NEWS
Visa Waiver Program
Sep 25, 2008
By Gustavs Plato
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

Twenty-seven countries currently are in the program. The Republic of Latvia is one of 8 countries that are next in line for joining the VWP.

The Department of State has a detailed description of the Visa Waiver Program at the following address:
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html#vwp

LatCham supports the VWP and believes that this program is a good enabler for building strong business and personal networks between Latvia and the United States. The US and Latvian governments have been working for several months to work through the details/conditions of Latvia being accepted into the program. They are close, but the work is not yet complete.

On September 18, 2009, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Latvia released the following:

On 18 September, the Latvian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the United States of America, Andrejs Pildegovics, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Homeland Security Department, Stewart Baker, and a representative of the Department of Justice, Kenneth P. Mortensen, initialed the text of the agreement between the Governments of the Republic of Latvia and the United States of America "On Enhancing Co-operation in the Prevention and Fighting of Serious Crime" in its final version. In order for the agreement to take effect, it must be signed by both parties.

The purpose of the agreement is to prevent and fight serious crime, especially terrorism. The agreement anticipates that both parties will exchange information on persons who have committed crimes. The agreement provides the procedure for transferring information and also includes principles for the protection of personal information.

By co-ordinating the aforesaid intergovernmental agreement, Latvia is the first of the candidate countries to have completed the consultation process with the U.S. on completion of the necessary preconditions for participating in the U.S. Visa Free Programme. As is known, Latvia was also one of the first candidate countries to sign, on 12 March, a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. regarding the Visa Waiver Program.

(end of text)


Press Contact
Press Centre Division: (371) 67016272
Fax: (371) 67828121
K.Valdemara street 3, LV 1395, Riga
E-mail: media@mfa.gov.lv

However, the Visa Waiver Program is still being discussed on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Hearings were held on September 24, 2009. The Heritage Foundation has developed a very good overview of the current status of the program and recommends that Capitol Hill listens to DHS about the latest developments/progress in the program. (http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/wm2076.cfm)

LatCham will keep you posted on the latest developments for Latvia's admittance into the VWP.

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