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End to US visas just around the corner

SLOVAKS are just days away from travelling to the US without visas, the SITA newswire wrote on November 12.

SLOVAKS are just days away from travelling to the US without visas, the SITA newswire wrote on November 12.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced late last month that it is adding Slovakia, along with six other countries, to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as of November 17, the nineteenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

“I am glad to be here personally to carry this message to the people of the Slovak Republic, to thank them for working with us to make this possible and to extend an invitation to the people of the Slovak Republic to come to visit visa free, starting from November 17,” US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told journalists during a visit to Bratislava on October 28.

Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said the move signals that “the last remnants of the Iron Curtain has fallen.”

Chertoff also praised the cooperation between US and Slovak authorities.

“There is no advantage in allowing criminals to travel back and forth in European countries unknown by the authorities,” Chertoff said.

He added that it was a “tremendous privilege” to be the first to announce the news.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Diana Štrofová admitted that she had an emotional response to the announcement.

She commented that it will improve US-Slovak relations at every level, be it the economic, artistic, or academic.

Especially where economic relations are concerned, the visa requirement represented a big hurdle, she added.

“Particularly high-powered businessmen considered it undignified to have to queue in front of the US Embassy and ask for a visa,” Štrofová said. “So the visa waiver has opened a wide spectrum of opportunities to travel.”

Before travelling to the US, Slovaks will need only a number from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and a biometric passport. Applications for an ESTA number can be downloaded from the US Embassy’s website and submited electronically.

The decision to lift the visa requirement does not affect the need to obtain a visa for work or study purposes.

The other countries added to the VWP are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and South Korea. Of the countries that entered the EU in 2004, only citizens from Malta, Cyprus and Poland still need visas. Citizens from Romania, Bulgaria and Greece still need them too.

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