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03 January 2009



Sen.Voinovich's Visa Waver legislation paved way for today’s action

November 14, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Department of State formally nominated the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This nomination formalizes the president’s October 17, 2008 announcement that these countries would be admitted to the VWP this year.

Today’s action was made possible by last year’s passage of U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich’s legislation to reform the VWP the Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007 — which was signed into law by President Bush as part of the 9/11 bill. Specifically, Sen. Voinovich’s legislation enhanced travel security and allowed new countries the opportunity to participate in the VWP

“I am delighted to see these countries inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program,” said Sen. Voinovich, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. ““Our nation can benefit both in terms of national security and economic stability when we work with our friends around the world.

“Their agreement to cooperate with the U.S. on travel security and their participation in the VWP will have a positive impact upon American tourism, business and overall economic competitiveness. I look forward to learning of additional nominations of our allies as they meet the necessary security criteria for participation.”

Nationals of these seven countries will be able to travel to the United Stated without a visa under the VWP beginning Monday, November 17. The VWP enables nationals of certain ally countries to travel to theUnited States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986. Today, 27 countries participate in the VWP and no new countries have been admitted since 1999. The Government Accountability Office estimates the VWP brings in somewhere between $75- $100 billion from travel, tourism and business each year.

“I am pleased the administration is exercising its new flexibilities provided by my legislation,” Sen. Voinovich said.

Sen. Voinovich’s legislation enhanced the VWP’s security requirements while providing the opportunity for new countries to become VWP members. Specifically, these seven countries have agreed to share information on criminals and terrorists with the United States, provide the United States with details on lost and stolen passports and enact other security measures.

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George Brown
Office of Senator George V. Voinovich
1240 E. 9th Street Room 3061
Cleveland, Ohio 44199