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U.S. visa requirement not dramatic, Slovak ambassador says

Meeting a 10-percent limit on the number of rejected tourist visa applications to the United States is not any hardship for Slovakia or any other EU country, said Slovakia's Ambassador to the United States, Rastislav Káčer.

This requirement, included in the new American visa-free programme approved by the U.S. Congress, is only an alternative measure that determines how ready a country is to enter the programme, Káčer said.

Another alternative measure is the percentage of people who stay in the U.S. after their visas expire. Though this percentage requirement has not been set, Slovakia does not have any problems with this criterion, the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The new U.S. law would change the maximum proportion of rejected visa applications from a new EU member state from three percent to 10 percent. Countries that don't exceed this limit will have their current visa restrictions abolished.

The law still has to be approved by the American president before it will come into effect.

The ministry considers the new legislation to be a step towards making visa-free travel to the U.S. more secure and accessible.

Slovakia's Deputy Prime Minister Dušan Čaplovič (Smer-SD) said on July 28 that the change in the visa requirement, as passed by the U.S. Congress, will likely lead to an earlier abolition of visas for Slovaks visiting the U.S.A.

The former chairman of the ethnic-Hungarian SMK party, Béla Bugár, said he thinks that U.S. President George W. Bush will sign the law, because he wants to make progress in this area before the end of his term in office.

According to SDKÚ-DS MP Stanislav Janis, this is a more acceptable requirement for a visa-free regime between Slovakia and the U.S.A. It may result from Slovakia's good international standing, which was established during the previous electoral term, Janis said.

LS-HZDS MP Katarína Tóthová and SNS MP Štefan Zelník were more cautious and less optimistic about the conditions.

Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) vice-chairman Martin Fronc said he welcomed the decision of the U.S. Congress.

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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