NBTA Praises Visa Waiver Expansion

The National Business Travel Association praised the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) currently underway to include eight more nations in the program, which will enable travelers from those countries to travel to the United States for 90 days or less for business or pleasure without obtaining a formal visa. The program is aimed to create the free flow of travel and economy between the United States' most important business and trade partners around the world. The expansion is taking place under a new framework established for the program last year that creates a stronger, more open U.S. border by applying more robust security standards to VWP.

The United States and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday that will pave the way for the Republic of Korea to become a participant in VWP. The announcement follows the signing of similar bilateral MOUs in recent months between the United States and Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and the Slovak Republic. Together, the eight nations being added to the program represent more than one million travelers to the United States annually, a number that is expected to grow under VWP status.

"The expansion of the Visa Waiver Program is a victory for the people and the economy of the United States and for the eight countries to be added to the program," said NBTA president & CEO, Kevin Maguire. "As a long-standing advocate for the expansion of VWP, NBTA congratulates the Administration, particularly Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, for spearheading the expansion; the Congress for having the vision to pass the law laying the groundwork for expanding VWP participation while strengthening the program's security standards; and the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea and the Slovak Republic."

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade estimates entry into VWP will save Korean travelers to the Unites States a minimum of US$102.7 million spent annually obtaining U.S. visas.

NBTA's Maguire said, "We often hear stories about deals lost by U.S. companies, or large meetings held in other destinations, because the costs for getting a U.S. visa are too high. By adding new VWP countries we can avoid some of these bad-news stories and instead create more good-news stories for American companies working with businesses abroad. We look forward to the addition of these eight nations to VWP, and we encourage further expansion of the program in the near future."