Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, designated Croatia as a member of the Untied States Visa Wavier Program on Tuesday. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Tuesday included Croatia in its Visa Waiver Program, permitting citizens of the Balkan nation to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without needing the prerequisite travel document.
Staring Dec. 1, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will be updated to allow Croatians to enter the country for business or travel for up to three months, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
"Croatia's designation as a participant in the VWP is an important step toward further strengthening long-standing economic and security cooperation between the United states and Croatia," the department said.
Croatia is the 40th country to be designated under the program.
"We welcome the decision of the [Department of Homeland Security] of the inclusion of Croatia in the Visa Waiver Program," Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said in a statement. "By realizing this foreign policy priority, we will further strengthen ties."
Ylva Johansson, commissioner for home affairs for the European Union, which Croatia is a member of, also welcomed the move. In a statement, she said she spoke with Mayorkas over the phone who informed her of Croatia's inclusion.
"I'm very grateful to you for the update, and indeed the decision, on Croatia," she said.
The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs also celebrated its country's inclusion, calling it "an impetus" for further deepening of relations.
"The process has been years in the making and is a fulfillment of one of [Croatia's] longstanding foreign policy goals," it said via Twitter.
According to the Department of State's website, a country must meet several requirements to be considered for inclusion in the program, including: enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States, the use of e-passports, having a visitor refusal rate below 3%, timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports and maintenance of high counterterrorism, law enforcement border control and document security standards.
In the United States, Jalina Porter, principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department, told reporters during a press conference that her department was "pleased" with the decision by Homeland Security.
"Our rock-solid relationship with Croatia is built upon shared values, shared security, as well as shared prosperity," she said, stating the Balkan nation's inclusion is "a pivotal milestone" in their partnership and a "testament" to its dedication to meet the standards of qualification.
"Croatia is a trusted partner and NATO ally, and travel between our countries both increases and deepens our strong ties," she said.