Plenum to ratify agreement bringing US visa waiver closer

Another essential step for Cyprus’ inclusion in the USA’s Visa Waiver Programme is anticipated with the Plenum anticipated to ratify a bill on the between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States of America for cooperation regarding the use of travel information, which was signed in Washington on 17 June.

If the bill is passed - something that is expected to happen -, the inclusion of Cyprus in the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) is expected to take place around the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025, with the result that Cypriot citizens who will travel to the United States of America for tourism or professional purposes for a period of up to ninety days will be able to complete an electronic application at minimal financial cost with a response to the application anticipated to be provided as soon as possible.

Cyprus is one of the only three EU countries, along with Romania and Bulgaria, that do not yet participate in the programme, with the Government placing the country's participation in the VWP high on its agenda of priorities, as this will provide multi-layered socio-economic as well as political benefits.

What's in the deal?

According to the data presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, which discussed the bill in the presence of the Minister of Justice, Marios Hartsiotis, the agreement in question establishes the cooperation framework between Cyprus and the USA for the evaluation, review and exchange of travel information, as well as for the development of risk assessments to identify specific persons traveling internationally who may pose a risk to the security of the country of any of the contracting parties.

As the Minister of Justice specifically mentioned, the Republic's benefits from the sanctioned agreement concern, among other things, the strengthening of state security against terrorism and organised crime, the use of high-tech know-how and software, and the facilitation of citizens traveling to the United States of America for various reasons.

According to Hartsiotis, the agreement ensures a greater possibility for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of transnational organised crime, so that it is consistent with the "Umbrella Agreement between the United States of America and the European Union" on the protection of personal data for the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences, signed in Brussels on 2 June 2016 between the European Union and the United States of America.

Sharing of confidential information

It is worth mentioning that the cooperation between Cyprus and the USA includes the sharing of travel information between them to the extent permitted by existing conditions and applicable policies.

Such information shall be confidential and may only be used for specific purposes, namely to assist in the identification of unknown security risks or threats, to detect/trace transnational criminal networks and activities and other threats to border security and/or to identify persons who may pose a threat to the security of the two states.

It is noted that as part of the agreement, the US will provide the Republic of Cyprus with the ATSG software system/platform for the collection and analysis of passenger data free of charge.

The bill can be viewed here, with the text in English following the text in Greek.

(Source: InBusinessNews)

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