Croatian passport holders may soon be able to travel to the United States with only a travel authorization, without needing to apply for a tourist or visitor visa in advance (B1/B2), as the US Ambassador in Croatia has announced that the country has met another very important criterion to become part of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The US Ambassador in Croatia, Victoria J. Taylor herself, announced the news through a tweet in her official Twitter account, explaining that the final refusal rate for Croatian tourist/business visa applicants fell to 2.69 per cent last year, thus meeting the criterion of a rejection rate lower than three per cent.
“We look forward to Croatians travelling to the United States visa-free in the near future,” she wrote.
She, however, could not say an exact date when Croatia would be added to the list of countries part of the Visa Waiver Program, the citizens of which can enter the US visa-free for tourism and business purposes.
“We’re not quite ready to announce a specific date. But the United States remains focused on working with the Croatian Government partners to meet all remaining security requirements, the teamwork continues,” she said.
She also thanked the Croatian government, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs for all their works in meeting the requirements for the VWP and for their commitment to meet the remaining criteria.
“We will continue to cooperate closely with Croatia and complete all remaining VWP requirements,” she wrote while also thanking her followers for all their messages and “celebratory gifs to mark the occasion.”
Back in February 2020, the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Gordan Grlic Radman and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had disused the issue of visa-free travel to the US for Croatians during a meeting held in Munich.
At the time, the US Embassy in Zagreb had claimed that Croatia is closer than ever to meeting the last criteria to join the US Visa Waiver Program, what would enable Croatian passport holders to travel to the US by only obtaining an online travel authorization known as the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
Among important criteria for a country to join the VWP program is to have a rejection rate of B1/B2 visas under three per cent of the total number of applications received by the US embassy in that particular country.
In 2018 Croatia had a rejection rate of almost six per cent, while in 2019, the rejection rate fell to almost four per cent. Now the rejection rate is under three per cent, which means that the criterion has been met.
Currently, all Schengen Area Member States are part of the US visa-free travel program. However, the four EU countries that are not part of the Schengen Area – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania – are not part of the scheme, which means their citizens have to obtain a visa in order to travel to the US for tourism and business.