Cypriot officials say they are setting up a task force aimed at including the country in the US visa waiver programme the soonest possible.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides met on Tuesday with US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch, who was paying a working visit to the island.
Christodoulides, along with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and Justice Minister George Savvides, sat down with Risch in order to review progress and conditions for the Republic of Cyprus to qualify for the VWP.
While Risch holds a diplomatic position, his background includes having served as acting chief of staff for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the country's naturalization and immigration bureaucracy that came under the Department of Homeland Security when it was created following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The visa waiver does not remove the visa category for the traveler but it eliminates the need for applying at a US consular or embassy
A State Department statement said Risch, who is also traveling to Greece, “will underscore our deep and sustained commitment to the protection of US citizens overseas and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States.”
Under the VWP, Cypriot passport holders who obtain an e-passport embedded with an electronic chip would be able to arrive at a US Port of Entry and seek admission to travel within the United States for up to 90 days under the B-1 business or B-2 tourism visa categories without applying in advance for a visa at the American Embassy.
The visa waiver does not remove the visa category for the traveler but eliminates the need for applying at a US embassy or having a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer prior to the trip.
The programme, which is currently administered in 39 countries, is reciprocal which means US citizens are also allowed to enjoy the same benefits in the participating countries.
Passport holders of a VWP country must be registered in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), an automated system operated by DHS, which assists in determining travel eligibility to the United States under the VW programme as well as whether such travel would pose any law enforcement or security risks.
Upon completion of an ESTA application, a traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP.
However, ESTA travelers who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen after 28 February 2011, will be required to obtain an actual visa in their passport while some exceptions may apply for diplomatic or military purposes.
Restrictions would also include travelers who may have dual nationality in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria, regardless of their eligibility for a visa waiver.