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Croatians Eligible for Visa Waiver Program Starting December 1

Nationals of Croatia will be soon be eligible to apply for visa-free business or tourist visitor travel to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security announced today in coordination with the State Department. Starting no later than December 1, 2021, Croatia will be added to the list of 39 countries already in the B-1/B-2 Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and Croatian nationals will be able to apply for visa-free visitor travel through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Visa Waiver Program generally

The Visa Waiver Program permits citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for up to 90 days without first obtaining a B visa. For B-1 business visitors, activities in the United States must conform to the standard allowable B-1 business activities.

To travel under the VWP, applicants must apply through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) online application, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) up to 72 hours in advance of travel. 

ESTA authorizations are generally valid for two years, but foreign nationals must re-apply in certain circumstances such as obtaining a new passport, a name change, or a change in circumstances that affects eligibility. ESTA authorizations are not a guarantee of admission to the United States; CBP makes an admissibility determination at the port of entry.

Related travel issues

The Biden Administration has announced that in the month of November 2021, it will implement a new vaccination requirement for most foreign travelers. Details of the vaccination policy are not yet publicly available, but it will supplement the Administration’s current COVID testing requirement for all international travelers. Croatia is not a part of the European Schengen Area, so those physically present in the country and seeking to enter the United States have not been subject to the European regional COVID bans.

What inclusion of Croatia in the Visa Waiver Program means for Croatian nationals and their employers

Eligible Croatian nationals and their employers will benefit from eased requirements on business visitor travel to the United States as a result of Croatia’s inclusion in the VWP. Advance planning will remain important, however, as ESTA authorization takes at least 72 hours and can extend beyond that timeframe. 

Foreign nationals deemed ineligible for participation in the Visa Waiver Program by ESTA, perhaps due to prior law enforcement or immigration compliance issues, will generally need to apply for a B visa at a U.S. consulate. DHS advises travelers with existing B-1/B-2 visas to continue to use those visas for visitor travel to the United States.

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