United States Expands Visaless Travel

Travel to countries like South Korea, Lithuania, Hungary and others without a visa.


Red tape—every traveler’s worst enemy—just got a little looser. Last week, President Bush announced that visas will no longer be required for U.S. citizens visiting the following seven nations: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea. By joining the visa waiver program, it means that the visa process for Americans planning long trips or to work or study in these nations will be streamlined.

Perhaps more importantly, travelers from these nations will enjoy much easier travel to the United States by being able to register online and stay for up to 90 days without a visa—a move that the Travel Industry Association predicts will mean hundreds of thousands more visitors annually.

“Expansion of the Visa Waiver Program is a momentous leap forward for the American economy and proof that we can simultaneously strengthen America’s security and welcome additional visitors,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of TIA. “We applaud the Administration and Congress for taking this important step in reversing the significant decline in overseas travel to the United States since 9/11.”

Open Arms for Foreign Travelers 

Besides cutting down on paperwork for travelers, the move is a diplomatic one, since visa requirements for the United States’ NATO allies has long been a sore point. The seven new countries will be joining 27 other visaless nations, all of which are considered U.S. allies, and Bush also expressed hope that other European friends—including Bulgaria, Greece, Poland and Romania—would soon be awarded visa exemptions as well.

Bush made the announcement at a press conference alongside representatives from the seven impacted nations.

“For years the leaders of these nations have explained to me how frustrating it is for their citizens to wait in lines and pay visa fees to take a vacation or make a business trip or visit their families here in the United States,” said Bush. “These close friends of America told me that it was unfair that their people had to jump through bureaucratic hoops that other allies can walk around.”

Will the looser requirements mean more American travelers to some of these less-trafficked destinations? Estonia has been on my trip list for a while, so it’s good to know that when I do go it will be a bit easier than ever to do so.

Destinations: Slovakia, Estonia, South Korea, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Hungary

Themes: Family Travel

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