On Tuesday May 2, the European Commission released a statement saying that US tourists won’t require visas to travel to Europe. The announcement comes despite opposition from the European Parliament. There have been concerns as the Trump administration has refused to allow US visa free travel under the US visa waiver program for citizens of five EU member states - Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Instead of applying for a B1/B2 visit visa in person at the US Embassy most EU nationals can apply online using ESTA Electronic System for Travel Authorisation for a visit visa under the visa waiver program. This is much easier and cheaper.
As reported by Workpermit.com on April 22, 2017 MEPs reached an agreement that would require American citizens to have additional travel documents when visiting the EU, following a ‘show of hands’ vote. However, the European Commission has resisted calls for US tourists to be hit with visa requirements to visit EU countries.
The EU commissioner for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “The European Union will always choose engagement, commitment, and passionate diplomacy over any form of unilateral retaliation.”
Currently, the Trump administration has rejected demands to lift US visa requirements imposed on citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Canada also has restrictions in place for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.
Consequently, in March, lawmakers within the EU parliament passed a ‘non-binding resolution’ urging the EU Commission to reinstate visas for US and Canadian citizens. However, EU officials are concerned that this tit-for-tat measure would only serve to make travel to the US and Canada even more difficult for EU citizens.
How did the EU-US visit visa war start?
In April 2014, the European Commission became aware that the US – plus Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan – had failed to deliver reciprocal visa waiver rights for its citizens that Europe offered in return.
The Commission issued a two-year deadline for these countries to bring their visa programmes in line with those offered to their citizens by Europe. However, with those countries failing to meet the deadline, the Commission took action.
Consequently, Australia, Brunei and Japan have since lifted their visa requirements, with Canada likely to follow suit by the end of 2017. However, the US has failed to act.
Responding to Europe’s questioning about why Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot, Polish and Romanian citizens are being denied US visa-free travel, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs specified that those nations ‘do not yet meet security requirements for the US VWP.’
US and EU officials to meet in June to ‘iron out differences’
Avramopoulos has stated that a ministerial meeting will take place in June with US delegates in a bid to resolve the dispute. The Commissioner has also taken steps to clarify many points concerning the EU-US visa war by contacting the secretary of US homeland security, John F. Kelly, directly.
However, the EU Commission’s decision to stick with visa-free travel for US citizens has prompted a backlash from the EU Parliament, which views the choice as a complete capitulation as a result of fearing the US. It’s likely that Parliament will now take the Commission to the European Court of Justice to contest the issue.
Current EU laws dictate that the Commission should reinstate visas for US citizens because of their unwillingness to lift restrictions on the five EU member states caught up in the dispute.
However, the Commission is hoping to sway critics by arguing the marginal success it has had with similar issues involving Canada, believing that this is the best strategy going forwards.
Despite initial restrictions, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who have held a Canadian temporary visa or currently possess a valid US non-immigrant visa, can now travel visa-free to the US. By the beginning of December, it’s understood that Bulgarian and Romanian citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to Canada.
Avramopoulos said: “Romanian and Bulgarian travellers will become visa free as of December 1st of this year.”
Workpermit.com can help with E1, E2, L1, H1B, B1 in lieu of H1B, E3 Visas, EB5 visas and other types of US Visas
For more information, or to find out if you are eligible for an US work visa, contact WorkPermit.com on 0344 991 9222.