Seven new countries gain visa-free access to US

October 18th, 2008 - 12:54 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 17 (DPA) The US is admitting seven more countries to its visa waiver programme after finalising security arrangements, President George W. Bush announced Friday.Within one month, citizens of the the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea will be able to visit the US for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

Bush called it a “new chapter in the relationship between the US and your nations”.

“It is a testament to the strong bonds of friendship that unite our people,” he said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden, joined by ambassadors from the seven countries and six other potential candidates.

The announcement expands the US visa waiver programme to 34 countries.

Six others - Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland and Romania - are on track to join the programme at a later date.

Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Industry Association (TIA), said the announcement would help reverse a “significant decline” in travel to the US since the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In 2007, two million fewer people visited the US than in 2000, despite a weak dollar, according to the TIA.

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