Colombia: What Would Change or Be Maintained in Sase of not Requiring an American Visa?

LatinAmerican Post analyzes the benefits, changes, or even vices that would remain in the event that the United States exempts Colombians from presenting a tourist visa to enter its territory. How have other countries that do not need an American visa fared? .

Man holding a visa and a boarding pass

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez

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Leer en español: Colombia: ¿Qué cambiaría o se mantendría en caso de no requerir visa americana?

On October 10, news was revealed that surprised all Colombians: their government, commanded by President Gustavo Petro, will ask the United States authorities to eliminate the tourist visa that its citizens must have today to visit United States of America.

According to statements offered by high-powered members of the Colombian government, more than a request, what was done by the authorities of that country was to demand that the United States facilitate the visit of Colombians to its territory.

Now, entering the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is not an easy task, taking into account that a series of non-negotiable conditions must be met, which come from the Government of the North American country:

1. Colombia should issue electronic passports.

2. The visitor visa refusal rate (category B) have to be less than 3%.

3. Have agility when notifying lost and/or stolen passports, whether blank or those that have already been issued to citizens.

4. The exchange of data between both nations, in relation to the security of the United States and the application of the law to maintain it, must be greatly improved.

5. Have and maintain high standards for counter-terrorism, document security and, of course, border control.

Fewer Visas Equals Lower Rates of Insecurity in the United States?

To date, there are a total of 40 countries that are part of the US VWP, with Chile being the only Latin American to have a position there. According to the Federal Register of the Government of the United States, on February 28, 2014, “the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, designated Chile as an eligible country to participate in the Exemption Program of Visa". This South American country was designated as a participating country on March 31 of that year.

Of course, this situation caused tourism from Chile to the United States to increase considerably, going from almost 180,000 people in 2013, according to the "Report on Behavior and Profile of Outgoing Tourism" of the National Tourism Service, to more than 300,000 in 2016, according to figures provided by the then US ambassador to Chile, Michael Hammer.

It may interest you: What Did Gustavo Petro and Anthony Blinken Discuss About the War on Drugs?

Now, this does not mean that the level of criminal plans with Chileans as protagonists has disappeared. As explained above, the United States is very zealous with its security when it comes to establishing whether a country can be a participant in its VWP. In the case of Chile, it seems that this status is at risk.

This was detailed a few weeks ago by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), when it reported that, unfortunately, "Chilean criminal tourism" has increased in recent years. Since 2019, at least 20 Chileans who entered with the special non-visa permit have been captured, accused of theft of homes and vehicles in states such as California, New York and Alabama.

In fact, the situation is such that the Washington Post made a comparison between Colombians and Chileans, assuring that the fact that the latter have the benefits of the VWP does not mean that they are oblivious, in some cases, of criminal intentions of Colombians who enter the US illegally. “Experts say that cells of professional South American thieves, particularly from Colombia and Chile, are illegally entering the country or exploiting a visa waiver program intended for tourism,” the famous newspaper said.

How Does the Economy Improve?

Regarding the economy, the truth is that it is the United States that, logically, benefits the most, considering that the more tourists it has, the more money it will receive.

According to the official website of the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), in charge of issuing the mandatory document that every citizen of a country that is part of the VWP must possess to enter the United States, only in 2014 that country received more than 20 million travelers who are part of the program. The travelers spent more than $84 billion on consumer goods.

“VWP travelers contributed nearly $231 million a day to the local US economy,” explains ESTA. However, the same entity indicates that "the Visa Waiver Program also encourages the increase in travel between the United States and other nations, which generates a positive economic impact in all the countries involved"; although not to the same level.

In the case of the participating countries, the significant improvements can be found in the increase in flights to the US and therefore in greater job creation in the area of aviation and expenses in air tickets. “South Korea is a good example, because after joining the VWP in 2008, travel between South Korea and the United States increased exponentially. Before South Korea joined the VWP, there were about three weekly flights between Seoul and Dallas, but by 2013, the number had risen to 14,” the report added.

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