Croatia formally nominated to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally nominated Croatia to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

While there are still several steps left to be completed in this process, including a final assessment of Croatia’s eligibility by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I would like to congratulate Croatia on this important milestone and step forward in our relationship.

Entry into the Visa Waiver Program requires meeting many strict requirements, and Croatian authorities have done tremendous work thus far to this end.  I’d like to thank our Croatian partners, particularly the Ministry of the Interior, for their dedicated and diligent work to reach this point.

Upon entry into the Visa Waiver Program, citizens and eligible nationals will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes without visas, after obtaining approval via the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.

Visa Waiver Program entry will have significant practical benefits for Croatians.  It will allow easier planning for short notice travel and trips such as shopping in New York, attending a cousin’s wedding in Pittsburgh, visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona, attending a film festival in Austin, or delivering a research presentation in Boston.

And when Croatian employees of a U.S.-connected firm need to finalize a multi-million-dollar deal in Silicon Valley – the innovation capital of the world – visa-free travel will make their lives much easier.

Aside from the practical, nomination for the Visa Waiver Program affirms Croatia as a close and trusted partner of the United States. Enhanced travel between our two countries will increase and deepen our already strong people-to-people and economic ties.  It takes our already close bilateral relationship and will make it even closer.

And more than that, this step is confirmation of the tremendous progress in Croatia over the past three decades.  The Croatian people have built a strong, vibrant, modern, democratic state, one that is capable of meeting the rigorous requirements of the Visa Waiver Program.  We are proud of your success and we look forward to continuing to advance our partnership. Hvala!

Q&A

Q. What is the Visa Waiver Program?

  • The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of certain designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (B1/B2 visa) for stays of up to 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa.
  • The program’s objective is to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States while increasing security.  The program requirements include that a country have very low rates of nonimmigrant visa refusals and immigration violations, issue secure travel documents and work closely with U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities.

Q:  When will Croatian citizens be able to travel to the United States without visas?

  • After DHS has determined Croatia to be a VWP participant, DHS will announce the date Croatian citizens planning travel for business or tourism (B1/B2 visas) and who meet all other requirements can register via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Q. Who can use the VWP, instead of getting a visa?

  • Citizens of the 39 participant countries may use VWP if:
    • They have been approved for travel under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA);
    • The purpose of their stay in the United States is for tourism or certain business-related purposes that would be permissible on a B visa, and the length of their stay is 90 days or less;
    • They present a valid e-passport (i.e., passports with an integrated chip containing the information from the data page e-passport).
    • They have complied with the conditions of previous admissions under the VWP, and have not been found ineligible for a U.S. visa; and
    • If arriving by air or sea, they are traveling on signatory VWP carriers and have round-trip transportation tickets to any foreign destination.  For more information regarding proof of return transport under the VWP, please visit www.cbp.gov.
    • If arriving by land, they can demonstrate financial solvency and the intent to return to their domicile abroad.

Q.  May Croatian citizens still travel to the United States using a U.S. visa instead of getting an ESTA authorization under the VWP?

  • Travelers who are eligible for the VWP may still apply for a visitor (B1/B2) visa for travel to the United States if they prefer to do so.
  • Travelers who are in possession of a valid U.S. visitor (B1/B2) visa may continue to use that visa until its expiration date.
  • If you do not meet all of the criteria for travel under the VWP, you must apply for a U.S. visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • If you will travel to the United States on a private aircraft or other non-VWP-approved air or sea carrier, you cannot travel under the VWP and will need to apply for a U.S. visa.
  • For more information on the visa waiver program, please see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html or https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/visa-waiver-program 

Q.  How far in advance of travel does one need to apply for ESTA authorization? Can it be done at the airport?

  • ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. The Department of Homeland Security, however, recommends travelers submit their travel authorization applications as early as possible. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA.
  • For more information visit www.cbp.gov

Q.  How long is an ESTA authorization valid?  Do I need to reapply every time I travel to the United States?

  • Travel authorizations are generally valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. 
  • NOTE: The ability to travel under the VWP is based on the nationality of the traveler, not the traveler’s place of birth or residence.

Q. When does a traveler need to apply for a visa instead of using the VWP?

  • Bearers of official and diplomatic passports must obtain A or G visas if they are traveling to the United States for an A or G visa purpose (diplomatic or official).
  • Travelers who do not meet the VWP requirements must apply for a visa.  In particular, a traveler would need to obtain a visa before traveling to the United States if s/he:
  • Has been denied approval to travel under ESTA;
  • Wants to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days, or envisions that he or she may wish to change status (e.g., from tourist to student) once in the United States, as travelers entering under the VWP are generally barred from adjusting to the non-VWP status once in the United States;
  • Wants to work or study in the United States, wants to travel as a working foreign media representative, wants to come to the United States for other purposes not allowed on a B visa (temporary visit for business or pleasure), or intends to immigrate to the United States;
    • Does not have a VWP-compliant passport as described above;
    • Intends to travel to the United States by air or sea carrier, not on the list of signatory carriers (this includes private planes);
    • Has been refused a visa or admission to the United States before, or did not comply with the conditions of previous VWP admissions; or
    • Has a criminal record or other condition making him or her inadmissible to the United States.
    • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to, or been present in, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
    • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

Q.  Who decides which countries are included in the VWP?

  • The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of State, is authorized to designate participants in the VWP, provided the countries meet the applicable requirements.