03 October 2008

Hungary soon part of visa waiver program with U.S.

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Hungary will soon become part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with the U.S., meaning Hungarian tourists will be able to visit America without a visa.

Officials from both countries announced on Wednesday Hungarians will not need an American visa to travel to the country, reports the Associated Press. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Hungary April Foley and Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics said the visa-waiver program is possible between the two countries after Hungary signed a crime-prevention agreement. 

"I am confident that Hungary will be brought into the visa waiver program during the Bush administration, which ends Jan. 20, 2009," Foley said after the signing ceremony.

The agreement will mean that Hungarian tourists will be able to travel American without a visa for America for up to three months.

If the program goes ahead, Hungarian tourists will be able to apply for the new online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).  By early next year, the ESTA will be the mandatory form of identification for travellers to America from those countries who are part of the VWP. 

Currently, the VWP requires travellers to apply for a paper visa to America, but are also given the option to apply for the ESTA online. 

ESTA is a web-based program designed to pre-screen travellers for potential threats to American security.  All personal details will be recorded on a system and archived for 12 years.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, will announce when ESTA is to become mandatory for travellers to America, allowing 60 days notice.  This notice is likely to be published in the Federal Register in November 2008.  The paper visa form (I-94W) will then become an invalid process for VWP nationals to obtain a temporary visa to America.  He added, “Once ESTA is mandatory, all travellers from VWP countries will be required to obtain an ESTA approval prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP.”

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in America visa and immigration services.

Article by Jessica Bird, American Visa Bureau.

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