European Union – Visa Waiver Program Threatened

A July 12 deadline was set among the United States and Canada to decide upon its visa waiver program with the European Union.  The EU has lifted visa requirements for the United States and Canada, however, the two countries have not fully reciprocated.  The United States still requires visas for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania.  Canada requires visas from Bulgaria and Romania.

According to U.S. and Canadian law, countries may be excluded from visa waivers if they do not meet certain criteria, such as a 3 percent rate of visa refusals for nationals applying for U.S. visas.  However, under EU law, mutuality is required for visa-waiver agreements.  There is a program in place to suspend visa waivers amongst countries that do not fully reciprocate.

In the European Commission’s report, released July 13, it was stated that the United States would re-instate a requirement of a visa from all members of the EU if the EU were to suspend its visa waiver amongst each other.  This would severely impact the European Union, more so than the five countries it already requires a visa from.  Therefore, the European Commission decided not to suspend the visa waiver policy for the U.S. and Canada.

However, Canada’s Immigration officer announced that it would inform the EU of its assessment and timelines of visa waivers in the fall.  Canada is committed to lift visa requirements for Bulgaria and Romania nationals, but have yet to implement anything.  The U.S. has not implemented any plans to lift its visa requirement for the five EU countries it has against, unless they meet the criteria.