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Homeland Security

09 November 2005

United States Extends Visa Waiver for 25 Nations

Status of Italy, Portugal remains under review

Twenty-five nations will maintain eligibility to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), allowing their citizens to enter the United States without applying for a visa, the Department of Homeland Security announced November 8.

Homeland Security is required by law to conduct a review of the participating nations and if they are meeting the requirements set by the Congress for participation. 

Italy and Portugal are also VWP nations, according to a November 8 statement, but their continued status will be announced later because their review is conducted on a different schedule.

To participate in the program, VWP countries must grant the same privileges of visa-free travel to U.S. citizens and maintain a low number of immigration violations and high passport security standards.

The departments of State and Homeland Security work with VWP countries on a ongoing basis to improve information-sharing and enhance security for all travel documents to provide greater safety for the entire traveling public.

For additional information, see Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The full text of the Homeland Security statement follows:

(begin text)

Department of Homeland Security Provides Visa Waiver Program Report to Congress
[Washington, D.C.]

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
November 8, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the completion of a status report on countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as required by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.  As a result of this review, 25 of the 27 participating countries will maintain their current enrollment status in the Visa Waiver Program. Comprehensive reviews of Italy and Portugal are on a different time schedule and the results of those reviews will be released at a later time.

In order to participate in the VWP, countries must satisfy a number of congressional requirements, including visa-free privileges for visiting U.S. citizens, a low number of immigration violations and high passport security standards to protect against the fraudulent use of travel documents. As required by Congress, DHS must carry out reviews of participating countries every two years to determine the effect that each country’s continued participation in the Visa Waiver Program has on U.S. security, immigration and general law enforcement interests.

This most recent assessment of VWP country participation was conducted by an interagency working group led by the Department of Homeland Security in coordination with the Departments of Justice and State. Representatives from these Departments met regularly to review information obtained from relevant federal agencies, U.S. Missions, VWP foreign governments, and site visits.

Information collected during the review and included in the report covers sensitive information relating to terrorism, criminal activities, illegal immigration and alien smuggling, and therefore is classified in accordance with appropriate executive orders. The country reviews are only one requirement for participation in the VWP. Recently announced requirements for VWP countries regarding digital photos passports and e-passports are separate from this country review process.

The Departments of Homeland Security and State continue to work with all VWP countries to improve information sharing and enhance security for all travel documents. As a result of this review, DHS and State have already begun discussions with foreign governments about certain areas where improvements can be made.

The 27 countries participating in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, 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, and the United Kingdom.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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