USA to expand visa-free entry program for several countries
Congress is close to approving legislation to expand a program that allows citizens of some countries to travel to the United States without visas. Nationals of several close allies, including some with troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, appear to be excluded.
Those barred from visaless entry could include Eastern Europeans, many of them citizens of new member states of the European Union. Most EU countries of Western Europe require no visas, a favor granted citizens of some other U.S. allies.
The outline of the visa program began to take shape in a security bill agreed upon Wednesday by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate approved it late Thursday, and the House was expected to pass the bill as early as Friday, sending it to the president to sign into law.
In many of the new EU countries whose citizens still would require visas, inclusion in the visa-waiver program has become a sensitive political issue and a subject of intense diplomatic discussion with the United States. Many NATO members have complained that their support of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not won them entry into the program.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski raised the issue with Bush during a visit to the White House. The administration has expressed support for a limited expansion of the program as a way to reward allies.
The bill moving for final legislative action would make it difficult for many other countries to qualify by setting technical requirements based on the number of a country’s citizens who have been denied visas or exceeded their legal stays in the United States.
One provision requires that countries demonstrate that fewer than 10 percent of recent applicants for U.S. visas have been denied.
According to State Department statistics for the first six months of this year provided by the office of independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who chaired the negotiations on the final bill, countries including Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary would not qualify. Most of those countries come in close to the 10 percent requirement, but Poland and Romania had more than 25 percent of their applicants rejected.
The Czech Republic and Estonia currently would meet the requirement, as would South Korea, which also has made clear it wanted to join the program.
On Thursday, Poland expressed disappointment that the legislation would not allow its immediate entry into the program.
http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/27-07-2007/95364-usa_visa-0:drinks: :drinks: :drinks:
Дай БОГ чтобы конгрес включил и УЗБЕКИСТАН в этот список…:pardon: :pardon: :pardon: