US and Romanian officials inked a preliminary agreement in Washington on Monday (November 3rd) that brought Romanians a step closer to visa-free travel to the United States.
The interim declaration signed by US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Romanian Ambassador Adrian Vierita outlines the security measures the Balkan nation must implement to be eligible join the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
To achieve that goal, the two countries agreed to work closely to improve the security of international travel and border security and the United States pledged to help Romania develop the required programmes, systems and procedures in those areas.
Development and issuance of electronic passports, enhanced security standards for travel documents and timely reporting of lost and stolen passports are some of the specific measures Romania must implement to become eligible to enter the VWP. Other requirements include better information sharing about international travel and border screening, improved information exchange on known and suspected terrorists, and development of an air marshals' programme.
The regimen, which has been in place for over 20 years, currently includes 27 Asian and European countries.
Last month, the United States decided to extend the VWP to seven more countries, including South Korea and six EU member states -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. Their citizens will be able to travel visa-free to the United States as of November 17th.
Romania, along with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Poland, is in the group of six other EU nations in a so-called "visa waiver road map" process, aimed at allowing them to meet the criteria for winning visa exemptions.
Romania's Vierita said the signing of the interim declaration under the VWP was a "very important day" for his country.
"We know that we are not at the end of the road, and I'm looking forward to that day when Romanian citizens [can] visit without a visa, [can] come to the United States," the Department of Homeland Security quoted Vierita as saying on Monday.
Responding to a reporter's question, Chertoff said he could not "predict" how long it would take before Romania joins the VWP but noted Washington "would like to move forward" as soon as possible.