Croatian citizens could be able to travel to the United States without visas by the end of this year, reports Hina, a US Department of Homeland Security official who is in Croatia this week is to make a final assessment of the readiness of Croatia to enter the visa-free regime.
Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas will make the final decision on Croatia's readiness to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). A US ministry delegation is in Croatia this week to prepare a final report. Serena Hoy, the ministry's international affairs secretary, told Hina that Mayorkas would make the decision by the end of September.
"And then, if everything goes according to plan, we believe that Croatia will be in VWP by the end of the year," she said, adding that the delegation of the relevant ministry was "optimistic" that this would be the case.
After the abolition of visas for travel to the USA for tourist and business purposes, Croatian citizens will need to apply through the Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA). All passengers to the US would need to check into this system no later than 48 hours before the flight, and check-in will cost $14.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially nominated Croatia for VWP in early August. One of the main criteria to enter the visa-free program was that less than 3 percent of visa applications were rejected. And the US embassy in Zagreb announced in February that Croatia met less this condition, with at that time, 2.69 percent of visa applications rejected.
Hoy pointed out that this criterion is one of the most demanding and that there are many countries that want to join the visa-free regime, but it is difficult for them to overcome this obstacle.
There are currently 39 countries in the WWP - all EU members except Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore and Taiwan.
Membership in the regime is assessed every two years, and exclusion is possible, which happened to Argentina in 2002, and Uruguay in 2003, according to the pages of the Congress.
A prerequisite for VWP is the strengthening of security cooperation and the mutual sharing of information between candidate countries and the United States.
The US delegation, among other things, assessed Croatia's security readiness by visiting airports and border crossings and ports, and this week it will visit a reception centre for migrants and have several meetings with representatives of the Croatian authorities.
In recent years, the Croatian side has also met with representatives of the US Attorney's Office, the Terrorist Investigation Centre and the FBI.