to be admitted. Applicants unable to do so are denied entry into the United States by the INS. We remind you that a visa does not grant foreign nationals entry into the United States, but only allows them to apply for admittance to an INS officer at the port of entry. Persons in possession of valid visas must also apply for admittance to an INS officer at the port of entry. INS also conducts a name-check for every foreign national applying for entry to the United States. The name-check system includes information from all intelligence and other federal agencies.

To be eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, a country must have a Non-Immigrant Visa applicant refusal rate of less than 3%, a machine readable passport program in place, demonstrate that adequate safeguards against fraudulent use of their passports are in place, and be sufficiently stable to ensure that conditions which could affect the program qualifying criteria are not likely to change in the future.

Additionally, Visa Waiver Program countries must have effective border controls in place for all territory under their control and the country’s law enforcement must demonstrate sufficient cooperation with U.S. counterparts as well as international entities such as Interpol. Security is our first and foremost priority in the visa process.

Participating countries are periodically reviewed as a matter of routine. We worked with INS to review six countries last year. Joint INS/Department of State teams visited Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay in November and December. Argentina was removed from the program under the Attorney General’s emergency authority. We await INS to finish its report and present it to the Department for formal consultations. For comment on the status of the report, we refer you to INS.

Countries are admitted to the Visa Waiver Program only after the Attorney General has submitted a report on the qualifications of the particular country, including a favorable determination, to Congress.

For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, we refer you to our website: