South Korea wants to join U.S. visa waiver program

Published 26 January 2006

Twenty-seven countries have a visa waiver arrangement with the United States, and South Korea wants to join this exclusive club

South Korea is pressuring the United States to add South Korea to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). There are currently twenty-seven countries on the visa waiver list, of which only three are in Asia (Australia, Japan, and Brunei). The VWP list has not been updated since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The countries on the list must adopt a biometrically enabled passport system by 26 October 2006 to maintain their VWP status.

Note that it is Congress, not the U.S. administration, which authorizes visa waivers. The program is controlled by a law requiring an applicant country to maintain a visa application rejection rate of under 3 percent for one year. South Korea’s visa rejection rate in the past year was under 3.5 percent. South Korean officials believe that the rate will go below the 3 percent level within a year. Even when it meets the 3 percent condition, entry into the program is not automatic as the DHS has to agree that South Korea poses no security threat, sources said.

-read more in this Korea Times report