Cyprus Begins Procedures for US Visa Waiver Programme Membership

The Cypriot government has submitted a bill to the House of Representatives plenary, deemed as one of the steps towards joining the US Visa Waiver Programme.

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Once the bill is approved, the agreement signed between the US and Cyprus in June 2024, will be ratified. This agreement establishes the sharing of travel information between the two countries, including here risk assessment of people capable of terrorist acts, Schengen.News reports.

Romania and Bulgaria, together with Cyprus are in the process of joining the visa-free programme, same as they were in the process of Schengen accession. While Bulgaria and Romania have partially joined the Schengen Area, Cyprus has yet to meet all standards set by the EU.

Cypriots to Visit the US Visa-Free by 2025, the Government Says

Cyprus and the US initiated their strategic dialogue earlier this month, which on top of joining the visa-free programme, also intends to bring the two countries closer.

Some of the fields that the agreement aims at establishing cooperation include travel information. That means evaluating, reviewing and exchanging information regarding travel.

According to the Cyprus government’s spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis, the goal is to join the US Visa Waiver Programme by the end of the year, or in early 2025, which could indicate that Cypriots could be visiting the US visa-free in a matter of six months.

Under to American Visa-Waiver Programme, Cypriot citizens who obtain an e-passport with an electronic chip would be permitted entry to the US and seek admission to travel within the 50-state territory for up to 90 days.

Their visa can be a B-1 business or B-2 tourism category but by joining the programme, Cypriots be excluded from applying at the US embassy or having face-to-face interviews.

US Granted Thousands of Visas to Romania, Bulgaria & Cyprus Citizens in 2023

According to the official data of the US Department of State, Cypriot citizens were granted 5,537 visas in 2023, up by 50.4 per cent compared to the previous year.

However, the US authorities have issued most visas out of all three countries to Romanians. In 2023, 60,474 visas were granted to this nationality – an increase of 70 per cent.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted application rates and, consequently approval rates, Romanians are the only nationality that has nearly reached pre-pandemic levels in terms of visas issued – 60,482 recorded in 2019 compared to 60,474 in 2023.

Bulgarians received 20,601 US visas in 2023. That is up by 46.8 per cent compared to 2022 and 8.5 per cent below pre-pandemic levels (22,517).