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[Diplomatic News] U.S. Could Waive Visa Requirements for Koreans

[Diplomatic News] U.S. Could Waive Visa Requirements for Koreans

Posted September. 23, 2005 07:33,   


The Heritage Foundation, a Washington DC think-tank, has recently published many reports and articles on the visa process. What is worth noticing is that the foundation argued that the US needed to expand its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and that the Republic of Korea, India, Poland, and Czech Republic should be included in the VWP.

James Carafano, a Senior Research Fellow of the foundation, recently stressed in a Congressional hearing that the U.S. should prepare a roadmap so that these countries’ citizens can visit the US without visas in the next five years. Balbina Hwang, a Korean American analyst of the foundation, pointed out that strict regulations on visa issuance damage the image of the U.S. among Koreans.

The VWP is long-desired by the Korean government and its citizens. At the same time, however, this issue has hurt the pride of Koreans. Although there are 27 VWP countries (though mostly advanced countries, including European countries, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore), Korean citizens still have to have visas to visit the US. Against this backdrop, it is surprising that the VWP issue is being raised in DC instead of Seoul.

The ROK and the U.S. have streamlined the visa issuance procedure from September 15 for Koreans aged 55 and above, and those on their honeymoon to Hawaii through working group meetings.

“The recent development is a pilot test to prepare for the VWP,” said a source in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. “The U.S. government will closely watch developments regarding the visa issue.”

Will Koreans eventually be able to visit the US without visas?

“Not in the very short term, but Korea might be included in the VWP,” said U.S. Consul General Michael Kirby on September 22. “I am discussing issues of qualification procedures with the Korean government so that Korea can be included in the VWP in a possible expansion of the program.” He added, “Several steps, however, should be taken to be included in the VWP.”

The ROK and the U.S. have had four working group meetings on visa issues and have discussed the issue since December 2004. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the VWP has not been expanded. The prospects for expansion, however, are not solely pessimistic.

One of the qualifications set by the U.S. to be included in the VWP is that the visa rejection rate of the nation should be below three percent.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Korea, Korea’s visa rejection rate was 2.8 percent on September 16, 3.3 percent on September 20, and below three percent in July.

“During the U.S. fiscal year from October 1 last year to this September 30, about 400,000 visa cases were dealt with, and the rejection rate is estimated to be 3.3 percent,” said Consul General Michael Kirby. “We expect to deal with 500,000 cases in the next fiscal year and the rejection rate is predicted to drop to 2.6 percent.”

He added, “If you are qualified, please apply for visa to lower the rejection rate. But illegal conducts should not be made. For example, people who fail to meet the qualifications for a visa should not submit fake documents through brokers.”

He advised that prerequisites for Korea to be included in the VWP are a higher employment rate within the country, the eradication of illegal employment of Korean women in the U.S. sex trade business, the prevention of visa-related fabrications, fraud and evil conducts by brokers, and strict management of passports.

Yi-Young Cho lycho@donga.com