Bulgaria moves closer to visa-free travel

June 18, 2008 at 6:38 PM

WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) -- The continued improvement of airport security in Bulgaria has resulted in the first steps toward enlisting the country in visa-free travel to the United States.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin signed an interim declaration Wednesday acknowledging the security enhancements that have been made at Bulgarian airports and the ongoing improvements required for the DHS visa waiver program, the DHS reported.

The program's required security improvements include enhancing border screening and a greater information exchange on terrorist suspects. Additionally, the visa waiver program, which currently includes 27 countries from Asia and Europe, requires that Bulgaria develop an air marshals program and also allow U.S. Federal Air Marshals to conduct security operations.

"I commend the Republic of Bulgaria for its commitment to these enhancements and our shared values of freedom and security," Chertoff said in a statement. "I look forward to the day when we greet the first visa-free travelers from Bulgaria on our soil."

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