Amidst Economic Chaos, Greece Joins Visa Waiver Program

On March 9, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the designation of Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP info from CBP)— “strengthening passenger information sharing and ensuring strict security standards while streamlining travel for Greek citizens visiting the United States.”

“Our efforts to guard against terrorism while enhancing legal travel and trade depend upon close collaboration with our international partners,” said Secretary Napolitano. “I commend our partners in Greece for committing to strong screening and security standards and enhanced information sharing for travel by Greek citizens to the United States as we work together to protect our citizens and strengthen our economies.”
Greece’s VWP designation represents a major step forward in the continued and long-standing economic and security partnership between the United States and Greece—reflecting more than two years of coordination between the two countries on Greece’s entry into VWP.

In accordance with the VWP designation process, DHS determined that Greece complies with key security and information-sharing requirements—such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States; timely reporting of lost and stolen passports; and the maintenance of high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards. In turn, Greek citizens will be permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

With this announcement, Greece joins the 35 nations already participating in VWP—established as a pilot program in 1986 to help eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel and made permanent on October 30, 2000. Like VWP travelers from other countries, Greek citizens will be required to apply for an Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) through the Web-based system. Greek citizens will be able to visit the United States without visas in approximately 30 days.

Read the full announcement here.

Can you remember any other country placed in the VWP amidst an economic crisis in that country?  I don’t know, I can’t recall, but I’m curious.  Here is a timeline of the Greek economic crisis from Reuters.

It looks like on the same day the VWP was announced, Greece President Papandreou was visiting Washington and was quoted as saying that President Obama encouraged Athens’ effort to curb speculators who they blame for worsening the debt crisis.

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece
in the Oval Office, March 9, 2010. 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Two days after this announcement, public and private sector workers went on strike in Greece grounding flights, shutting schools and halting public transport in the second nationwide walkout.