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Visa-free criteria tough to meet

US officials in Brussels asserted October 18 that they want to "make it easier for citizens of all the EU countries and the US to legally travel and visit each other" and are "looking forward to seeing all the EU countries meet the criteria necessary for a non-visa regime", the TASR news wire reported.

At present, to qualify for the visa-free regime, a country has to meet certain criteria. The main criterion is that the number of rejected applications for a visa must be below 3 percent. The criteria are at present not met by nine of the ten new EU countries (Slovenia being the exception), and Greece.

In addition to the 3-percent rule, there are other hurdles. These include issuing passports capable of being checked electronically (and as of 2005 that include biometric data), and whether they have a non-visa regime towards the US.

All EU countries will be treated separately in these issues.

"Many countries in the US-visa regime are our partners and friends. But the law sets the criteria for the non-visa regime. And it's unchangeable," said the US officials.

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