U.S. visa fee could be waived for Balts

  • 2004-07-28
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - The Baltic states have been included in a bill scheduled to be reviewed in the United States Congress that, if passed, would waive the $100 non-immigration visa fee for citizens of states providing military assistance to the U.S.-led Afghanistan and Iraq coalition missions.

The Baltic states have peacekeepers participating in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congressmen William Lipinski, who plans to visit Lithuania in August, and Jack Quinn presented the bill to Congress.
Aside from the Baltics, the congressmen propose to waive the visa fee for citizens of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Hungary.
Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Vygaudas Usackas told the Baltic News Service that while he supported the initiative, he would continue asking the U.S. to cancel visa requirements altogether for Lithuanian citizens.
The Baltic country is also seeking an agreement on dropping visa requirements for short trips to the U.S.
During bilateral consultations held in Washington in late June, Lithuanian representatives presented U.S. officials with their identification system, travel documents and protection, the new EU Lithuanian visa, mechanisms of citizenship granting and passport issuing, and information on the country's state border control.
According to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry, U.S. officials gave Lithuania a positive evaluation in its progress in personal data protection, border control and the battle against illegal migration.
Furthermore, the ministry reported that the Department of Defense agreed to consider sending a special delegation, which would evaluate Lithuania's readiness to participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, to the country at the end of this year.
Lithuania has been applying for a visa-free regime with the United States since 1994.
U.S. State Department officials have repeated that before the visa requirement is waived a country applying must have a refusal rate on nonimmigrant visas below 3 percent.
The current such rate in Lithuania is around 30 percent, U.S. officials stated recently.